Rebecca Menzies has never been one to shy away from a challenge, from becoming Britain’s youngest manager, to joining the fight with her northern peers against traditional southern powers.
The 32-year-old dual-purpose herdsman, who saddled her 200th career winner last month, began her journey with an upbeat letter to her local stables.
What started out as an intrigue soon became an obsession, causing his school vice principal to wonder if he had a gambling addiction.
“I was about eight or nine and had been taken for a weird riding lesson before then, but there was a yard near my house and I put a note through the door saying I wanted to come and help look after the horses.” Menzies said Sky Sport Racing.
“The boy called my mom and she didn’t know much about it so he took me to see him and it turned out he was Walter Gott, who was a pretty big owner at the time.
“I used to go there before and after school to help him. I couldn’t ride at that time, but I would just throw myself out and do all the chores.
“When I got older I started riding a lot of former racehorses to keep them out of training.
“I had a notebook and became really obsessed with what was in the fields. Throughout secondary school I spent my lunch breaks and most of my computer classes on Sporting Life, watching how they were doing.”
Having landed a job as a steady gal, Menzies has worked her way from racing secretary and traveling leader to assistant coach with Cheltenham Festival winning coach Ferdy Murphy.
At just 18, Menzies got a HGV license to drive the backyard horse truck up and down the country, as well as the occasional trip across the Irish Sea.
“I have to go everywhere,” Menzies said. “I was going to Ireland with a truck alone. Him [Ferdy] gave me that confidence to do it.
“We didn’t appreciate them much at the time. We knew they were good horses and we went to Cheltenham every year, but it’s only since I started training that I realized how hard it was going to be, in the first place to get that caliber of horse. , but also keeping them and developing them into something to win those big races. “
Having learned the tricks of the trade under Murphy, Menzies took the bold step of going solo in 2013, then he was only 24, becoming Britain’s youngest manager at the time.
“I think anyone, from any background, can achieve what they want to achieve if they’re motivated enough,” Menzies said.
“People have had more trouble seeing me young than being a woman.
“There were a couple of comments at the start and it hurt a little bit before, but then you start training some winners and the work makes you quite resilient.
“It took me a long time to realize that this is what makes me happy. I am happiest when I have two days in the yard. That’s why I get up.
“It was never like working. We’ve had some bad days, but I’ve never had a problem bouncing out of bed when the alarm goes off.
“Every day is really different and it’s the best job in the world, most of the time.”
There have, of course, been challenges for Menzies, who admits he has to become “better with people” in an effort to persuade more owners to send her their prized possessions.
A fun and engaging social media presence, however, proved popular and helped Menzies stand out from the crowd.
“For the first few years of training I probably would have had a few more horses if I had walked into the owners and trainers room,” Menzies said.
“Training is not just about working the horses up the hill and making them jump, knowing the owners and the PR side of things is extremely important.
“We try to match riders to horses and talk to each other a lot. I think that’s where we find the advantage.
“If there’s a horse that doesn’t fit the mold, we can change what they’re doing and I think it worked for the horses that came here from other yards.
“Even though I have more horses now, we still have a very small barnyard mentality.”
The mindset may be small, but Menzies certainly has the foundation to take on the big boys.
Since 2016, he has taken up residence at John Wade’s Howe Hills facility in Mordon County Durham, which boasts 100 boxes and state-of-the-art facilities.
The next challenge is to “recover” power from the south and Menzies feels ready for battle.
“When I first started racing, the North was booming and we could often go to Cheltenham and Ascot on Saturdays and compete,” said Menzies.
“There’s no arguing that there has been a great lull in the past decade, but I think there are the right people here now to try and get it back.
“There are young people, like me, very ambitious and also some of the most successful coaches.
“In the end, if we get the ammunition to go over there, we’re not afraid to do it.”