By Peter Lusted
Posted 2/11/2020 at 5:40am, updated 2/11/2020 at 7:00am
Observers say Jamie Kah's gentle affinity with horses has been instrumental in her success as a jockey. (AAP/Racing Photos)
Jamie Kah will be the only female jockey riding in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday but that's not what makes her unique.
She rode miniature ponies as a toddler and broke in wild horses aged 8, and it's her lifelong affinity with the animals that has taken her to the top of the Melbourne Jockey Premiership and to her first Melbourne Cup ride.
Her father John Kah says her innate ability with horses was evident from a young age.
"She had a couple of miniature ponies running around even when she was one or two years old," he says.
"So instead of walking her in her pram, she got walked on the back of a miniature pony. On the second walk she said 'no, I want to ride it by myself, thanks Mum'.
John Kah has been by his daughter's side throughout her stunning rise in racing. (Supplied)
"We've always bought in young horses, green broken horses, or towards the end, basically unbroken horses, and we've had a lot of good people helping us with Jamie educating the horses.
"A lot of the very good horsemen saw very early on that Jamie just had a knack with horses and a way with things."
Kah competed in mounted games competitions, showjumping and equestrian but as a young teenager, it was a part-time job with horse trainer John MacMillan in the nearby Adelaide Hills that turned her to racing.
"She used to arrive before dawn, work in the stables and then she would come up to the house and have a shower and breakfast and her mum would pick her up ready for school at eight o'clock," MacMillan recalls.
"She had this natural riding ability and balance combined with an ability to read a race and that sort of jockeyship you can't easily teach."
'Riding like a girl' put Kah in the race that stops the nation
She was late to racing but learned quickly, and by the end of her first full season in 2012/13 she won the Adelaide Jockeys' Premiership at age 17, the first apprentice to do so in 20 years.
She took some time off but with three Adelaide jockey premierships to her name she moved to Melbourne in early 2019, where her success continued.
Kah rode Shandy to victory in the Donna Philpot Memorial Bm64 Handicap at Bendigo Racecourse in July. (AAP/Racing Photos: Brett Holburt)
She rode her first Cox Plate this Spring Carnival and finished 10th on Buckhurst but ran four other winners on the day.
Not only has she booked her first Melbourne Cup ride, but she's also got a genuine chance to win on Prince of Arran, which finished 3rd in the Cup in 2018 and 2nd last year.
Michelle Payne famously became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015 on Prince of Penzance and enjoyed watching Kah's ascent.
"That background has really held her in good stead in the racing industry because you can just see that she is at one with the horse," Payne says.
"She's really balanced, keeps her poise and composure and especially in the big races, I think she just treats them like another race which is I think very important.
"Prince of Arran is a great chance, his run in the Caulfield Cup was great. He's come out here probably looking to be in the best shape he's ever come out to Australia before the Melbourne Cup."
Payne is now a trainer and admits her jockey days are numbered.
She says Kah is ready to take on the baton as a pioneer.
"I think she is the epitome of riding like a girl, really, she rides beautiful and soft and she gets the best out of her horse by the kind approach."
Rehoming and educating horses 'her passion'
Kah's family have been a bit surprised with how quickly her success came in such a competitive industry.
"It'd be a pretty whirlwind thing to win a Melbourne Cup at your first attempt," Mr Kah says.
Alongside her racing career, Kah finds time to educate and rehome horses. (Instagram: Jamie Kah)
"The main thing at the moment is she's being recognised for her skills and being put on something that is competitive, it's quite an achievement."
Kah is in hot form on the track but despite being in demand, she still finds a way to give back to the animals she loves so dearly.
Mr Kah says she found new homes for more than a dozen ex-racehorses in the last few years and does plenty of work with young horses.
"She and her fiance are constantly buying yearlings, two-year-olds, educating that sort of thing," Mr Kah says.
"That's where her passion lies, she is a jockey but she's very passionate about educating horses."