All smiles for Heather Poland on return

HORSE RACING

Though a featherweight in racing's land of giants, Heather Poland didn't have to take much convincing it was time to pursue a second coming in the professional ranks.

Slight of frame and forced to carry close to 20 kilograms of lead in her saddle bag on the amateur picnic circuit - where riders who can't meet the physical demands of being a jockey hang out - Poland knew she was one of a kind.

Weight was no such problem for the Wollongong-based jockey, who's juggling a full-time primary education degree with carving out a professional career in the saddle.

"I still enjoy riding so I wanted to come back," said Poland, who even at 49 kilograms won't be completely free of lead-carrying responsibility.

"I've obviously been doing the picnic riding and I'm still really light.

"I got a bit sick of carrying around so much lead in my saddle.

"That's why I sort of decided I may as well move to the professionals as it was just ridiculous."

Poland had previously enjoyed metropolitan success in her first stint as a senior jockey before turning her hand to an off-track role with Marshall Mount conditioner Stephen Hill.

Despite still riding regular trackwork and adept on the amateur scene, Poland said she still had a lot of work to do to return to her previous level.

"Everything has been a learning experience," she said.

"Stephen was really good to be under and he's helped me out and showed me a few things.

"Now it's just a matter of getting stronger again, getting back into the swing of things and just reading the races.

"I haven't done it a lot lately.

"There are small fields [at the picnics] and I still wasn't riding regularly."

Poland steered Arms Length, prepared by partner Kurt Goldman, to a fast-finishing fourth in the Narooma Town Plate (1200m) on Monday after an almost two-and-a-half-year absence.

And it's her association with the well-performed mare and the ascension of another ex-amateur rider, Jenny Duggan, that has her ready to make a fist of things.

"She [Duggan] has done an amazing job - you've really got to respect that," Poland said.

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