Jenny Lindgren was born in Sweden one year after her legendary compatriots ABBA had taken Australia by storm.
She’s now Mrs. Jenny Duggan, Australia’s most senior apprentice jockey, and just lately she’s been whipping up a little storm of her own.
The forty one year old mother of three has ridden a winner at each of the last two Saturday metropolitan meetings in Sydney, right on top of her dominant win in the 2018/2019 Rising Stars Apprentice Jockeys series.
Jenny and her two brothers were reared on a dairy farm in the idyllic locality of Figeholm, south of Stockholm on the Baltic coast. The dairy cows shared the property with a handful of horses which became the centre of Jenny’s attention from the time she could walk.
Tony and Lisa Lindgren had to watch their little daughter every minute, as she fearlessly played around the horses trying constantly to climb onto their backs. “When I finally got to ride I’d be in the saddle all day long”, recalled the jockey. “When it was time to come inside for dinner, Mum or Dad would have to drag me off the horse”.
Jenny’s paternal grandfather Alfonse lived on the farm and was an excellent hand with a horse. “He actually owned the local pony club business, so there was no shortage of mounts”, reflected Jen. “He taught me so much about horses, things I observe to this day. I was so sad when he died not long ago at the wonderful age of 92”.
Thoroughbred racing in Sweden is completely overshadowed by the trotting sport. “There’s a trotting track in most towns and they have the famous Elitlopp in Stockholm which brings huge crowds in late May each year”, said Jenny. “Most horsey kids find their way into trotting stables. There are few opportunities to join galloping stables”.
This was the reason Jenny, at age 21 decided on a stint in NZ to learn the basics of thoroughbred management. With the help of a contact she found a position with respected horseman Murray Baker, already a household name in NZ and Australia. By a surprise coincidence Mrs. Murray Baker is of Swedish origin which helped to make Jenny feel more at home.
She enjoyed every minute of her six months at Cambridge in the Waikato region of the North Island. “I really didn’t know where to go from there, so I returned to Sweden to sort out my future”, said Jenny.
Two years later a friend Emma Hansson informed Jen that she was going to Australia and suggested she might like to accompany her. Confident in the knowledge that a job as a trackwork rider wouldn’t be hard to find, she bit the bullet and made the trip.
Within a couple of weeks she was riding work for Oliver Koolman who was training a team of his own and pre training for others at Warwick Farm. “Before long I was also riding work for Steve Englebrecht and Billy Prain, and could feel myself improving all the time”.
After a year in the hustle and bustle of the big city, the Swedish rider decided on a move to Port Macquarie. She landed a job with trainer Mark Quinn who coincidentally trains Gumshoe, her winning ride at Randwick last Saturday.
By this time Jenny had met amateur jockey Ben Duggan, who was sufficiently smitten to follow her to Port Macquarie. Ben believed her riding technique had developed to the extent that she should consider becoming an amateur jockey.
Within a few weeks Ms. J. Lindgren was riding in races in parts of NSW that bore no resemblance to her native Figeholm. “I had the time of my life for just under two seasons, riding all sorts of horses around all sorts of tracks”, recalled the jockey. “Navigating horses around tight, turning tracks taught me how to keep them balanced. There’s no doubt the experience made me a better race rider”.
In the 2009/2010 season Jenny became the first female to win a NSW Amateur Jockeys Premiership. She was acutely aware of the fact that the amateur jockeys were taking the risks for paltry riding fees. “Ben Duggan and I decided to go to Racing NSW on behalf of the State’s amateur jockeys”, said Jen. “We were successful in eventually getting them a reasonable increase. Something happened during the meeting which was destined to change my life”.
One of the Racing NSW staff lightheartedly suggested to Jenny that she should consider switching to the professional ranks. “He said if I wanted to earn more money why not turn pro”, recalled the jockey. “I was a bit offended by his comment at first, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made”.
Jenny immediately put herself on a strict diet, and began an intensive treadmill routine. She and Ben had been married close to two years when she made her debut as a professional jockey on board a filly called Kapcat in a CL2 at Port Macquarie on Feb 12th 2012. “To win at my first professional ride was a massive thrill and I’ll be forever grateful to trainer Anthony Dable who gave me the opportunity”, said Jen.
The winners flowed freely over the next eighteen months, consolidating Jenny’s reputation as a very capable claiming apprentice, but her luck turned sour at Newcastle on Sept 8th, 2013. She “clipped heels” soon after the start on an inexperienced filly and found herself sliding along the top of the running rail.
She was shattered to learn that she had sustained serious damage to the MCL and ACL ligaments of her right knee, requiring a full reconstruction.
It was with great excitement and anticipation that Jenny resumed riding trackwork a full year later, but there was another major surprise awaiting. “I discovered I was pregnant with my first son Max, so I quit the horses immediately”, the jockey explained.
Jenny had only been back riding work a short time in the spring of 2016, when life provided another one of its twists and turns - jockeyJenny Duggan was pregnant again!
The arrival of Sebastian prompted her to completely rethink future plans.“I had intended to return to race riding, but increased motherhood duties would have made it difficult to get to race meetings”, she explained. “I decided to supplement our cash flow by riding work early mornings and being home through the day”.
As the weeks wore on her fitness levels improved, her weight stabilised and her rhythm in the saddle returned. “One morning I just knew I had to give race riding another crack”, said Jen. “Without Ben’s support none of this would be possible. He works a part time job himself, gets the kids to daycare and somehow finds time to manage my riding career”.
Jenny’s step daughter Maddy (11) is a great help with Max (4) and Sebastian (2). “With Maddy’s help we somehow make it all work”, says the in form jockey. “I’ll keep going as long as family commitments allow”.
Jenny, who still claims 2KG in town and 1.5KG on the provincials, is indentured to her brother-in-law Adam Duggan at Gosford, but she’s about to embark on a new project. “While trainers are giving me opportunities, I’m going to start riding work in the metropolitan area a couple of days a week”, says the jockey. “I’ll go to Randwick one morning and Rosehill the other. It’s worth a shot while I have a bit of momentum”.
Like me, you may wonder how Jenny’s parents Lisa and Tony keep up with their daughter’s progress in Australian racing. They still live on the same property in Figeholm with just a few beef cattle around them nowadays. “This is where my wonderful husband comes in again”, explains Jenny. “Ben posts video of all my rides on Facebook with an indication of where I am in the run. Mum and Dad have perfected the art of picking me out in a field”.
The former Ms. Lindgren’s ride on Gumshoe in Saturday’s TAB Highway was the work of a talented jockey. She rides with a long rein and excellent balance, and doesn’t panic when in a tight spot. Gumshoe had nowhere to go coming up the rise, but Jenny skilfully extricated the gelding in time to pounce on the leaders. “Getting held up may have helped him in hindsight”, said the jockey. “It kept him travelling for a bit longer and gave him a good kick late”.
I wonder where Jenny Lindgren’s love of horses would have taken her had she remained in “trotting mad” Sweden. Given her versatility and determination she may well have driven an Elitlopp winner by now.