IT DIDN'T take Ella McGuirk long to fall in love with racing.
McGuirk joined the Wayne Carroll stable at Wagga almost four years ago when looking for some part-time work to juggle alongside her ag science studies at Charles Sturt University.
But one year in, McGuirk decided to ditch the books and accept an apprenticeship to become a jockey.
It proved a long and sometimes slow process but the 23-year-old enjoyed her racing debut at the dusty plains of Hay last Saturday.
Now, she will step it up when she has her second day of race-riding in front of a big crowd at Murrumbidgee Turf Club's Christmas party race meeting on Saturday.
McGuirk will partner the Carroll-trained Kockibitoo in the feature event, the Xmas Party Cup Benchmark 50 Handicap (1675m).
"I'm a little bit nervous but I'm really excited," McGuirk said.
"I'm on one of Wayne's horses and she is one of my favourite rides, I love her so it will be good.
"I think she'll go alright. She likes a wet track too."
McGuirk kicked off last week with a seventh placing and then improved with a fourth at her second ride.
She loved every bit of the Hay experience.
"It was so much fun. It was great. It was a really cool experience," she said.
"I got back in the showers after and was covered in sand from head to toe, it was fun."
McGuirk is originally from Jugiong before moving to Nangus, where she studied high school at Kildare Catholic College in Wagga.
Her mum, Karen Egan, once worked in a racing stable and she grew up with horses.
But it was only once she began working for Carroll that her love affair with racing really begun.
"I started doing uni at CSU and I was looking for a part-time job. I started working here with Wayne, he pretty much said you're little, do you want to do some trackwork so I started doing trackwork and just fell in love with it," she said with a laugh.
"I worked at an eventing stable for about a year before that as well. We've always had horses. My mum was big on horses and she used to work at a racing stable as well.
"I finished my first year at uni and was on uni break and Wayne asked me if I would be interested in doing my apprenticeship. I had a think about it and decided that it would probably be a good idea...and I'm definitely happy that I did it.
"It's been a slow process. I took it pretty slow from the start, but I'm kind of cracking down on it now and getting into it again."
Carroll has great faith in his young apprentice and believes she will make a jockey.
"She's done all her trials. She's going good. She'll start off in TAB twos and non-TABs to start with for a couple of months and then work her way up," Carroll explained.
"She's got a good set of hands, she rides well, horses relax for her. She's done all my trackwork for a year or more now. She rides them all."
McGuirk hasn't got any outlandish goals. She simply wants to keep doing what she loves for as long as she can.
"Like Wayne said, I'm just going to take it slow and do a few non-TABs and TAB twos until I'm used to it and then I'm hoping just to keep doing this for as long as I can, to be honest," she said.
Her father Ken and mum Karen will both be in attendance at Wagga on Saturday as a supporter base as she gets going in her career.
"Mum was always very nervous about me riding. Dad thinks it's pretty cool, he loves following it. They're both coming, which will be good," she said.