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A day among the horses won’t be too out of the norm for Garfield North resident Rachelle O’Connor, with the 19- year-old taking out the role of the 2017 Pakenham Gazette Oaks Day Ambassador.
Rachelle, who is well-established in the equestrian world as both a successful show rider and judge, entered the Gazette’s hunt for an Oaks Day ambassador following encouragement from her mother, Natalie.
“Mum sent the competition advertisement to me and said, ‘you would be perfect for this’,” Rachelle said.
“I thought, ‘oh I’ll do it for mum, she really wants me to’. But I hadn’t really considered it before that because I didn’t think I would win.
“And that’s why I’m taking mum with me on the day. She got me to do it and really encouraged me to put myself out there.”
Having lived in Garfield North her whole life, Rachelle began her studies at Swinburne University this year, and is a familiar face in the local community as an employee at Pakenham’s Bunnings Warehouse. In her spare time, she also breaks in, trains and rides a number of horses for both herself and clients.
But despite her days as an equestrian, her Oaks Day experience is set to take on a slightly different feel as she swaps her jodhpurs for an outfit by Pakenham’s Embellish, her helmet for a makeover and hairstyle from Berwick’s Zealous on High and her ex-racehorse-turned-show horse Sam for a ride provided by Isuzu Pakenham.
And for those looking to spot Rachelle on the day, her duties will include judging the Fashions on the Field and of course handing over the Pakenham Gazette Oaks Day Cup.
“I’m keen to get out there and talk to everyone. I don’t know if many people know there’s an ambassador, but I really want to chat with all the ladies, see all the fashions and just enjoy the social aspect of the races,” Rachelle said.
“I went to the Pakenham Cup last year with my mum and aunty. I really do love the races. I love when they come around the bend, and you can hear the thumping of the horses.
“When I watch the Melbourne Cup I cry. I love it. I don’t just go for the social side. I love the horses because I know how much time and effort goes into them. I know how hard they would have trained, and it’s just really touching. When Michelle Payne won I was in tears. She’s like an idol to me.”

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