DEL MAR (CBS 8) - It didn't take long for Australian-born jockey Kayla Stra to make an impact on the Del Mar crowd. In the second race on opening day, Kayla won aboard an 8 to 1 outside named King Ledley.
"There's huge excitement in the air. Everybody is having a ball. It was good and it was a good achievement to say that I won on opening day," Kayla said.
Kayla began her racing career in her native country at age 17.
"I got off to a flying start in Australia. The horses just ran for me and people noticed straight away," she said.
But being a newcomer on the competitive Southern California circuit, finding decent horses to ride has been more of a struggle for Kayla than it was back home.
"If they like the way you ride, they use you in the afternoon, but here it's a lot more PR and talking, promoting yourself that way," she said.
Mixing PR with performance has been part of the 26-year-old's maturation process.
"It's helped me in ways to talk to people. My people skills weren't always as good as my horse skills," she said. "It's getting easier as more people get to know me."
Kayla is confident the better horses and the bigger paydays will come.
"I know I'm a good rider. I just had to have the patience to wait for it as I worked," she said. "Every time I think I'm going to do something else or I'm going to go ride somewhere else, something good happens."
Wednesday at Del Mar, something great happened. Back aboard her opening day mount King Ledley, she executed a perfectly timed ride to win the sixth race by a nose. It paid $30.20.
"It pays just to hang in there. Don't give up. If you want it that bad it'll happen," Kayla said.
With her eye on the prize, it's time for race fans to keep their eyes on the "other woman".