Kiwifruit Cup victory yet another reminder of the female contribution to NZ racing.
Asian apprentice Kei Chiong winning Saturday’s $40,000 Kiwifruit Cup with Intransigent on Saturday brings us back to the story on women jockeys in last week’s Sydney Morning Herald penned by colleague Max Presnell.
As he had a few days earlier on television’s Off the Rails, Presnell lamented the fact that women riders got a fair go in Australian racing apart from in Sydney.
The story arose from the remarkable success the women enjoyed the previous weekend throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Apprentice Tegan Harrison won the big race of the day, the Ipswich Cup, on Brave Ali and backed that up with her A$200,000 Tatts Cup victory on Saturday at Eagle Farm aboard The Inventor.
Donna Logan, along with Dean Logan, won six races at their local Ruakaka meeting, at which Danielle Johnson rode four winners.
The same day, apprentice Lucy Warwick scored a double at Belmont Park in Perth.
Melinda Graham and Mollie Partridge won on their respective debuts at Grafton, high-flyer Linda Meech again showed her skill with a Flemington success, and Amy Herrmann and Sigrid Carr won three of the eight races at Morphettville.
The highly respected Kathy O’Hara is the exception in Sydney racing.
Former riding great Ron Quinton sung O’Hara’s praises on last week’s Off the Rails, perhaps slightly underpinned by the fact that O’Hara had landed a group one win for Quinton’s stable.
The Payne sisters, Michelle, Brigid and Therese, have been solid icons in Melbourne and South Australian racing for a number of years, as has the currently injured Clare Lindop.
On the television programme, Presnell congratulated New Zealand on the “go” it has given women jockeys.
One factor needs to be remembered – New Zealand began allowing women to ride against the men ahead of Australia, but was second to last in the wider world of racing to do so. Australia was the last.
Part of that was the outstanding success Linda Jones achieved in not much more than one full season of riding here and in Australia.
Worth remembering is the enormous fight that ensued to get the NZ Racing Conference to back down from what originally looked like insurmountable determination not to license women. When Linda Jones won what was absurdly referred to as a non-tote, women-only Powder-puff Derby at Rotorua in the late 1970s, it won her a trip to South American racing, where she was horrified to learn that only Australia and New Zealand did not allow women jockeys to compete with the men.
The fight that resulted to get women into raceday saddles in New Zealand was long and often dirty.
Where would New Zealand racing be today without female jockeys? Going back, Dianne Moseley became the first woman to win a Queensland group one when Double You Em took the 1982 Doomben Cup and the irrepressible Maree Lyndon, tougher than most blokes, made history by being the first woman to ride in a Melbourne Cup.
More recently the likes of Lisa Allpress, currently in Singapore, Danielle Johnson and Trudy Thornton have been cornerstones. Even today it is difficult to find light riders, without the women to fill some of those gaps, the job would be impossible.
Kei Chiong looks to have a future. She is the first woman to be licensed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which has a policy of blooding its apprentices in easier bases than white-hot Hong Kong.
Chiong knows she has at least another eight months on her visa, but is unsure about what the Jockey Club will require of her after that.
She is doing well under Allan Sharrock, a tough but fair boss.
“They’ve got to be aware of what is right or wrong,” said Sharrock yesterday.
“They’ve got to quickly learn that if they stuff up they lose the ride. I drum into my apprentices, minimise your stuff-ups.”
Chiong says she originally wanted to be a veterinarian because of her love of animals, but was unable to find a spot to study that trade.
Becoming a jockey was second choice. She handled Intransigent beautifully on Saturday and even if her 3kg weight reduction was a massive factor in the victory – Intransigent couldn’t believe his luck with just 52kg on his back – she remained calm in the fight down the straight, resisting the temptation to do what many inexperienced apprentices do, trying to achieve something they are not ready for.
Claims of 3kg and 4kg win races on their own, particularly on winter tracks. Apprentices don’t need to risk unbalancing a horse by jumping up and down on it or flailing a whip they can’t use.
If you need evidence of the importance of apprentice claims on winter tracks, look at Tauranga on Saturday. Only Salamanca (Hayden Tinsley), I Do (Jonathan Riddell) and Immigration (Michael Coleman) won without the aid of an apprentice allowance and there were no allowances in I Do’s race.
Racing: Chiong weighs in for horsewomen