Women jockeys saddle up for history-making race
WOMEN jockeys are taking over the country racing circuit.
History was made in the Gladstone Cup race at Ferguson Park on Saturday when the feature race field was made up entirely of female jockeys.
It was a first ever for a club that only races six or seven times a year.
Rockhampton's Nicole Vuille, who took out first place, said it didn't come as a big surprise to her.
Despite having only been riding for seven months, she has won 61 races on the national country circuit.
Thirteen of those have been in races worth between $20,000 and $50,000.
The 24-year-old took out three premierships last season at Emerald, Thangool and Mackay making her the most successful apprentice on the circuit.
She said women riders were becoming the norm.
"At the older tracks you can still see the broom closets they used to give female riders as dressing rooms," Ms Vuille said.
"But now it's the boys who are using the broom closet.
"The boys are getting bigger and the stigma around putting a woman on the horse is fading."
For years horse racing has been dominated by male jockeys.
It wasn't until 1979 women were allowed to race against men and 1990 female jockeys rode all seven winners at the non-TAB Queensland Wondai race meeting.
Despite the slowly changing landscape, men still dominate the top class and Ms Vuille believes it's a generational issue.
She said when the older trainers, some of whom are still hesitant to put women on their horses, retire - that stigma will disappear.
"There's still this belief among some people that women aren't strong enough to control the horse," she said.
"I don't think it's that the boys are any better than the girls, there's just been a lot of prejudice that's been stopping us from making it.
"Girls have to work a lot harder to get the same amount of recognition.
"But it's only a matter of time before we really get noticed and that's already started.
"Now we have the numbers for us to get on to more winners and more rides which makes us stand out a bit more."
Ms Vuille is focusing her career more at a local level, but said she would jump at the chance to ride in the top class if the opportunity came along.
At a state level Sunshine Coast-based apprentice jockey Tegan Harrison is paving the way for fellow female riders.
Last year she became the first female jockey to win back-to-back metropolitan apprentice titles with 43 wins and was named apprentice of the year - for the second time.
Ms Harrison also believes the stigma surrounding female jockeys was well on the way out.
She told APN's South Burnett Times in September last year equality in the industry was now a reality.
"...You only have to pick up a race book (to see) there are plenty of girls riding," she said.