Roughing it

Jockeys Elizabeth Weiszbach, Courtney Van Der Werf, Sue Bigg, Sophie Young and Catherine Markwort in the weigh-in area at Dubbo Turf Club.  
Jockeys Elizabeth Weiszbach, Courtney Van Der Werf, Sue Bigg, Sophie Young and Catherine Markwort in the weigh-in area at Dubbo Turf Club. Photo: AMY McINTYRE

THE sport of horse racing is generally portrayed as a landscape of glitz and glamour.

Wealthy owners spending millions on their bloodstock, having them trained by the best conditioners in the land and racing for good prize money on well-maintained tracks.

Maybe if you're in the city and lucky enough to have a good horse.

Spare a thought for the bush jockeys who ply their trade on some rather average animals in far-flung places on dusty circuits for less money.

The life of a jockey isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Some of them live on a diet consisting of little more than fresh air, and in summer that becomes harder as a drink may even be too much to ask for.

Then consider the plight of the female jockeys - a growing band that at some meetings rivals the male gender for numbers but in terms of resources still lags far behind.

The male jockey rooms at most tracks in the area aren’t five-star resorts but for the lady riders, the choices are often to set themselves up in a small room of their own, in a hallway or over with the blokes.

The latter option isn’t obviously for everyone but sometimes it is a necessity.

“Recently at Dubbo, Cat Markwort and myself were in the men’s jockey room,” Dubbo-based rider Kacie Chater said.

“There was about eight girls riding that day and the room is probably comfortable with four.

“Dubbo is probably one of the better ones going around as well so it was lucky that myself and Cat were comfortable to go and sit in with the blokes because there are some girls out there who aren’t and that’s their choice.

“The men’s room is a good size at Dubbo but there’s a few of them that are pretty rough as well, and those places don’t have much set up in the way of a decent room for the girls.

“They would have been set up when there weren’t many girls riding but there’s more and more of us now.”

Racing NSW figures reveal there are now 79 licensed female riders in NSW, made up of 19 senior jockeys, 25 apprentices, 16 approved riders, 10 first-year apprentices and four non-race-riding apprentices.

According to Racing NSW general manager of industry and analysis Scott Kennedy, the organisation is committed to upgrading facilities at the 46 country TAB racecourses in the state.

“Improving the quality of female rider’s amenities is very important and Racing NSW is working to improve these in consultation with the NSW Jockeys Association,” Kennedy said.

“To date, amenities at 43 of the 46 country TAB racecourses have been assessed by the Racing NSW projects manager with building inspection reports prepared for each club including recommended solutions for improved facilities. 

“Three provincial plus four non-TAB country clubs have also been similarly inspected and reported on. 

“Thus far, upgrading works have been completed at 16 racecourses with more being progressively undertaken. 

“In the central west, female jockeys’ amenities have been upgraded at Coonabarabran, Forbes, Gilgandra, Parkes and Louth.”


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