'Another Woman Will Win The Melbourne Cup, I'd Bet Anything On It'
A funny little coincidence happened last weekend.
While some people watched advance screenings of the movie 'Ride Like A Girl' -- which opens nationally next week and celebrates the triumph of Michelle Payne on 100-1 shot Prince of Penzance in the 2015 Melbourne Cup -- another female jockey rode a 100-1 outsider to victory at Flemington.
The horse was called *Gatting, and its rider was Jamie Kah, an accomplished jockey who has ridden over 800 winners in her career and is currently one of Victoria's leading riders.
People were surprised at the race result because Gatting knocked off Tasmanian wonder horse Mystic Journey, the early favourite for this year's Cox Plate, and unofficially Australia's best galloper since the retirement of Winx.
But no one was surprised that a female rider won the race.
Much has changed in the four years since Payne shocked the racing world, then shocked TV viewers by telling anyone who thinks women aren't strong enough to ride winners in the biggest races to "get stuffed".
Female jockeys now comprise 30 percent of the Aussie riding population. In regional areas, that percentage is often higher. And women are riding in, and winning, more races in the city too, as well as more feature events.
Incredibly, women didn't even get the right to ride competitively in Australian races until 1979. New Zealand women got the right a year earlier, and there's a great story around that.
Former jockey Linda Jones applied for an apprentice jockey's licence in 1976. She was knocked back, and was told "not strong enough, you're married, you're too old (she was 24) and you'll take earnings of male jockeys".
That strength thing really irks female riders. Just ask Brittany Taylor -- a trackwork rider in Perth who will be Network 10's horseback interviewer after races during this year's Melbourne Cup Carnival.
"I think women are just as good as men," Taylor told 10 daily.
"But being a good rider is not always about being the strongest. "It's about patience and racing smarts and timing your run, as well as your affinity with the horse."
Perth-based Taylor is good friends with West Australian apprentice jockey Jade McNaught, who quite incredibly rode six winners on the nine-race card at Perth's Belmont Racecourse last Saturday.
Amazingly, McNaught only took up race riding 16 months ago, aged 29.
"She's an extremely hard worker and deserves every success that comes her way," Taylor said.
Taylor believes that things are finally beginning to change, and quickly, in terms of the acceptance of female jockeys.
"I hosted a function recently where we had three different generations of female jockeys -- Paula Wagg, Alana Williams (who is now one of our leading trainers) and then Lucy Warwick, who rode the winner of last year's Perth Cup."
"Paula said that back in her era, she was told that a woman's place in racing is at home ironing the silks. When I referenced that with Lucy, she said she'd never felt that sort of resistance.
"That goes to show how far we've come."
Taylor believes it's only a matter of time before another woman rides a Melbourne Cup winner.
"Michelle Payne was the first but I'd very happily put money on her not being the last," she said.
And who knows? Maybe the next woman to ride a Melbourne Cup winner won't have to tell any sexist blokes to get stuffed.
*If you're into sporting coincidences, you might be interested to note that Gatting won the day after Shane Warne's 50th birthday -- and Warne's famous ball-of-the-century dismissed Englishman Mike Gatting.
'Ride Like A Girl' opens in cinemas nationally September 26.
Network 10 is the official broadcaster of the 2019 Melbourne Cup Carnival.