Sue Walsh earned herself a slice of racing history four decades ago, but she doesn’t consider her achievement at Timaru to be the most memorable of her career as a jockey.
She rode into the record books on July 22, 1978 as the first New Zealand female to win a race against her male counterparts when she guided the Ned Thistoll-trained Jaws to victory.
“I remember the track was like a ploughed paddock,” said Walsh (nee Day). “When you’re riding you don’t usually hear the crowd and there wouldn’t have been that many people there that day, but when I hit the front I could hear them.
“I only did it in the first place to prove a point. I couldn’t see why the girls couldn’t have a go.
“I found my second win on that horse more satisfying. Being a staunch Cantabrian, I got a bigger buzz becoming the first female to ride a winner at Riccarton.
“I used to ride at jump-outs and trials, usually on the rough ones, but riding was never really my thing, I much preferred the training side.”
Walsh subsequently went on to become established as a trainer and enjoyed success in Australia by preparing Chatham to win the Listed Eagle Farm Stakes (2200m) and the Gr.2 Taranaki Stakes (2000m) at home.
More recently from her Foxton base, she produced the now-retired Exquisite Jewel to triumph in the Gr.3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) and to finish fourth in the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m).
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the first occasion New Zealand women rode against their male counterparts.
Female riders now make up 43 per cent of New Zealand’s licensed jockeys and their impact is well-illustrated by the jockeys’ premiership for the 2017-18 season.
Samantha Collett is assured of the title as a runaway leader with 121 wins while Alysha Collett, Danielle Johnson and Rosie Myers all sit in the top six.
It will be the sixth time a female has won the premiership, Lisa Cropp claimed three in succession from 2005 and Lisa Allpress topped the table in 2012 and 2016. – NZ Racing Desk.