NJC racing in to celebrate International Women’s Day

Jockeys Amelia Denby and Grace Willoughby, with the Kris Lees galloper False Step, ahead of the upcoming International Women’s Day luncheon. Photo: Peter Stoop

“Girl power” has had such an impact on the Newcastle Jockey Club (NJC) in recent times, it will soon overhaul its facilities to keep on track with the increasing demand.

The organisation is preparing to host its hugely-successful International Women’s Day (IWD) luncheon in the Trackside Marquee on Friday 4 March to coincide with the Horsepower Newcastle Newmarket Race Day. But, the event isn’t a token gesture, according to the CEO Duane Dowell.

“We take IWD, which is on Tuesday 8 March, very seriously,” he said. “There’s definitely a changing of the guard in this industry. “In fact, more than 50% of our entire organistion is female.

“And, the percentage of women riders has grown in the  last decade, especially in the apprentice ranks. “The girls now out-rate the boys.

“So much so, we’ll need to refurbish our jockeys’ rooms and double the size of the female area. “However, I’m not complaining.

“It’s terrific to witness and I’m proud we’re adapting accordingly.” One local hoop making her mark on the racing scene is Amelia Denby, who boasts more than 70 wins in the saddle. “It’s so good to see so many women in a previously male-dominated industry,” she said.

“When you look throughout the history of racing, females are now starting to level out with the men – I think that’s terrific.

“Women bring their own unique set of skills to the industry and it’s lovely to be part of it. “It’s definitely an even playing field out there these days.

“Those at the top of racing, from Michelle Payne to Jamie Kah for example, have been a source of encouragement to all the rest of the female jockeys.

“To see them compete with the men at the highest level is very inspirational.” And, Denby expects women’s participation in the sport will rise even further. “I think, a lot of the time, it’s predominantly girls who get into horses from a young age,” she said.

“That’s through pony clubbing or as a hobby. “So, there’s many youngsters starting earlier than before. “That then leads them to look at, or consider, racing as a career. “There are many pathways now, too. “The way the industry’s progressing is allowing it to be more of an open door for everyone, but particularly females.

“When I first began, it was a matter of who you knew or who was willing to teach you. “Whereas now, there’s real structure in place and trainers often chase you for rides. “There is an education system for apprentices, which is very helpful in getting women through the ranks.”

Denby said she was excited by NJC’s enthusiasm to support International Women’s Day as well.

“It’s such a good thing to celebrate,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“There are a lot of incentives for women in the industry, not just working, but female owners and trainers, days at the races and things like that.

“We have some wonderful mentors out there – they’re all inspirational.

“It’s fantastic to be acknowledging their involvement at the Newcastle Jockey Club.”

The International Women’s Day luncheon is one of the main social events on the NJC calendar.

“In 2022, Newcastle journalist and NBN presenter Jane Goldsmith will emcee the function, with former Sky TV racing expert Lizzie Jelfs our special guest,” Dowell said. “The ladies can enjoy a chef-inspired three-course meal trackside, accompanied by premium beverages including Moet and Chandon Imperial.

“The luncheon usually raises $20,000 a year for local groups. “On this occasion, our charity partners are Got Your Back Sista and Equi Energy Youth.”