Ballina trainer claims Nielsen Cup
By Adam Hicks and Tony White
IT was fitting that a race honouring the memory of pioneering female jockey Iris Nielsen was won by her life long friend and mentor, Ballina trainer Kevin Nipperess.
Yesterday Nipperess' four-year-old gelding Gairloch scored a length win in the second leg of the $10,000 Iris Nelsen Ladies Invitational Cup (1300m) to cap an emotional week for the 70-year-old.
Earlier in the week Nipperess told of his devastation when Nielsen died in a race fall at Lismore in 1988.
"I nearly gave the racing game away when that (Nielsen's death) happened," he recalled.
"It was a huge shock. I even moved away from Ballina the following year. I didn't want to be in the same area.
"Iris was part of the family."
Nipperess had known Nielsen since she was a 12-year-old. Later the pair formed a highly successful trainer-jockey partnership winning close to 100 races including the Lismore and Ballina Cups in the same year with Silver Magnum.
"I've been right behind the idea to start up a race in Iris's honour," Nipperess said.
"The club asked me to bring down a few photos this week. I just cried looking at them ... the memories. She (Iris) was like a daughter to me.
"She always loved horses. The family moved to Toowoomba and at the time there was talk about letting ladies ride in ladies only races.
"She did well up there and eventually married Gary (Nielsen). Gary and Iris moved back to Ballina and Iris became my stable jockey in the early 1980s.
"In those days ladies didn't do an apprenticeship. They had to ride against men on equal terms.
"We won around 100 races together around here (north coast), Sydney and Brisbane.
"I remember after Silver Magnum won the Lismore Cup, I took him to Rosehill. He got beat narrowly but the next morning John Tapp gave Iris the greatest rap for her ride. She won ten races on him."
Nipperess recalled one found memory involving Silver Magnum and the Nielsen's daughter, Rebecca.
"Gary and Iris were living at Broadwater at the time and I used to take Silver Magnum to the beach nearby," Nipperess said.
"I'd ring Iris up and pick her and Rebecca up. While Iris worked Silver Magnum on the beach I used to play noughts and crosses with a stick in the sand with Rebecca.
"You would never meet a better person than Iris."
After the win Nipperess was overcome with emotion and declined to comment.
But earlier in the week he spoke of his desire to win.
"I'd really love to win this race. It would mean a hell of a lot," he said.
Ridden by Toowoomba's Kristy Banks who overcame a mid-week bout of tonsillitis, Gairloch ($4.40) won from Plantago ($6) with Avissan ($11) a further three-quarters of a length back in third.
In the first leg of the Iris Nielsen Ladies Invitational, the Steve Field trained Vettorious ($10) won by three-quarters of a length from La Baladine ($6) with Line of Sky ($7) third.