Ballot favours Kiwi jockey
LEADING lady jockeys from both sides of the Tasman are set to clash in the Iris Nielsen Memorial at Ballina on Sunday with New Zealand’s Samantha Spratt and South Australia’s Clare Lindop booked to ride.
Spratt and Lindop lead the female charge in this part of the world, with daylight a distant second.
Spratt, winner of 39 races and more than $600,000 in prizemoney this season, will ride 2009 Ballina Cup winner All Our Way in the feature event.
Lindop, the first woman to win a Group One race in Australia and the first to ride in a Melbourne Cup, didn’t fare so well in the ballot, drawing Sista Kugah, a mare which hasn’t won in more than 14 months.
Spratt, 25, will be making her third trip to ride in Australia and intends to leave her mark.
“I am really keen to win the Iris Nielsen Memorial race, as I am any other race,” she said from New Zealand yesterday.
“I am proud to be invited to ride and it is great to be involved with such a cause where I can fly the flag for women and for my country.”
In 2009 New Zealand Racing installed a series of women’s races with the winner earning a spot in Moonee Valley’s ladies invitational, but apart from that there is little fuss and fanfare over the fairer sex across the ditch.
“We don’t have anything like it (the Iris Nielsen day) at home, there is really no distinction between men and women in the riding ranks,” she said.
“All the best trainers put the ladies on their horses with no hesitation.”
The trust of the trainers is vindicated by Spratt’s record, which earned her first two tickets to ride in Australia.
In April 2009 the lively hoop rode Mufhasa to third place in Vision and Power’s Group One George Ryder Handicap at Rosehill, before riding in the ladies invitational at Moonee Valley in October, where she also placed third.
That meeting was the first time she and Lindop had crossed paths, but Spratt is well aware of the calibre of riders she faces.
“Clare is a great rider, a consistent rider and she has been rewarded by picking up some really good rides recently,” she said.
“I can’t wait to get over there and test myself against Australia’s best.”
Before landing in Australia, Spratt will again steer Mufhasa in the Group One Oaks Stud Handicap, less than 20 hours before her engagements at Ballina begin.
“It’s a busy game, racing,” she said. “But I couldn’t turn down the offer to go back to Australia; I’m really excited to ride at another new track.”