Duo earns place in history books

FEMALE jockeys have battled for years to be accepted in the sport of kings with many experiencing drawn out battles just to obtain a license to ride professionally let alone securing top class mounts.

Yesterday two were inducted into the Ballina Jockey Club's Lady Jockeys Hall of Fame at the Iris Nielsen Memorial Race Day.

The eight-event program, including the $50,000 Coolmore Iris Nielsen Ladies Invitational Cup, was postponed yesterday due to the heavy rains.

Julie Krone, an American who has ridden 3704 winners and Goulburn's Lesley Bellden join a growing list of champion female hoops at Ballina's Hall of Fame.

Krone's celebrations took an interesting turn when a chocolate mud cake was placed in front of her.

Ballina chairman Bob Jemison told the dignitaries at the function that Krone rode in her first professional race 31 years ago, to the day.

"The horse's name was Tiny Star," Krone said.

Her first race was on a $22 pop which came second.

Krone's mum Judi, fudged her birth certificate from 15 years to 16 to get her a track riding license at Churchill Downs.

The road to success was potholed with adversity at each turn, from running a couple of hundred metres from scale to a dingy jockey's room to change for the next race to having to fight tooth and nail for a quality ride.

"It would have been a lot easier if un-necessary obstacles were not put in my way," Krone said.

On being invited to Australia and in particular the Northern Rivers Krone said it was "pretty special and really cool" to be an inductee at the meeting that celebrates the contribution Iris Nielsen made to the racing industry.

Iris Nielsen died as the result of a race fall, from Happy Zephyr, in March 1988 at Lismore Turf Club.

"This (the hall of fame) is going to be with us forever," Krone said.

"It is great being a woman jockey."

Bernadette Cooper, a retired hoop who commentates with Sky TV, is one of five along with yesterday's two inductees in the hall of fame.

She too had her battles and told of how she would have to demonstrate, in races, that she could whip a horse.

The new rules of racing have changed the perception that the only way a jockey can win is by the use of the whip.

"That (using the whip) was the style of racing in Australia from day one," Cooper said.

"With the introduction of international styles and the changing of the rules it is definitely a thing of the past.

"That has worked in favour of women jockeys, we always knew it was something that wasn't necessary, if we looked like we could whoop a horse (back then) we were given more opportunities."

But the acceptance of women in the industry still has a long way to go according to Warrick Farm's Robyn Freeman-Key.

"We are so, so far away," Freeman-Key said.

"We are getting there and the minute people realise they (horses) are just animals they'll stop carrying on. There are some female apprentices that should not be riding and there are just as many male riders that should not be riding."

Freeman-Key questioned the response to Darren Beadman's return to Australia from Hong Kong.

"He came back a super star, lost both his reins in a group one race, first race back in town," she said.

"Imagine if one of us females did that we'd never get a ride in the bush let alone in the city."

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