Hall of fame for female jockeys

Local jockeys Lorna Cook and Emily Keogh at Ballina Jockey Club.
Local jockeys Lorna Cook and Emily Keogh at Ballina Jockey Club. Jacklyn Wagner

BALLINA Jockey Club is set to become the spiritual home of female jockeys in Australia with a National Lady Jockeys Hall of Fame to be established on course.

The concept, which will tie in with the Iris Nielsen Memorial race day on Sunday, is a substantial coup for Northern Rivers racing but also has local tourism operators rubbing their hands together.

Ballina Tourism and Hospitality secretary Dave Heggie applauded the BJC for showing the initiative to bring new money into the region.

“The Hall of Fame will attract the attention of a broad spectrum of people, both interstate and internationally,” Heggie said.

“The idea of tourism is to bring new money into the area and this project will do exactly that, so it is great news for our region.”

Local tourism took a hit recently with news that the iconic Big Prawn would be demolished and Heggie is optimistic the Hall of Fame can garner a timely boost for the industry.

“Tourism is the biggest employer and biggest money earner for our region,” he said.

“Losing the Big Prawn created headlines around the world, so we need something else to focus on now in order to bring people into the region.

“This project will lift the profile of Ballina as well as the jockey club.”

In conjunction with Ballina Shire Council, Heggie is working on re-branding of the town’s image, with new logos and advertising campaigns in the pipeline, and with the rising status of the BJC there is every chance it could play a role.

BJC chairman Robert Pitt hopes the project can eventually rival the status of the Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Melbourne, which has no female inductees.

“We are striking back for New South Wales and for the ladies,” Pitt said.

In the future Mr Pitt hopes to widen the spectrum of the National Lady Jockeys Hall of Fame to honour women for their roles in the industry.

“The plan is to include a museum and resource centre as well as acknowledging contributions made to racing by women other than just jockeys,” he said.

“Like many industries racing is seen predominately as a man’s game, but down the track people will realise how important women have been.”

Club officials will hold a presentation at the Iris Nielsen Memorial race day on Sunday where three lady jockeys will be unveiled as the initial inductees to the Hall of Fame.

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