Jockeys honour Iris Nielsen
It’s an inscription on a small stone memorial at Ballina racecourse and ‘she’ was remembered in spectacular fashion with the second running of the Iris Nielsen Memorial Ladies Invitation Cup (1300m) yesterday.
The all-female race was in honour of pioneer jockey Iris Nielsen, who died in a tragic race fall in Lismore in 1988.
Her husband Gary Nielsen and daughter, Rebecca Shume, watched the race, which was won by Winston, with Gold Coast-based hoop Tasha Chambers onboard.
Shume was clearly touched by the event, which is quickly becoming one of the premier races for female jockeys in this country
“I think it is a really great honour that 21 years down the track she is still remembered,” Shume said.
“It is exciting and hopefully in the years to come it will just get bigger.”
Chambers held her nerve as Winston got to the line ahead of a pack of horses that included Stormy Youth (Lorna Cook) and Magique Mine (Kathy O’Hara).
The young jockey, who recently claimed her first big win at a metropolitan race in Brisbane, paid tribute to Iris Nielsen for leading the way for other female jockeys.
“Because it is really hard for females to get a fair go in racing, I just really feel for riders like Iris Nielsen,” Chambers said.
“She probably fought so hard to do something she loved and then to be tragically killed doing that makes me feel hon-oured to ride in a race named in her honour.”
Chambers said the danger of riding thor-oughbreds was never far from her mind.
“You’d be pretty silly not to know how dangerous the job is, but you just have to be aware of the dangers and be as careful as you can,” she said.
“You can get hurt doing anything really. But to do something you love you have to pay a little bit of a price, I guess.”
Winston jumped from barrier nine and was in the lead with Sir Woody (Kristy Banks) as the horses turned for home.
“The horse drew a little bit awkward and I was just lucky there was enough speed inside of me that they went forward and I was able to get in on the fence,” Chambers said.
It was a breakthrough win the for the six-year-old gelding, which was purchased for $700 two races ago, yet claimed $17,550 just for the win yesterday.
Winston was placed in the hands of part-time trainer Nicholas Randall, who hasn’t given up his day job yet as a butcher in Casino.
“It was pretty good, well worth it,” Randall said of Winston’s purchase. “I’ve only got him in work, I work in a butcher’s shop and I’m only a casual trainer.”
Despite it raining for the running of the race, the Iris Nielsen Memorial Ladies Invitation Cup, was an outstanding success, attracting more than 40 nominations.
The program was extended from eight to 10 races due to the number of nominations overall.