Lining up for all-female race
Among the star-studded line-up are siblings Kathy and Tracy O’Hara, the first sisters to compete against each other on a Sydney race track.
The O’Hara sisters have quickly established a solid reputation in the city after getting their start in racing with Goulburn trainer Danny Williams.
The all-female Iris Nielsen field also includes Kristy Banks of Toowoomba and Teresa Nikora of Muswellbrook.
Other riders are Kylie Cunningham, Sheree Drake, Chantelle Johnson, Bernadette Payne, Tasha Chambers, Laura Cheshire, Cecily Eaton and Skye Bogenhuber.
Interest has intensified this year with 42 nominations for the 14 places available in the race.
It could have something to do with the $27,000 prizemoney on offer, nevertheless Ballina Jockey Club chief executive officer Sarah Wills said she’d been ‘stunned’ by the response.
“To receive 42 nominations for the race is incredible, and we are delighted with that, but it’s also the quality of the nominations we’ve had for that feature race of the day,” she said.
“Most definitely it has something to do with the prizemoney, and many of the trainers and owners are chasing that, but they are also aware of the significance of the race.”
Unlike other races, where trainers assign rides to their favourite jockeys, a ballot will be held today to match the female jockeys to their mounts.
“Basically it is drawing names out of a hat and that will be done after acceptances on Thursday morning, so we will know then who is running in the race,” Wills said.
“It just seems like the fairest way to hold a ballot to decide who the jockeys are. The trainers can all be confident they are going to get a good rider.
“We have two local girls in Emily Kehoe and Lorna Cook and we have several from the Gold Coast, and it will be good to pit the local girls against the girls from out of town.”
The inaugural Iris Nielsen Invitational, held last year, was run in two divisions, but Wills said the club ‘didn’t want to do that any more’.
Overall, the Ballina Jockey Club received a record 253 nominations for the eight-race program.