Maree Lyndon  Photo:

On this day - 18 May

Tim Barton
18 May 2020

 It would be rare for a year to pass without the name Maree Lyndon cropping up in media stories on the racing industry in New Zealand and Australia.

It is almost 30 years since Lyndon, now Maree Davey, retired from riding but in a comparatively short career she achieved a number of notable milestones, which will ensure she always has a place in the history of Australasian racing.

Maree broke through the glass ceiling when she became the first female to ride in the Melbourne Cup, in 1987, and was the first female jockey to win a Group I race in New Zealand, when winning the 1982 NZ Cup on Sirtain, when still an apprentice.

She achieved another breakthrough victory on this day in 1987, when winning the Adelaide Cup on Takanini stayer Lord Reims.

It meant Maree became the first female rider to win a Group I 3200m race in Australia and was the opening leg of a hat-trick of Adelaide Cup wins for Lord Reims.

Not that Maree was a great fan of being acclaimed for her achievements as a woman. A determined and feisty character, she always preferred to be judged as a rider against both her male and female colleagues, rather than as a “female jockey,” a point she made to media on both sides of the Tasman.

However, there is no doubt that she advanced the cause of women riders, particularly in Australia. She was able to establish herself as a metropolitan rider in Sydney, at a time when the local female jockeys were struggling to gain any traction.

Maree, who served her apprenticeship at Woodville, with Bruce Marsh, made an early impression across the Tasman when winning the 1985 Group I Doomben Cup on the Awapuni galloper Mr Trick and cemented her reputation in Australia in 1987, as stable rider for New Zealand trainer Brian Smith, who was then based in Sydney.

Maree won 36 races in Australia in less than a year. The Adelaide Cup was the richest of those wins, but she also won the Surround Stakes – then a Group II race – on Khaptivaan, beating champion filly Bounding Away, and won the AJC St Leger on Argonaut Style, who was to be her Melbourne Cup ride later in the year.

Remarkably, it was 19 years before a woman rider recorded another Group I win in Australia, when Clare Lindop won the 2006 Adelaide Cup. Lindop (4) and Michelle Payne (5) are still the only female riders who have won more Group I races in Australia than Maree.

Maree’s riding career lasted for less than a decade but she won 544 races, with more than 100 of those coming outside New Zealand. In addition to her stint in Sydney, she rode 72 wins during 18-months on the Malaysia-Singapore circuit and also won races in Japan.

As well as the NZ Cup, her major wins in New Zealand included the 1990 Auckland Cup on Miss Stanima, two wins in the Bayer Classic, the Wellington Guineas, Awapuni Gold Cup, Canterbury Gold Cup and two wins in the Stewards at Riccarton.

Lord Reims, who was trained by Cliff Fenwick, never won a stakes race in New Zealand but thrived on his trips to Australia, where he won six group races.

He was unbeaten in five starts at Morphettville, in Adelaide, with two wins in the Group III West End Stakes, to go with his Group I treble in the Adelaide Cup.

He was dominant in each Adelaide Cup, winning by three lengths in 1987, five lengths the following year and by four lengths, with 57kg, in 1989. He had three different jockeys in his Cup wins, though all had a Kiwi flavour. Maree Lyndon was followed by Brent Thomson in 1988 and Grant Cooksley completed the hat-trick.

However, Lord Reims best performance probably came when he beat glamour Australian galloper Beau Zam in the 1987 Caulfield Cup.

The Caulfield Cup was run on a heavy track and Lord Reims, ridden by Thomson, held out three-year-old Beau Zam by a half-head, with the favourite Cossack Warrior six lengths away in third place. Beau Zam won four Group I races that season and beat Bonecrusher by a head, in front of Queen Elizabeth, in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Canberra.

Lord Reims, who earned $1.3 million in stakes, died following a bout of colic, as an eight-year-old, when back in Australia. He is buried at Morphettville racecourse and the West End Stakes is now known as the Lord Reims Stakes.

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