On this day - May 7

Tim Barton
7 May 2020

It was 41 years today that New Zealand jockey Linda Jones recorded a landmark win in Brisbane.

Jones, a true trailblazer in promoting the cause of female jockeys in New Zealand and Australia, became the first woman to win a race against males at a registered meeting in Australia.

Significantly, the win came in a black-type race, with Jones partnering Pay The Purple in the listed Labour Day Cup at Doomben on May 7, 1979.

Pay The Purple started at 14-1 but held out the favourite by a short-head, with Jones riding hands and heels, after trainer Jim Atkins had instructed her not to use the whip. She received a huge reception from the crowd at Doomben, with her husband, Alan, and then 19-month old daughter, Clare, among the spectators.

A week later, Jones demonstrated her talent in another state when Northfleet, trained by Alan, led all the way to record a narrow won the Group III West End Stakes, at Morphettville, in Adelaide.

The West End, now known as the Lord Reims Stakes, is the main leadup to the Adelaide Cup and Northfleet started at 10-1 in the Cup but lost his chance with a slipped saddle.

Northfleet paid a significant role in Linda’s short but spectacular career. She won three races on the grey and recorded two notable placings, finishing second in the Wellington Cup – in her first day’s riding at Trentham - and third in the Group III Manion Cup in Sydney.

The Manion Cup mount at Rosehill, on March 31, 1979, was a historic event, with Jones becoming the first female to ride professionally against male riders in Australia, and in a Group race to boot.

Jones was able to ride in Sydney only after the principal racing clubs brought forward the date at which females could be licensed to ride in Australia, largely through the impact Jones had already made in New Zealand.

The Australian administrators could see that Jones would be a genuine attraction, after her results at the Wellington Cup meeting – including wins in the Group II Wellington Derby, Anniversary Handicap and Douro Cup – produced headlines on both sides of the Tasman.

There was a huge crowd at Rosehill for the Manion Cup and Jones attracted plenty of media attention, nearly all favourable, though some of the coverage reflected the times, with phrases such as the “challenger in mascara.”

It was the start of a six-week stint in Australia for Jones, who was still a first season apprentice.

During that time, she became the first female to have a raceday ride at Randwick, Rosehill, Flemington, Doomben, Morphettville and Canberra. She also had an AJC Derby mount, on her Wellington Derby winner Holy Toledo, who ran seventh.

Jones had become a marketing boon for the race clubs and the Brisbane Turf Club marked her first appearance at Doomben by naming the meeting Linda Jones Day, with free admission for all women.

Her raceday appearances also required access to a female changing room, with the newly built room at Randwick named Linda’s Room, while her space at Morphettville was labelled Linda’s Haven.

Her feats in that first season, combined with her role in the battle to allow females to ride on raceday, led to Jones receiving the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list but her riding career was not to last much longer.

Two falls during her first season, including one in the NZ Oaks, resulted in fractured ribs and a collapsed lung and bruised her confidence, as well as her body.

There were more injuries the next term, including two broken vertebrae, making the decision to retire from race riding before the end of her second season an obvious one.

Linda continued to mentor and encourage female riders while assisting Alan with their Cambridge stable, before the couple made a permanent move to the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland.

Other prominent female jockeys who served their apprenticeship with Alan Jones included Cathy Treymane, Linda Ballantyne and Lynsey Satherley.

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