There was a time when Kathy O’Hara found herself as the lone occupant of the womens’ jockey room at Sydney racetracks.
When she first started riding 18 years ago, females were still a rarity in the Sport Of Kings but now the likes of Melbourne premiership pacesetter Jamie Kah and the Sydney-based Rachel King are putting their names up in lights.
For O’Hara, who has been one of the pioneers for women jockeys, there is a great sense of pride in watching their achievements and acceptance in the sport.
“It just goes to show how far racing in Australia has come in terms of the perception of jockeys and women riders,” O’Hara said.
“It was very hard when I started. There were years where I was sitting in the jockeys’ room alone every Saturday.
“You would never sit in the jockeys’ room alone on a Saturday now, which speaks volumes.”
It is testament to O’Hara that she is still plying her trade in what is widely considered one of the most competitive riding jurisdictions in the world.
On Saturday, she will attempt to win her second Coolmore Classic aboard Vangelic and she will prepare for the Group One race alongside two other girls, Rachel King who rides Sovereign Award and apprentice Louise Day who partner Aliferous.
O’Hara is thrilled the girls are finally being recognised as gifted horse people, rather than just female riders.
“You see someone like Jamie Kah, who can just get horses to do things others can’t get them to do,” O’Hara said.
“My first Group One winner, Ofcourseican, was thrown my way because Jimmy Cassidy said, ‘try Kathy, no-one else gets along with this horse’. Opportunities were thrown my way because I was a horseperson.”
O’Hara’s first Group One win was aboard Ofcourseican in the 2012 Coolmore Classic and she added another on Single Gaze in the 2016 Vinery Stud Stakes.
She is hoping to make it three at Rosehill and if ever there was an omen bet on the week that International Women’s Day is being celebrated, it is Vangelic.
The filly is co-trained by Gai Waterhouse, will be ridden by O’Hara and is contesting Sydney’s most prestigious race for fillies and mares.
“I’ve been doing a bit of work there at Gai’s and hoping for opportunities like this. Luckily for me, she threw this opportunity my way,” O’Hara said
“I’ve won a couple of feature races for Gai. A couple of Group Twos, Group Threes.
“No Group Ones yet but it was my first Group One winner in the Coolmore, so hopefully I can make it my third (overall) on Saturday.”
Written by Mandy Cottell