Betty Shepherd: 88 not out

Betty Shepherd: 88 not out

Local racing icon Betty Shepherd celebrates her 88th birthday at The Thoroughbred, Scone

Caitlin Reid

April 10 2019 – 4:17PM

Featured Image:

Betty Shepherd lungeing the Bletchingly ex Breadline Weanling Colt in May 1978 in the paddock at ‘Trevors’, 11 Phillip Street, Scone

In the background are Archie Shepherd, Sarah Howey, Bert Lillye, Bill Howey (partly obscured), Kirsty Howey (aged 8 months in stroller) and Bruce Shepherd. The colt was sold as a weanling at the Scone May Thoroughbred Sales for $4250:00. He was a full brother to ‘Bakerman’ sold the previous year for $3600:00 and raced successfully as ‘Nioka Prince’. He later stood as a sire at Jack Johnston’s Tyrone Stud at Scone. Both ‘Bakerman’ and ‘Nioka Prince’ were flashy chestnuts with silver mane and tail although both sire and dam were brown.

SHE’S known as the first female trainer in Australia and, possibly the world, and Wednesday was a chance to celebrate the lady herself. 

Well-known Scone resident and local icon Betty Shepherd toasted to her 88th birthday surrounded by family and friends at a special lunch at The Thoroughbred in Scone. 

It was just over two years ago that the Scone horsewoman officially opened the building, which features various images taken in her training days at White Park and racing memorabilia in its interior.

(See also ‘Remaking a Thoroughbred’: )

Betty played an integral part of bringing to life some of these memories during the renovations stage of the old Thoroughbred Hotel.

In 2019, it’s been 53 years since she was the first licensed female trainer to have a runner in the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup with her horse ‘Trevors’.

The pioneer trainer also made her mark in breeding, as one of the first women to ever take a yearling through the ring at the Inglis Horse Sales.

Female trainer with licence to thrill

Sunday Telegraph April 28 2019 by Amy Harris

Amy Harris writes:

Before names like Gai Waterhouse and Michele Payne pushed the boundaries for women in Australian racing there was one little-known pioneer who quietly started it all around 60 years ago.

Betty Shepherd, a lifelong resident of Scone in the Hunter Valley, will be honoured at next week’s Scone Horse Festival as Australia’s – and possible the world’s – first female trainer.

Mrs Shepherd, now 88, blazed her trail during the 1950s when, after marrying her horse breeding husband Archie, she took over his small stable and went on to work her way to the top of Australian racing – training a runner in the Melbourne Cup.

According to their daughter Georgie, theirs was the perfect partnership – her father was “mad enough” to let Betty take the credit while he was content to take a back seat.

“Most men preferred a wife in the kitchen and looking after the house but Dad was very much happy to let Mum shine because she was good at it,” Georgie Shepherd said.

However, without a licence, the pioneering woman of racing found herself excluded from dress circles and trainer and jockey enclosures at race meets despite the fact she was training winners. Her entire stable, too, operated under her husband’s name.

“But it all changed when she attended a meet in Tamworth in the early 1960s and a stipendiary steward (the late Ken Thomas) suggested she apply for her stablehand licence,” Georgie said. “My Mum’s reply was something along the lines of, ‘Why would I apply for a stablehand’s licence when I’m training them all?’

“So it was agreed she apply for a trainer’s licence and that was it.”

A series of outstanding country horses followed but none matched her prize gelding Trevors which she bought for $10,000:00 (around $130,000:00 today) and went on to prepare for an excellent fourth place in the Caulfield Cup in 1966.

The same year Trevors placed 14th of 22 runners in the Melbourne Cup – a Cup double that was won by Bart Cummings’ mighty Galilee.

The pioneer trainer also made her mark in breeding as one of the first women to ever take a yearling through the ring at the Inglis Horse Sales. “She did break a lot of ground and made it easier for the women who followed which I think she’s very proud of,” her daughter says.

Despite her age, Shepherd is determined to take part in a parade at the Annual Scone Horse Festival where she will travel down Kelly Street in a vintage car.