One for the Ladies

The featured image shows Betty Shepherd doing what she loves and does best: preparing young thoroughbreds for races and the sale ring. This photo was taken at the White Park Sales in Scone in May shortly after Betty had returned from her pioneering Victorian Cups foray in 1966.

I have taken the liberty of reproducing a seminal account to celebrate a number of significant milestones about 12 months ago leading up to the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups in 2016. I also adduce the opening of the new iteration Thoroughbred Hotel reported elsewhere in this blog site. Last night on the evening of Monday 2nd October 2017 I visited the Thoroughbred to mark my own arrival in Australia as an assisted passage migrant exactly 50 years ago to the day/date/time (Monday 2nd October 1967). I arrived in Scone one day later 03/10/1967; which is 50 years exactly as I write this report.

Betty Shepherd has been an integral part of my professional and social life in Scone. Her story is well known and is repeated here. Less well known were the vicissitudes of the campaign for equal rights for women in the theatre of thoroughbred racing. I have added a synopsis written by my very good friend Ray Alexander; ex-Secretary of the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) now carrying the title CEO or General Manager.

One for the Ladies

Design Consultant Kriston Harris writes (2016):

As we head into the heart of the Spring Carnival, 2016 sparks many memories for Scone resident and local icon Betty Shepherd. This year celebrates the fiftieth anniversary since Betty was the first licensed female trainer to have a runner in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup with her horse Trevors.

Believed to be the first ever woman to be granted a training license in Australia, Betty considered it more of a hobby, keeping only 2 or 3 horses in work at a time. Betty and her husband Archie, kept the horses on their property on the outside of Scone where she would ride one and lead one (or two) through town every morning to the old White Park Racetrack where Archie would time her as she put them through their paces. It wasn’t long before Betty struck success with her first horse Quick Knock who won 6 races, but her biggest achievements were with a gelding called Trevors.

Trevors was acquired for very little and was broken in by Betty who formed an inseparable bond with the horse over its racing career. After a huge amount of local and city success, including the Listed McKell Cup and Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes, Betty decided to take the horse to Melbourne for a Spring Campaign. Trevors was described as very unlucky in the Caulfield Cup where he finished 4th in a photo finish and went on to run in the Melbourne Cup, finishing mid field. The gelding who became somewhat of a local champion won 14 races for Betty, even stirring interest from some American buyers, but sadly passed away from unknown causes shortly afterwards.

Along with training, Betty also dabbled in breeding and was one of the first females to ever take a yearling through the ring at the Inglis Horse Sales. Betty would handle and prepare the horses for the sales, but only men would ever take them through the ring in those times. When a male handler failed to show up, Betty had no hesitation in doing the job herself. Although there were a few hushes and funny looks, Betty showed no signs of this bothering her, getting the job done.

As well as reflecting back on these wonderful achievements, Betty has more recently played an integral part of bringing to life some of these memories for the current renovations of the old Thoroughbred Hotel. Betty’s story and historic images will be displayed alongside other local racing memorabilia planned for the interior of the new venue which will host a quality bakery, upmarket bar and restaurant, and 12 rooms for accommodation upstairs.

“We hope that Betty’s story will inspire other local young racing enthusiasts”, says local Marketing and Design consultant, Kriston Harris, “But most importantly it will be up on the wall to share for many generations to come. Stories such as Betty’s are a big part of what we are trying to achieve as part of the rebuild of The Thoroughbred. We have so many amazing local stories and achievements just like Betty’s, so it will be wonderful to see them displayed and shared for many years to come.”

Betty will be joining Mr Bill Howey in officially opening the new venue on completion of the renovations early next year.

Kriston Harris

Director

Plan Design Equine

M: 0402 844 289

E: kriston@plandesignequine.com

A: PO Box 609 Scone NSW 2337

W: www.plandesignequine.com

Female Trainers

Bill,

I might have given you misleading information regarding training licences for women.  As you are probably aware, the 1938 Melbourne Cup winner, Catalogue, was trained by A.W. McDonald (according to the record books).  But in fact McDonald’s wife, “Granny” McDonald, was the trainer. In their book “The Melbourne Cup,” Maurice Cavanough and Meurig Davies, wrote that “In New Zealand, Mrs McDonald was Catalogue’s trainer, but Victorian racing laws did not grant licences to women trainers and McDonald had to act as his wife’s deputy in Melbourne.”

Whether the “laws” they referred to were incorporated in the Australian Rules of Racing drawn up by Sir Adrian Knox, I am not sure.  Perhaps it was just the practice, as it was in England, where Norah Wilmot’s father, Sir Robert Wilmot, applied to the Jockey Club in 1930 for permission for his daughter to train.  She was at that time in complete charge of her father’s stable. The reply came ‘that it was not the policy of the Jockey Club to grant trainers licences to women’.

Norah Wilmot continued to make applications to the Jockey Club, from 1931 until 1938, but was met with the same curt reply.  Her cause was taken up by her friend and co-would-be-trainer Florence Nagle, who in a letter to the Jockey Club in 1965, wrote, inter alia, “There is no rule forbidding the grant of a trainer’s licence to women in England.”

Finally, on July 22, 1966, Mrs Nagle was informed that the Jockey Club would be prepared to grant trainers’ licences to “suitable women.”

I hope this helps.

Best regards,

Ray Alexander.