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Girl power has all kinds of winning ways

FRISKY: Retired race horse, Jazzy, needed Kelly Gates’ calming touch.
FRISKY: Retired race horse, Jazzy, needed Kelly Gates’ calming touch. Patrick Woods

SEXISM seems out of place in the pragmatic world of horse racing, where winning is generally assumed to be all that matters.

But even on International Women's Day, 2016 and even after Michelle Payne's historic win in last year's Melbourne Cup, female jockeys still face some specific challenges.

Gympie jockey Kelly Gates says women have been a big part of Gympie racing, but currently she may be the only female Gympie rider, following the departure of Billie-Rose Derbyshire and Alannah Badger to other regions (Gatton and Beaudesert).

"IT'S pretty well known that men are stronger and that some horses need firmness and strength to give their best," Kelly Gates said yesterday.

But other horses need different handling, she said.

"If it's a really large horse it may need someone strong to push them out.

"But if a horse is a bit sensitive, it may need to be calmed and treated more carefully.

"It will run better if confident and those sorts of horses may respond better to a female."

Women also were often smaller framed and have that built-in weight advantage.

But, speaking at her Sexton home, she said female jockeys still had to cop the occasional "kick in the guts."

"That's where you need the support of a good consistent stable that is loyal to you. And that can be hard to find," she said.

She gave a lot of credit for the back-up she gets from her partner, Jason Munce, and his father Kerry.

"I rode in Gympie on Saturday and had two thirds and two that didn't place."

It is a sport loaded with excitement and real danger and, as Kelly puts it, "being a female is a challenge in racing at certain times".

"Just recently a trainer said to me there was one stable I wouldn't be riding for anymore because the owner said he didn't want female jockeys.

"I had probably run four wins for them in Gympie, so that was a bit of a kick in the guts.

"But you can't let it get you down," she said.

"Most trainers are happy to put women on."

Topics:  horse racing

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