One interesting aspect in today's Ruakākā races meeting is the split between male and female jockeys

The spotlight will fall on the female riders at Trentham and Ruakākā today as this weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the first occasion New Zealand women rode against their male counterparts.

Vivienne Kaye at Trentham and Joanne Hale, Joanne Lamond and Sue Day at Waimate were the initial trailblazers, on July 15, 1978.

Just a week later, Day (now Sue Walsh) became the first to beat the males at their own game, when winning on Jaws, who paid $15.50, at Timaru.


Over the next year, another 13 female apprentices, including Linda Jones, would win races in New Zealand and bring significant change to the racing landscape.

However, Sue Day was not the first female to win a race against male opposition in New Zealand. That honour belonged to visiting Canadian jockey Joan Phipps, who won a race at Te Awamutu, at her first attempt, in November 1977.

Phipps, who had been riding as a professional in Canada, was making her second trip to New Zealand, to ride in a lady riders series, and had also applied to ride against the males the previous year. Her initial application had been deferred by the New Zealand Racing Conference, which had needed some convincing to license female riders.

The Racing Conference allowed females to be registered as probationary riders in July 1977 and had no grounds to refuse Phipps a licence on her second visit.

Women had been riding at official race meetings in North America from 1969 and Diane Crump had a mount in the 1970 Kentucky Derby.

At Ruakākā today the number of female and male riders are nearly equal, with 11 women and 12 men riding at he meet, which starts today with the first race - the ITM+GIB Open Handicap - at 12.32pm.

Racing writer Bill Colgan said the feature race, the ITM/GIB Whangārei Gold Cup, has attracted an intriguing mix of older, proven stayers in Woodsman, He's Cavalier and Smedley versus up and coming 4-year-olds in Major Tom, Jake The Muss, Kyrie Eleison and I See Red.

Major Tom could not have been more impressive in the way he won last start at Ruakākā over 2100 metres, but it was only a rating 75 graded race.

Is the 3kg weight differential to Woodsman, the top weight with 60kg, enough? Having Chris Johnson on board has to be worth several kilograms over the staying trip.

There's a full card with eight races in total today with the last race - The Spitroast Sunday Aug 12 - at 4.40pm

Female riders taking part today are: Trudy Thornton; Bridget Grylls; Samantha Collett; Sam Spratt; Rowena Smith; Rebecca Scott; Amber Sims; Tayla Wenn; Eilish McCall; Anna Jones and Lynsey Satherley.

Male riders: Cameron Lammas; Chris Johnson; Daniel Hain; Jonathon Riddell; Ryan Elliott; Troy Harris; Jordan Nason; Andrew Calder; Taiki Yanagida; Shaun McKay; Vinnie Colgan and Kavish Chowdhoory.