Feature Race Named After Pam O’Neill

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Brendan Parnell

Pam O’Neill, a legendary trail blazer for women riders in Australia, will be honoured with a $150,000 feature race named after her at the Brisbane winter carnival

O’Neill fought a decade-long battle with racing authorities to get a licence to ride against men.

She was a regular in women only races in the 1970s iasnd won an international lady riders race on Ropely Lad at Eagle Farm in 1974.

It was not until 1979 that O’Neill was granted a licence to ride against men.

Authorities had a minor victory as they insisted O’Neill, then aged 34, compete as a fully fledged senior rider without an apprentice’s claim.

She rode a treble on debut at the Gold Coast and went on to ride more than 400 winners.

The Pam O’Neill will be run over 1350m at Doomben as a set weights and penalties race for fillies and mares on May 16.

“After many decades, it is gratifying to see my hard work to provide opportunities for women – not just as jockeys but within the racing industry more broadly – recognised in this manner,” O’Neill said.

Female jockeys are now a major part of Australian racing with Linda Meech winning last season’s Victorian premiership.

Clare Lindop, Jamie Kah and Raquel Clark are all Adelaide premiership winners while Victoria’s Michelle Payne famously won the 2015 Melbourne Cup.

Mary Collier, the first woman to be chairperson of a metropolitan race club at the Brisbane Turf Club, is a long time friend of O’Neill and said no-one more deserved a race named after them.

“Pam has always been an inspiration with her courage and principled attitude,” Collier said.

Racing Queensland chief executive Brendan Parnell said the decision to introduce The Pam O’Neill as part of a new-look TAB Queensland Racing Carnival was befitting of her role as a pioneer.

Inducted as a member of the Racing Queensland Hall of Fame in 2010, O’Neill continues to serve the industry as a director of the Australian Jockeys’ Association.

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