Last Friday afternoon I found myself at Melbourne's Park Hyatt, surrounded by 350 immaculately dressed women (and a handful of men) at the annual Victorian Wakeful Club’s Lady of Racing Award Luncheon.
*2016/17 Lady of Racing Award recipient Barbara Saunders (left) with Award nominee Cheryl Carey. Image by @PGCareyRacing
The Victorian Wakeful Club, named after the famous mare who raced in the early 1900s, was founded in 2001 by a group of like-minded women to encourage the networking, fostering and participation of women throughout all facets of the thoroughbred industry.
Since May 2014, The Victorian Wakeful Club awards around 25 Strappers prizes a year for the best presented horse at Country Cup meetings. As well as this, the Club also provides ‘The Mary Martin Scholarship’ to a student undertaking the Bachelor of Equine Studies at Melbourne Polytechnic College, as well as providing a scholarship to a Trainee Apprentice Jockey at Racing Victoria’s Jockey School.
Both scholarships are awarded to a dedicated young woman who excels and shows commitment within her chosen study fields. This year’s Apprentice Jockey scholarship recipient was 25 year old Chelsea Hall.
In recognising the fantastic achievements of women in all aspects of the racing industry, this year’s top accolade of 2016/17 Lady of Racing was awarded to Barbara Saunders.
An accountant by trade, Barbara became the first woman in Western Australia to gain an owner trainer’s license in 1973. She has also been a syndications manager and held Board Member positions at the Yarra Glen Race Club, Australian Racing Museum (Chairman) and Racing Victoria Limited. Barbara is a fantastic advocate for women in racing and reminded us all in the room to keep following our passions.
It’s not until you’re at an event like this that you are actively reminded of the amount of women working tirelessly and making waves in this industry. Coming off the back of International Women's Day, it was an honour to celebrate and be surrounded by so many amazing women who with such strong determination, are not giving up on their dreams for the industry.
To find out more about the varied roles women play in the industry click here.
*Bag image courtesy of @bagqueenkaren