When you weigh less than 48kg in your socks, and balance and steer a 600kg juggernaut over speeds matched only by a motor-driven machine, you can’t be too precious. It takes courage, strength and a determination that most of us can only hope for.

Photography by David Field

Meet the central Victorian female jockeys who have swapped silks for high fashion. These women have an ambulance follow them to work, so an opportunity to dress up at Bendigo’s racetrack was a nice change from stable duties.
Courtney Pace is the state’s leading amateur jockey. Once a pro, now Courtney races the picnic circuit. Week in, week out she is saluting the judges, having ridden 49 winners last season, an achievement that leaves her male rivals in her dust.
Kassie Furness has won country cups and is highly competitive on the professional provincial circuit, having ridden well over 85 winners. She recently returned from injury, but with her eagerness and determination she’ll soon be back in the winner’s circle.
Alex Patis is just about to make her debut after two years of doing the hard yards, and this girl from the Gold Coast is determined to make her mark. Patis was the only female intern at the Victorian Apprentice Jockey Training Program this year, and her mentor, coach and one Australia’s best jockeys, Darren Gauci, is already seeing signs of greatness.

ALEX PATIS

What do you do to get away from racing? Or how do you relax?
As a jockey it is quite hard to get away from racing. But as for relaxing I enjoy watching a movie or having a bath. I find going to the gym quite relaxing too.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to Darren Gauci. He was just such a strong rider and had a very long successful career, something I hope to achieve. Darren is my coach and helps me a lot with my riding and helps me look and become a stronger rider.
What do you love about racing?
I love racing because I can have a job that I love, work and ride horses and still get paid. In racing you make a lot friends and you are always meeting new people. Going to the races is always a great atmosphere and an enjoyable day out.I also love the fact that racing you can take anywhere overseas.
Who’s your favourite horse?
I’ve had a fair bit to do with Mr Cooley over the past 12 months. I’ve ridden nearly all his gallops and got the opportunity to jump him out a few times. He’s special to me because he’s such an old gentleman who has won 12 races in his career. I hope to start my career on him.
What’s your most memorable moment?
When I got the phone call telling me I was accepted into the Victorian apprentice program and that I was the only female this year. A highlight for me so far in my career was to be able to spend five months with Gerald Egan and ride a treble for him at Tatura trials.
How do you think woman are perceived in racing?
I believe that times have changed a lot and women are getting more involved in racing. As for female jockeys, we are proving ourselves day by day that we are just as strong and can do the same thing males can. These days girls are definitely getting more and more opportunities in races. In my career I would love to see an all female race.
Favourite food?
Anything Lisa Banks cooks. She never disappoints.

COURTNEY PACE

What do you do to get away from racing? Or how do you relax?
I like to play a lot of sport, especially netball.
What is your favourite thing to do?
Watching the AFL, especially the Bulldogs.
Who do you look up to?
My family, they are great supporters of me.
What’s the worse element of racing?
Very early rises, especially during the winter months.
What do you love about racing?
I love the industry as a whole, but especially the horses.
Where do you see racing in 10 years’ time?
I like how racing is progressing with time. In 10 years’ time I think you’ll see more innovation such as the advent of more night racing for the patrons and participants.
Who’s your favourite horse?
Lohnro.
What’s your most memorable moment?
Riding out in England on one of the Queen’s racehorses in 2014 in Kingsclere.
What’s your worst moment?
Being injured and unable to ride.
Favourite food?
Steak.

KASSIE FURNESS

What is your favourite thing to do away from racing?
Take my dogs for a walk, I love spending time with them.
Who do you look up to?
My dad, the most hard working, loyal and decent man I know.
What do you love about racing?
It doesn’t matter if you’re the trainer, owners, strapper, track work rider or stable hand, everyone is equal and everyone has done their piece of the puzzle to help get the job done as a team.
Where do you see racing in 10 years’ time?
I see racing being very different in 10 years’ time, but I hope it’s for the good and for the right reasons .
Who’s your favourite horse?
Belannoro, I won four races in a row on her.
What’s your most memorable moment?
Winning the Tamworth Cup in the first year of my apprenticeship was a huge thrill.
What’s your worst moment?
My fall. From an athlete constantly on the go to sitting on the couch and losing all momentum was a hard pill to swallow. But it made me stronger and more determined as not only a jockey, but a person.
How do you think woman are perceived in racing?
When I first started my apprenticeship I personally don’t think women were classed in the same category as men. But the likes of Michelle Payne winning the Melbourne Cup didn’t just prove we can do it. She made a stand for every woman in every industry or sport to show just how far discipline, dedication and hard work can make even the most impossible task seem possible. She certainly proved that.
Favourite food?
Steak and mash.

Hair and makeup: Jools for Jim   |  Millinery: IvyJayne & Co   |  Clothing: Soho Boutique