A pioneer lady jockey Pam O’Neill started riding horses at an early age and graduated through pony clubs and gymkhana meets winning many awards. Pam was a more than capable rider who could ride track work. Unfortunately this activity for female riders was not allowed on certain race tracks and after taking horses from the float and stables she had to hand these over to a male rider at the entrance of the Eagle Farm racetrack.
A Long Wait
Pam was constantly denied the right to have the rule changed to allow women jockeys to ride in races competing with male jockeys. A small win eventually came her way when the authorities put a plan to silence her continual demands. A circuit to allow a few ladies-only races was set up. But competing against men, definitely out. Her ability as a jockey was confirmed in 1974 when she rode Ropely Lad to victory in the International Race for Women Riders at Eagle Farm. After considerable lobbying and concentrated effort, Pam became Australia’s first lady jockey in 1979 at the age of 34 when she obtained her licence. There was no apprenticeship, no weight allowance while she gained experience, just straight into it as a fully fledged jockey.
Some Big Firsts
And what a start! On her first day of riding against the males at the Gold Coast she rode three winners. No professional rider in the world (male or female) has matched this feat on their first outing.
The pioneer lady jockey set another record in 1980. Pam O’Neill rode Consular to victory to record the first win in Melbourne by a woman rider against the men. In her career Pam rode over 400 winners. Undoubtedly, her favourite horse was Supersnack a gelding which Pam rode to victory in the 1990 Rockhampton Cup. It was one of his 23 career wins in which Pam partnered 18 times. Pam has been part of mainstream racing in her role as Sales Manager for Queensland Bloodstock. She has been a Queensland director of the Australian Jockeys Association.