Linda Meech – An­other 100 Rea­sons to Put Her on a Horse

An­other 100 Rea­sons To Put Her On A Horse

Ladies in Racing - - Contents - TIM GUILLE from In­side Rac­ing spoke to her about her con­tin­ued suc­cess and chal­lenges.

Linda first climbed on a horse in a race in March 1999; Bed­time Story, who fin­ished sev­enth at Awa­puni in New Zealand. The 37- year-old jockey now has more than 1400 win­ners and in sea­son 2017-18 has notched up an­other win­ning cen­tury, her sixth in the past 10 years. De­spite her suc­cess, op­por­tu­ni­ties at the top end are still hard to come by.

What prompted you grow­ing up to want­ing to be a jockey? “I had al­ways wanted to be a jockey. I had four sib­lings and we all rode horses around for fun. None of my fam­ily were re­ally rac­ing peo­ple, other than my grand­par­ents who used to go to the track a fair bit. When I was at school in New Zealand, I did work ex­pe­ri­ence at the race­course. I met a guy rid­ing work there and race rid­ing ap­pealed a lot to me. I was ac­tu­ally as heavy then as I am now; rid­ing weight 54kg, so ini­tially I was aim­ing to be­come a jumps jockey.” You made the move to Aus­tralia when you were 18. What drove that? “It wasn’t that planned, to be hon­est. I came over on a horse plane to help with four of New Zealand trainer Kevin My­ers’ horses that were go­ing to Paddy Payne at Bal­larat. I rode work there for him and I man­aged to pick up a ride. He gave me a few more rides and I soon re­alised that the money and op­por­tu­ni­ties were far bet­ter in Aus­tralia. I was ob­tain­ing rides, so I stayed.” Was that when you started your ap­pren­tice­ship? “I was of­fered an ap­pren­tice­ship with Terry O’sul­li­van, who was based at Stawell in West­ern Vic­to­ria and I stayed with him for a while. I then did a short stint with Peter Moody up at Ea­gle Farm early on. I didn’t re­ally en­joy that, so I came back to Terry. But when Peter moved down to Caulfield, I moved there and fin­ished my ap­pren­tice­ship with him.”

To­day you find your­self with a win­ning strike rate that a lot would envy. What are some of the key fac­tors of your suc­cess? “I know that I am al­ways train­ing and am re­ally fo­cussed on al­ways try­ing to im­prove and do my best. Hav­ing such a strong sta­ble like Moody’s be­hind me for the first five years re­ally helped shape my ca­reer, that’s for sure. I learnt a lot dur­ing that time.” You have notched up an­other sea­son of 100+ win­ners. Is that a goal you set each sea­son? “It def­i­nitely is a goal. It ac­tu­ally started off as a bet be­tween an old Man­ager and me that I couldn’t ride 100 win­ners in a sea­son. I think I fin­ished with about 75 that year. But it’s def­i­nitely some­thing I aim for each sea­son now.” You’ve re­cently took out a trainer’s li­cence. Is train­ing some­thing you want to move into even­tu­ally? “Rid­ing is still my fo­cus, it’s where I earn most of my in­come. For me, train­ing is not a short-term thing. No­body can ride for­ever and if I start set­ting my train­ing up now it gives me an op­tion af­ter my rid­ing ca­reer, as I will even­tu­ally have to do some­thing else. It re­ally is some­thing for the fu­ture. I only have one horse Beeokay in work at present. I’m sure even­tu­ally that will grow.” What is your typ­i­cal work­ing day? “To be hon­est, not ev­ery day is the same for me. I try to fit in as much as I can with­out be­ing ridicu­lous. Tues­day morn­ings I al­ways ride work at Caulfield, which is prob­a­bly the only morn­ing I have set in stone. Other morn­ings I just ride work where I can. I guess I con­cen­trate on rid­ing when the train­ers that I ride for need me, and when they don’t I ei­ther have the morn­ing off or just work my own horse, then I head to the races. If the race meet­ing is on the op­po­site side of Mel­bourne from Stawell, I stay in Mel­bourne, but oth­er­wise I just travel from my home in Stawell.” You have been do­ing a fair bit of work on your place. Do you have grand plans for the prop­erty? “It is a bit of a long-term goal to set it up for train­ing. It won’t be any­thing ma­jor, just some­thing op­er­a­tional, and it cer­tainly won’t be overnight. I don’t mind a bit of gar­den­ing and do like put­ting lots of trees around the prop­erty. My gar­den cer­tainly won’t win any shows, but its get­ting there. My brother Ben is a big part of the place as well. He helps out a great deal.” You are a tire­less worker. Do you of­ten take a day off or a hol­i­day? “I’m a lot bet­ter than I ever used to be at tak­ing time off. And that’s im­por­tant. I’ve had a few sus­pen­sions last sea­son, which turned into un­planned breaks. I’m also plan­ning to go over­seas to a friend’s wed­ding in Ire­land in De­cem­ber. That be­ing said, it might not be a hol­i­day, as I wouldn’t mind rid­ing over there.” Sta­tis­tics sug­gest you are one of the best jock­eys in the coun­try. Is there a good ri­valry among you and the other fe­male rid­ers or jock­eys in gen­eral? “There isn’t re­ally a ri­valry with fe­male jock­eys. They aren’t the only ones I have to beat, there are a dozen or so other rid­ers in ev­ery race I need to beat to win. I don’t go out say­ing I’m go­ing to beat the other girls, I go out try­ing to beat ev­ery­one.” From a pub­lic­ity per­spec­tive there are other fe­male jock­eys who at­tract a fair bit more at­ten­tion than you do. Does that pro­vide a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge for you? “I prob­a­bly don’t fo­cus enough on that sort of stuff (pub­lic­ity) as it’s some­thing I don’t re­ally en­joy do­ing. I just love the day-to-day of race rid­ing and rid­ing win­ners. That’s what I en­joy. But the at­ten­tion does come with the role some­times, so I do make sure I make my­self avail­able and get in­volved when I need to.” Di­ver­sity, or equal­ity, has a huge fo­cus across pretty much ev­ery sport. Do you think rac­ing has made good in­roads with this? “I think at the day-to-day level it has well and truly be­come a level play­ing field. But it is still tough when it comes to big-race rides, be­cause of­ten con­nec­tions want to put the best of the best on their horses. It is slowly turn­ing for me, I’ve had the most Spring Car­ni­val rides I have ever had in the last cou­ple of years, which is a pos­i­tive. It can be frus­trat­ing at times, es­pe­cially when I lose the ride on a horse I have had great suc­cess on, but I can’t af­ford to get up­set about it, be­cause I’d drive my­self crazy.” Is there any­one you owe a great deal to? “There are prob­a­bly quite a few. One that comes to mind is Paddy Payne

Snr. He re­ally de­serves so much more recog­ni­tion that what he is given. He’s helped so many more than just his own fam­ily and so many jock­eys owe him a lot. Peter Moody is an­other who has helped and be­lieved in me. He would of­ten put me on when oth­ers didn’t want to. Also, he was my man­ager for quite a few years and was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting my name out there early on.” There has been an in­flux of fe­male jock­eys in Vic­to­ria over re­cent years. Is there any ad­vice that you would give to those girls com­ing through? “The main thing I would say is that they would def­i­nitely be work­ing hard dur­ing their ap­pren­tice­ships, but they need to be ready to work even harder once they have fin­ished. It isn’t easy to tran­si­tion and there will be hur­dles. It’s un­for­tu­nate to see some ap­pren­tices fin­ish and then give up af­ter a while in the se­nior ranks be­cause it’s so hard. I would also say that be­ing a jockey is not for­ever. I’ve seen some great fe­male jock­eys have great ca­reers, so make the most of your op­por­tu­ni­ties. Some choose to start fam­i­lies and oth­ers move on, but they were cer­tainly great jock­eys.” You have had a won­der­ful ca­reer and it will con­tinue for years to come. What have been the big­gest high­lights? “I would have to say win­ning the Cool­more Clas­sic on Plucky Belle for Peter at Rose­hill Gar­dens in March 2015. It was my first Group 1 suc­cess. I hadn’t even re­ally set my­self a goal of win­ning a Group 1, be­cause I al­ways found it hard to get rides at that level. But when the op­por­tu­nity came and I won, it was pretty spe­cial. Great do­ing it for Peter too. I should also add it was pretty good win­ning my first race as a trainer in March this year with Beeokay at Swan Hill.” (Beeokay, a three-year-old geld­ing by Elzaam, has been Linda’s only run­ner to date; four starts last sea­son for fourth, fourth, sec­ond and the win in a $22,000 maiden as a $1.60 favourite. Linda also rode it as well, a dou­ble bar­relled suc­cess.)

PHOTO ALICE LAID­LAW/RAC­ING PHO­TOS

Linda Meech was happy with her work for trainer Daniel Bow­man when Work­ing From Home won at Moonee Val­ley on March 16.

PHOTO PAT SCALA/RAC­ING PHO­TOS

Linda Meech won for a sixth time from six rides on the Sy­mon Wilde­trained Inn Keeper, at Caulfield on May 12.

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