Linda Meech – Another 100 Reasons to Put Her on a Horse
Another 100 Reasons To Put Her On A Horse
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.)
Linda Meech was happy with her work for trainer Daniel Bowman when Working From Home won at Moonee Valley on March 16.
Linda Meech won for a sixth time from six rides on the Symon Wildetrained Inn Keeper, at Caulfield on May 12.