Bon­nie Thom­son – A Young Girl’s ‘Dream’ Be­comes a 20-Year Ca­reer

Ladies in Racing - - Contents - Story by Dar­rin Davies and Alex Nolan • Im­ages cour­tesy Rac­ing Queens­land

As she marks her 20th year in the in­dus­try, tena­cious Townsville hoop Bon­nie Thom­son says there has never been a bet­ter time to be a fe­male in rac­ing. A con­tin­ued source of in­spi­ra­tion for the state’s up-and-com­ing fe­male rid­ers, Bon­nie has en­joyed a stel­lar 2017/18 sea­son, with more than 50 win­ners in Queens­land.

Bon­nie be­gan her ap­pren­tice­ship with Emer­ald trainer John Thomas in 1998 at age 20, be­fore es­tab­lish­ing her­self as a full­time rider in Toowoomba for many sea­sons. She later moved to North Queens­land in search of a warmer cli­mate and at the time of writ­ing, had re­gained the lead in the Townsville Jock­eys’ premier­ship ahead of Wan­der­son D’avila and Justin Stan­ley. Bon­nie said she was des­tined to work with horses in some ca­pac­ity. “I was brought up with horses. Dad used to do rodeos and I al­ways had a pony as a kid. It was a lit­tle girl’s dream to be a jockey or a rodeo rider, and be­ing a jockey paid more money.” She is one of more than 31,000 peo­ple who par­tic­i­pate in Queens­land Thor­ough­bred rac­ing, 39.4% of which are fe­males. Fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion is how­ever on the rise and don’t be sur­prised if soon it’s 50/50. Fig­ures re­veal that 60% of all ap­pren­tice jock­eys em­ployed in Queens­land are fe­male. Although that num­ber drops off sig­nif­i­cantly in the se­nior ranks, Bon­nie be­lieves there’s change on the hori­zon. “I think it’s an equal sport now. It used to be male dom­i­nated, but the girls are now re­ceiv­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties. It’s a great sport to get in to. If you en­joy rid­ing horses and you have the abil­ity, then you can be suc­cess­ful.” De­spite a few scary mo­ments over the past two decades, in­clud­ing bumps, bruises and race falls, it’s Bon­nie’s de­sire to com­pete with the males and the other fe­males that has kept her in the game. “When we’re on the track out there we’re all one. We’re all out there to do a job and our job is to win races. We’re all equal,” she said. Rac­ing Queens­land’s Ed­u­ca­tion and Wel­fare team, man­aged by for­mer cham­pion jockey Mau­rice Logue, have for the past year been out on the road ac­tively en­gag­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of par­tic­i­pants. They have found that there is a strong de­sire from both young males and fe­males to be­come in­volved in rac­ing. Mr Logue said, “Our ef­forts are start­ing to pay off and by the end of the year we ex­pect to have a num­ber of new re­cruits will­ing to em­bark on a ca­reer in rac­ing. “What we have dis­cov­ered though is very few of the new re­cruits have horse ex­pe­ri­ence, but they are keen to learn and pre­pared to en­ter a trainee­ship or ap­pren­tice­ship when they com­plete a pre-vo­ca­tional course.” Rac­ing Queens­land Gen­eral Man­ager of Rac­ing (Thor­ough­bred) Si­mon Stout, said, “Rac­ing is one of the few in­dus­tries that of­fered equal pay for both males and fe­males. If a jockey or trainer wins a race any­where in Queens­land, it doesn’t mat­ter if its Jim Byrne or Bon­nie Thom­son, Tony Gol­lan or Desleigh Forster, ev­ery jockey and trainer is paid the same share of the prize money re­gard­less of gen­der. “The likes of for­mer Queens­land par­tic­i­pants Pam O’neill, Dianne Ayres and Deb­bie Ne­wham, laid a plat­form for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of fe­males to make a ca­reer in rac­ing. Rac­ing Queens­land wel­comes more fe­males in rac­ing and I look for­ward to see­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of young ladies make their mark on the sport in the years to come.” Bon­nie Thom­son’s mes­sage to young fe­males con­sid­er­ing a ca­reer in the in­dus­try, was short but con­cise. “Don’t be scared. Have a go!”

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