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