Country female jockey outshining the men
Meet the up-and-comer who is dominating the race track
ALISHA Ross, 18, has gone from kicking up the dirt at barrel races to kicking up the turf on a race track.
The Barcaldine-based apprentice jockey is making a name for herself in country racing, beginning her career with six wins from her first 10 starts. Her competitive career began when she was four years old.
“My step-dad would lead me out on a pony and I just progressed to a bigger horse from there,” she said.
“I remember my first solo barrel race like it was yesterday. I was so excited about it and I remember people saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re so calm’.
“I loved the atmosphere of barrel racing. Everyone was so nice to each other and it was like a big family.”
Alisha’s journey into horse racing began after high school.
“I was a rouseabout with some shearers for a while and I just felt like it wasn’t for me, I wanted to work with horses,” she said. “I saw on Facebook, Todd Austin (an ex-jockey) was looking for an apprentice jockey.
“He looked me up and down and said ‘we’ll take you’ and it’s just gone from there. I’d always thought maybe I could be a jockey as a hobby, but it’s turned into a full-time career.”
Her first race meet was at the Longreach Diggers Cup in April, where she won three races.
It took her a year of work before she could compete in her first race.
“Physically my fitness was up to date,” she said.
“But I had to do barrier trials and a heap of paperwork as well.
“Leading up to my first race I didn’t expect to do so good, but I had help from Todd and the other trainers.
“I just had to push myself and push the horses.”
She also rode in the Birdsville Cup this year.
“I was quite nervous because it was my first time racing there. The crowd was huge and it was being live streamed across Australia,” she said.
“But I had a win on a horse called Austin, so I was quite happy to get over the line.”
For Alisha the day starts at 4am.
“When it’s still dark we run them with the car and once it starts getting lighter at about five I start riding them,” she said. “Then we feed and wash them and get the dripper systems going to keep them cool. We’re always making sure the horses are all right before ourselves.
“Then we have a couple of hours off during the day before the afternoon shift.”
Behind every good jockey is a good trainer, and Alisha said she thought highly of her boss Todd Austin.
“He’s amazing to work for,” she said. “He’s more than a boss. I really look up to him and he’s always helping me out.”
She said she was one of the only female jockeys in central western Queensland.
“It’s very much a male-dominated thing,” she said. “You have to do the hard yards to get into it. I started as a strapper but it all pays off in the end.
“I remember at school listening to Michelle Payne win the Melbourne Cup on Prince of Penzance and it was good to see her do so well because no one ever thought a female would win the Melbourne Cup.
“I hope there’s another young girl out there who is ready to do the hard yards and become a jockey.”
For now she dominates the country tracks, but one day hopes to ride in the Magic Millions.
“Riding in that race would be a dream come true,” she said. “I was lucky enough to go this year and watch and just thought winning a race like that would look really good for your career.
“I’m in the midst of getting my provincial licence at the moment and then will eventually go on to get my metro one.
“Once I do that I can ride in some of the bigger races and get my name out there.”
RISING STAR: Apprentice jockey Alisha Ross, 18, is making a name for herself on the country racing circuit.