Significant Tasmanian Women icon

Premiership Jockey and Trailblazer for Women in Racing

Bev Buckingham(Photo courtesy of The Mercury).

I just believed that no matter who you are, if you’re capable of doing a job you shouldn’t be barred from making a living from it because of your gender, age, size, race or religion. I was pretty strong willed by nature but the prejudice I struck when I started riding made me all the more determined to prove the doubters wrong. (Bev in Beating the Odds, 2003, page 9)

Born in March 1965 in England, Bev migrated to Australia with her parents Joan and Ted when she was two years of age. Her father began training racehorses shortly after their arrival in Tasmania. Bev pursued her love of thoroughbreds through pony club, riding lessons, trackwork and helping her father in his stables. Bev and her friend Kim Dixon were trailblazers in the early 1980s as some of first women to ride professionally against men.

In the mid-1970s women were not allowed to ride against men and there were very few women trainers. Lobbying by the Lady Jockey’s Association led to the granting of 15 races a year on country Victorian racetracks. In 1979, the Australian racing clubs were forced to follow New Zealand’s lead and change the rules of racing to allow women to become fully-fledged jockeys.

In November 1979, fourteen year old Bev left school to be an apprentice jockey in her father’s stable at Wesley Vale in North West Tasmania. Bev had her first race ride in October 1980, just a fortnight after Alison Anderson had made history as the first woman to race against men in Tasmania. On arriving at the Mowbray racecourse for her first race, Bev found that the new facilities for jockeys had not been completed and she had to change into her race gear in a small unlit room on the construction site.

On her fourth ride at Elwick in November 1980, Bev rode Limit Man to an easy win becoming the first woman to ride a winner against all comers in Tasmania. At the completion of her first season’s racing, Bev had ridden 22 winners and was ranked ninth on the overall jockeys’ table. Seventeen-year-old Bev won the 1982 Tasmanian Jockeys’ Premiership in her second season with a total of 63 winners, becoming the first woman in the world to win a State Jockey’s Premiership.

Bev rode 906 winners during her 18 year career. Her career achievements include:

1983 -Winning the apprentice’s title and being ranked fourth overall on the jockeys' table.

1984 - First woman to ride in the Caulfield Cup.

1985 – Winning her first major cup, the Devonport Cup on Exdirectory.

1986 - Winning the Hobart Cup on Dark Intruder.

1986 - Winning the Queen’s Cup on Exdirectory and received a personal letter from Queen Elizabeth II noting her pleasure in being able to congratulate a woman jockey on winning ‘her race’.

1987 - Winning the Launceston Cup on Brave Trespasser.

1995/96 season - Breaking the 100-winner barrier - riding 109 winners for the season and setting a State record.

1996 - Winning the Hobart Cup on Jam City.

1996/97 season - Winning her third Tasmanian premiership (64 winners).

1998 - Winning the Hobart Cup on L’Espoin.

Bev’s riding career ended after a tragic race fall on 30 May 1998 in which she fractured two vertebrae in her neck. Bev spent three months in rehabilitation in Victoria, before returning to the family’s Tasmanian property, Brigadoon, where she continued an intensive rehabilitation program. Told that she would never walk again, Bev has since proved doctors wrong.

In 2000, Bev gave birth to her daughter Tara. Bev now lives with her family in Benalla Victoria, where she is once again enjoying recreational riding and has fulfilled her long-held ambition of joining her father as a racehorse trainer at Sienna Lodge.

Reference :

Beating the Odds- The Fall and Rise of Bev Buckingham Murray Mottram and Bev Buckingham, Allen & Unwin 2003

Other information :

The life of Wilhelmina 'Bill' Smith 1889 - 1970

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