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Sirens in the saddle -

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Mick O'Regan: Hello and welcome to The Sports Factor, here on ABC Radio National. I'm Mick O'Regan.

This week we're off to the track - no, not the Olympics this time, but The track, where money talks
and everyone's on the lookout for a hot tip.

As we'll hear, for the jockeys who steer the horseflesh towards the money, it's a tough game.

And later in the program, the business of sport is very much under way in Beijing, where away from
the starting blocks and the safety barriers, the Olympics provide the perfect context to talk

Peter Grose: Sport's always been a great glue for social networking. It's just a great opportunity
for people to be able to get together in a more relaxed environment but hold forums and hold
serious discussions. And I think that's an important part of doing business in China, is that
unlike relationship marketing that you hear of in Australia, where you win a business relationship
with a client and then you work on that relationship. Up here you do the reverse, here they want to
get to know you, they want to feel comfortable with you as a person, but also your company and its
values, and they build a relationship in these social environments before they cement a deal on
doing business with you.

Mick O'Regan: Peter Grose, from the firm ABT creative, who's running the Business Club Australia
from the Beijing Hilton during the games.

First this week though to the less glamorous side of sport.

Becoming a successful jockey is a hard Louise Rowling: to hoe. For one thing, you have to be fit,
brave and not too heavy. If you can tick all those boxes, then you can look forward to pre-dawn
starts in the bitter cold, mucking out more than mucking up, and the grim, but occasional prospect
of injury.

But that doesn't stop the committed, specifically two women who are determined to make it in the
racing game.

Sean Farrar produced this profile of two women, Bethany Honeysett and Tamara Gilliss, who are
committed to carve out a career in the saddle.

Sean Farrar: There's a rhythm in the arriving that goes on from the nearby stables. The click and
clack of hooves on the concrete crossover like some sort of tempo-driven tapdance. Jockeys stamp
their feet for warmth as the horses are saddled up. They mount up and disappear into the darkness.

It's then you hear them, like equine steam-engines, sounding and pounding around the track.

In the surreal pre-dawn it's a strange romance, but one representing the start of a journey for a
young jockey like Bethany Honeysett; a journey that's all about chasing the thrill of riding a
winner on race day. Beth is half-way through a day's work whilst those not in the racing game are
still wrapped in sleepy warmth.

Bethany Honeysett: You arrive at work at 3.30 start, and you can ride Charles till 11 o'clock, and
so I ride trackwork Monday morning, then go to the races, come home, and then you go to bed early
and get up. Trackwork again.

Sean Farrar: Beth is a baby-faced 19 years of age. She first climbed aboard a thoroughbred at the
age of 15. Her diminutive size and courage meant she had 'jockey' written all over her.

Bethany Honeysett: They said I was tiny, I weighed 39 kilos and everyone's like you should be a
jockey. When I sort of come here, I'd get on anything and I just wanted to ride. But now you know
what they're all about, you sort of hesitate a bit. But it's good. You can say that other people
work in offices and stuff and your job is to ride horses.

Sean Farrar: Her job is muddier than usual this morning, with a week's rain making trackwork a
sloshy affair. The sun makes a welcome appearance as Beth returns her horse to the stables. The
extra warmth appreciated by both horse and jockey, as it's heaving flanks are hosed down. For Beth,
the streaky daylight means the day's only half over.

Three hours drive away at Moruya on the New South Wales South Coast, another female apprentice is
legged up onto a young horse being prepared for its first race. Twice Bethany's age at 38, Tamara
Gilliss is not your typical apprentice jockey. She only took to race riding later in life, after
linking up with husband and racehorse trainer, Mark.

Tamara Gilliss: Because Mark had asked me a few years before if I felt like being an apprentice and
I said No. No, I just didn't feel confident enough, I didn't feel that I could do it. But a few
more years down the track I've done, you're just involved in the day-to-day running of the stables
which includes teaching the young horses to go through the gates and like you know having jump-outs
and teaching them to gallop and gallop in pairs and all that sort of thing. And my confidence was a
lot better. So yes, that was just a matter of I thought all of a sudden, I could do this.

Sean Farrar: Her first full-bite at a gallop was enough to seal the deal for a career in the

Tamara Gilliss: This is so fast it was faster than I've ever gone before, but like once you've sort
of got over the shock of it, then it started becoming really enjoyable, and I enjoyed it and sort
of want to do more. When you're actually galloping fast, the first time on the grass, it's a
different feeling too, the grass is a little bit more uneven in the sand. So it was a bit scary at

Sean Farrar: Beth and Tamara both compete against more experienced male jockeys, and occasionally
against each other. Both are chasing the same thing, the thrill of riding a winner on race day.


Sean Farrar: Both the girls agree that success only comes if you hit the road. For Beth, it's a
simple equation.

Bethany Honeysett: A lot of travelling, you've got to travel to get your rides. You don't travel,
you don't get rides.

Sean Farrar: For Tamara, it's something she's come to accept.

Tamara Gilliss: In the country, you travel, you might be travelling five hours to get to a race
meet, but that's simply part of the job.

Sean Farrar: Success in the saddle is something Bethany is determined to achieve.

Bethany Honeysett: My current goal is just riding well, you know, and riding winners. A little bit
of confidence goes a long way and when you ride a winner it's your biggest thrill.

Sean Farrar: Both the girls have different memories of their first-ever race.

Bethany Honeysett: I ran seventh on him, it was just a blur, absolute blur, I was just beaming
because he's a nice little horse to ride and I was just too excited you know, you don't remember
much of your first ride.

Tamara Gilliss: After that day I sort of was a bit stressed out because I probably put a lot of
pressure on myself, being a bit older, like you sort of demand a lot more of yourself, yes. So I
wasn't sort of nervous or anything, I was pretty focused.

Sean Farrar: Tamara snared her first-ever race win at just her fourth race ride.

Tamara Gilliss: So I was really relieved. I was really happy and relieved and like I was excited
but the most thing I can remember thinking straight away was I was just so relieved. I thought, Oh,
thank goodness I didn't stuff that up, you know.

Sean Farrar: But winning rides can be rare for both girls. Today we catch up with Beth at her home
track, Kembla Grange, where she's trying to snare an elusive winner. She has four rides, the best
of which is a horse called Les's Lass. In the mounting yard pre-race there's the murmured
conversations between jockeys, owners and trainers. The horses are paraded before the race-day
crowd as Beth discusses tactics with her horse's owners and trainer.

Bethany Honeysett: I prepare like you do your form which is you go for the horse's forms you know,
where you're going to be and you just keep ticking over in your head, looking at the other jockeys,
what colours they're in, so you know where you're going to be.

Sean Farrar: She rides every race with the same mindset, regardless of how the bookies rate her
mount's chances.

Bethany Honeysett: Every horse you've got to get on and think it can win, because you're riding for
the owners, and you've got to have the confidence of saying 'This horse can win'. And sometimes
they do, and sometimes they don't.


Sean Farrar: Beth's horse begins badly, dropping back to the tail of the field. But as they race
into the home strait, Beth is threading her way through the field on Les's Lass, putting her horse
right into the race.


Sean Farrar: Les's Lass finishes second, just beaten. It was a well-judged ride, one she is happy

Bethany Honeysett: Les's Lass was a good run, she's a tiny little horse and she's got the rails
run-up the fence and she stuck on to run second.

Sean Farrar: The owners and trainer are pleased with her ride. But this is not always the case. As
a female apprentice with limited experience, it can be hard to secure race rides.

Bethany Honeysett: You've got to call up, you've got to ring to get rides, and you'll get 100 No's
to one Yes. Like trainers can be a bit funny especially with female jockeys, not many of them want
to put girls on, and you go through and ring the trainers that you want to ride for and just keep
ringing. Even if they say No, you ring them next time, because maybe one day they say, 'Oh, I'll
put her on'. You're a kid ringing up for rides and if they say, 'Oh, sorry mate I'm booked already
for these', but most of them are pretty good. Or 'Call me next time and I'll have a ride for you
next time.' You just do your best, ride well and keep positive.

Sean Farrar: For Tamara, getting race rides is made a little easier by the fact that her husband,
Mark, has a team of horses that he trains. She also rides horses in trackwork for other South Coast
trainers, helping create opportunities for race rides.

Tamara Gilliss: In the country, I don't think you've got the same sort of limitations of what you
would if you were a female apprentice jockey in the city. You get just as much of a go as the boy
apprentices in the country. If you're prepared to work hard and have a go, you're treated no
differently from the boys.

Sean Farrar: Tamara also reveals that there can be the odd silent car trip home from the races if
she and Mark disagree on how she rode one of his horses.

Tamara Gilliss: That's happened a few times, and it'll probably happen a few more times yet!

Sean Farrar: Horse-racing can be a dangerous sport. Jockeys' decisions and their behaviour in a
race has the potential to impact on everyone involved, not just the punter's pocket.

Tamara sums up what it's like for a new rider amid the hurly-burly of a race.

Tamara Gilliss: When you first start riding, it's just like the hustle and bustle is just hard to
sort of describe you know, like you're sort of brushing against each other and people are yelling
you know, like you might have someone from behind calling out that they're there, and you can
really hear the horse's hooves and it's just like you're thundering around, and everything's
happening so fast it's just like an absolute Kaleidoscope, it's just all sound and colours and
images and then all of a sudden bang, it's over.

The other jockeys I found, like both male and female, they expect you to be professional, but they
understand that you're still learning.

Sean Farrar: But she's also learnt that they'll let her know if she's doing the wrong thing in a

Tamara Gilliss: Occasionally things get a bit heated. Most of the time they're pretty good, they'll
just yell out if I'm sort of like about to cut somebody off you'll just hear 'Tamara!', you know,
and that straightaway snaps you and you go Oh, OK, then pay attention to what you're doing.

Sean Farrar: Racing stewards oversee race meetings, taking a particular interest in jockey
behaviour and the development of apprentice riders. Both Beth and Tamara have been questioned by
stewards over poor rides, resulting in suspensions. But the girls see it as part of the learning
curve for an apprentice jockey. For Beth, dealing with the stewards is one of the harder parts of
her job.

Bethany Honeysett: When I first started they were all like scary, because they're like the police
of racing. When you're in the stewards' room and they're all on a panel and you've got to sit there
and watch the replay and stuff like that, it's just daunting just sitting there and sometimes you
forget what to say and it's better for me now, but when you're just starting out it's a bit scary.
Yes, stewards are a good help, you know, and then when you need a kick in the butt they'll do it

Sean Farrar: For Tamara, her first serious reprimand did unsettle her.

Tamara Gilliss: Like I was a bit shattered. I mean obviously this wasn't a process that happened
directly after that race. OK, then it sort of went on between races and I had another couple of
races after that. And for the next one, you know, like when I went out to the horse I sort of was a
little bit shaken and Mark said, 'Look, just focus on this next ride'.

Sean Farrar: She also believes dealing with the stewards has helped shape her riding style.

Tamara Gilliss: Like to me, it makes you more aware and makes you sort of be thinking about your
other riders, and their safety a little bit more.

Sean Farrar: Beth's last serious reprimand highlights the ups and downs of racing. Criticised for a
poor ride by the stewards one week.

Bethany Honeysett: I rode like a bad race, and every jockey does, and I just said to him, 'You
know, I had a brain snap, you know I stuffed up'.

Sean Farrar: The owners showed faith in Beth and she turned up at the next meeting determined to
make amends on the same horse, called Fee Majestique.


Sean Farrar: The trainer gave her a big rap for the improved performance of both horse and jockey.

Bethany Honeysett: Luckily enough I did win on it. That was great you know, and he came back and he
said 'That was a 10 out of 10 ride'.

Sean Farrar: For Tamara, this is what she really enjoys doing.

Tamara Gilliss: Working with the horses, like that's the main reason that I sort of got involved
with it. I just love horses, so anything to work with them is a bonus.

Sean Farrar: She does get excited on race day, but she tries not to expect too much.

Tamara Gilliss: You have a lot of anticipation but I try not to get too like excited by it. Like
you try and be focused, but you don't try and sort of, yes, get too over-excited and think, 'Oh
geez, I'm going to have an absolute blinder today', you know, you never ever look at it like that,
you always sort of just go out to do the best job that you can.

Sean Farrar: Today it's an all-girl assault as she has the one ride for a female trainer.

Tamara Gilliss: I'm riding at Goulburn today in Race 4 on Star Upon a Wish. I rode this horse down
at Nowra a few weeks ago, so it'll be nice actually now knowing the horse, sort of just makes it a
bit easier to ride today. She should jump fairly well and then hopefully I'll be able to position
her sort of well just behind the speed or something.


Sean Farrar: Tamara's mount is in early trouble in the race and never recovers. Days such as this
prove how fickle the racing game can be for the girls. But for these two Sirens of the Saddle, the
fire burns bright in their determination to succeed. Tamara knows her four-legged co-workers will
be waiting for her tomorrow morning at 4am.

Tamara Gilliss: They all sort of are becoming workmates now, and they're as different as your
workmates at work somewhere else. Some of them are really laid back, and others muck around and act
up, and all they want to do is, you know, they're pork chops, that's the way that they are.

Sean Farrar: And for Beth, a 9 to 5 job is not an option.

Bethany Honeysett: Jockey or nothing.

Sean Farrar: And having a Mum at home as her No.1 fan, is all the added encouragement that she

Bethany Honeysett: My Mum's stoked. Like she's got pictures of me all over the wall and she's just
really proud of me because I've put a goal out for myself and I'm achieving it and she's a huge
supporter of mine. So yes, she's been great.

Sean Farrar: Ride high girls, and keep those whips crackin'.


Mick O'Regan: Bethany Honeysett and Tamara Gilliss, two women working in the character-building
world of regional horse racing. That report was produced by Sean Farrar.