The sport of thoroughbred racing had long been dominated by men, and it wasn’t until 1979 that female jockeys were first granted licences in Australia.
The racing landscape has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, and women have taken the sport by storm, with Gai Waterhouse arguably the biggest name in the game, while the likes of Clare Lindop, Michelle Payne, Amanda Elliott, Emma Freedman, and Charlotte Littlefield have all proven to be trailblazers in their own right.
Now governing bodies are shifting their attention to women and racehorse ownership, with more and more sales introducing incentives for female-owned gallopers, and it appears that a local bunch of ladies have stumbled across a handy filly of their own.
Trained by Keith Dryden in Canberra and owned by a cohort of 21 women from Jugiong, Gundagai, Harden, Wallendbeen, Wagga and Canberra, Vinolass is unbeaten following two starts.
The three-year-old made it a winning debut at Wagga on October 19 when blitzing her rivals in the 1000m Maiden Plate before she went to the paddock for a spell.
After 20 weeks, Vinolass returned at Canberra over the Black Opal Stakes carnival, and she was ultra-impressive when winning the 1000m Class One Handicap, recording 57.21 for the five-furlong trip, and a very impressive 32.42 for the last 600m.
“She looks like being a nice racehorse,” Dryden said.
“They are all thrilled with how she ran at Canberra the other day and I thought she was one of the more impressive wins over the two days, and she ran a cracking last 600 (metres); it was quicker than the Open Handicap race.
“The most impressive thing was how she did it, and she was getting through the line, which tells us she will likely get over more ground, and she looks to have a lot of upside going forward.”
The unbeaten chestnut filly has been entered in the 1000m Class Two Handicap at Albury on Friday, which is the second day of the always-popular Albury Gold Cup carnival, but Dryden isn’t entirely sure where Vinolass will race next.
“They are patiently waiting for her next run, and they understand that you can’t race them every week,” Dryden said.
“She will have another run, but we just haven’t sorted that out yet. I would have liked to have taken her to Sydney for a Highway, but they are difficult for Canberra horses to get into, and the next one isn’t for five weeks, so that might not work.
“I really haven’t decided where we will go yet, and I’ll make that decision sometime this week.”
Wherever Dryden decides to go, he believes Vinolass’ connections will enjoy the ride.
“She’s a well-behaved filly, and she’s feeling fantastic,” Dryden said.
“Two or three days after the run at Canberra, she came out of her box to go on the walker, and she was squealing and pig-rooting, and just feeling fantastic.
“She is not a large filly, and she is only lightly-framed, but she is beautifully put together, and she obviously has a motor, and it will be fun to see where she gets to.”
The purchase and syndication of Vinolass is an interesting story, with James Middleton of Redbank North – who famously bred and raced Single Gaze with his wife Fiona – spotting the Supido filly that is out of Alana’s Party at the 2021 Inglis Classic Yearling Sales.
After being passed in, Middleton made ‘three or four visits back to see her’ that same day, and in the end, he looked past her small stature as she reminded him of Single Gaze and he purchased the youngster for $20,000 from Widden Stud.
After a quick phone call to his daughter Katrina Middleton, the pair were quick to assemble a ‘ladies only’ syndicate to race the small but picturesque filly.
“It was a bit of a shock when we sold her so quickly,” Katrina Middleton said.
“When dad saw her get passed in at the sales, he went around and looked at her, and he called me and said I am going to offer them 20 grand for her, and he asked me if I could call around and try and sell $10,000 worth, and he was going to get Keith to sell the other $10,000.
“I sent a message out to around 25 people, and 18 people said yes and I had to quickly call dad back and tell him to tell Keith that he didn’t have $10,000 to sell.”
Middleton had nothing but praise for the work of Dryden and his team in getting Vinolass to the races, let alone training the young filly to win at her first two starts.
“She was only little when she arrived, and when the girls first saw her, a lot of them were wondering if she was going to be a racehorse,” Middleton laughed.
“Full credit to Keith though, he has looked after her well, and she has grown into a nice, athletic filly, and Keith has left no stone unturned in having her ready to race.”
13 of her owners were on course when Vinolass won at Canberra earlier this month, and it was an emotional victory for everyone involved.
“It was special to see her win, and it was extra special to do it with Keith, because they have supported our business so much,” Middleton said.
“Plus, the people that are in her have been very supportive of our family and business, and for her to come out and race twice and win twice; it is a nice way to say thank you to everyone.
“She cost $20,000 and she has been in two races and won $39,000 and I think it is really exciting for all the owners.”
The filly shares a special connection to Dryden, the region, and most of the owners too, as she races in the dark blue and green colours made famous by the late Arthur Menzies, who bred and raced horses out of his Wallendbeen base.
“The colours that she races in; they’re quite special to us, because we decided to race her in Arthur Menzies’ colours,” Middleton said.
“He introduced mum and dad to Keith, and he was an old bachelor that lived in Wallendbeen, and he loved his women and horses, and when we had 21 women in the horse, we thought he would love it.
“Plus, one of the owners now owns his horse farm, and it just seemed fitting.”
It remains to be seen where Vinolass races next, but it’s sure to be an exciting ride for her owners.