RENOWNED jockey Linda Meech claimed a slice of history when she became the first female jockey to win a Wangoom Handicap.
Meech steered the Peter Moody-trained Kneeling to victory by a nose in the $150,000 sprint over 1200 metres at Warrnambool racecourse yesterday.
In what was the most thrilling finish of the day, the five-year-old front runner held off top-weight Blackie, which finished centimetres short with a late burst from midfield.
Magnus Reign was third after challenging Kneeling for the lead in the straight, while Anlon ran on to place fourth. Half-a-length separated first from fourth.
Meech, who took Kneeling to the front from barrier two, said she was unfazed by her position in history.
She was simply pleased to win a race known as the Newmarket of the bush.
“It’s just a huge thrill, regardless of whether I’m a male or a female. I think if I was a bloke I’d be just as happy,” she said.
“It’s one of those things when you’ve been riding in this district for a long time you really want to win … I’m pretty happy to win it.”
Meech said she thought she had won at the post but was not certain with Brad Rawiller aboard Blackie charging home.
“I was pretty happy when I’d heard we won,” she said.
“I wanted to be positive (from the start). I was happy to take a sit if they went mad but they didn’t really go very fast.
“Once I got to the half-mile I didn’t want to let people cross me. I wasn’t confident, no, I just wanted to have a clear run in.”
Moody, renowned as one of the best horseman in Australia and trainer of the legendary Black Caviar, wasn’t trackside to witness the triumph.
But assistant trainer Zac I’Anson said Kneeling did well to hold on from the front. “That’s the way she’s been running,” he said.
The Encosta De Lago-Sunday Service mare was equal second to Halle Rocks over 1100 metres at Caulfield a fortnight ago.
She had not won since scoring twice in 11 days in Queensland last July.
I’Anson said Kneeling, a former Patinack Farm horse which Moody bought about 18 months ago, could head back to Queensland to race in the winter.
“It’s been very, very honest. I don’t think she’s finished any further back than about fifth or sixth for us,” he said.
“This is probably her level. Maybe at the next level she might be able to sneak one, but she’s a very tough and honest mare.”
Kneeling paid $9 for the win. The result took her record to four wins from 26 starts.