Amy Percival at Callaghan Park. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Amy Percival at Callaghan Park. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

Amy showing way for female brigade as stint as steward

WITH females making up about 25% of the ranks of jockeys in Australia, it is a given that the ladies would be making career choices towards becoming stipendiary stewards.

Surprisingly, their numbers are minuscule in this department.

It has been 35 years since back in 1979 that Pam O'Neill trail blazed the right for female jockeys to ride against men in Australia.

Surprisingly, it took another 26 years before Victorian Heidi Keighran became the first full time female steward to chair a race meeting in Australia.

Rockhampton's Amy Percival aspires to do likewise after having been appointed by Racing Queensland (RQ) as a fulltime cadet steward in Capricornia last November.

Amy, who celebrates her 22nd birthday on June 1, is one of just a handful in her fulltime role in not only Queensland, but Australia.

"I always wanted to make a career out of being around the horses and I had even considered becoming a jockey but then thought about the stewarding side," Amy explained.

A natural lightweight as well, having been a track work rider, on first appearances and appraisal, Amy's profile is in keeping with that of a jockey.

However, looks can be deceiving and she takes her new role as a racing steward, which is akin to the industry policewoman, very professionally. "I saw the position as cadet steward advertised on racingjobs.com and I applied and after interviews with RQ's chief steward Allan Reardon and Luke Collins, I was told I had been selected," Amy said.

Like any racing position, Amy has started at the bottom learning the ropes. "There is considerable work before race day. Paperwork, form work, studying race fields and checking many things. On race days, I'm mainly inspecting horse markings and brands for identification purposes.

During the meetings I get into the stewards room and watch the race videos and sit in on some inquiries. There is so much to learn and digest but I am really enjoying it all," Amy said.

One of the most intricate of skills involving stewarding is the ability to "read" a race which isn't easy to acquire.

A steward's perception of how he/she interprets or reads a horse race is a most contentious issue as a jockey's or trainer's livelihood can hinge upon that very factor.

If stewards read it wrongly, even with the video race footage available these days, the consequences can be very damaging.

In this regard, Amy (pictured) is indeed fortunate as RQ chief steward Allan Reardon is regarded as one of the best race readers in the business. "Mr Reardon has been very good to work with and learn from. My boss here Luke Collins has also been very helpful," Amy said.

While many women her age would be scouring movies, Amy has become an avid race video replay viewer. Fast forward down the track and Amy Percival may well be in the director's or chief steward's chair at Callaghan Park race meetings.



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