Amanda Elliott, who last year became the Victoria Racing Club’s (VRC) first female Chairman, on Thursday has been announced as the winner of the Victorian Wakeful Club Lady of Racing Award.
During a lavish ceremony held at Metropolis, on the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River, Elliott became the 23rd winner of the coveted award, which is run by the Victorian Wakeful Club in partnership with Racing Victoria (RV) to celebrate women who have made an outstanding contribution to the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries.
Elliott’s historic appointment at the VRC was recognised by the judging panel, who also awarded the inaugural Spirit of Racing Award to popular trainer Udyta Clarke and the Victorian Wakeful Club Apprentice Jockey Training Program Scholarship to Stephanie Thornton, a rising star of the riding ranks.
Elliott received her specially-designed Lady of Racing necklace from last year’s winner, Barbara Saunders, whilst another former recipient of the award, Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne, was amongst the recognisable faces in the crowd.
The panel also acknowledged the contribution to the industry of Elliott’s three fellow finalists: jockey and raceday presenter, Casey Bruce; Three Bridges Thoroughbreds Business Manager Jackie Noonan, who was nominated for her volunteer work at Mt. Wycheproof & District Racing Club; and Australian Chinese Jockey Club (ACJC) Chairperson, Teresa Poon.
Elliott was elected to the VRC Committee in 2002, becoming only the second female to join the committee in 140 years. In 2011, she became the VRC’s Vice Chairman, making her the first female executive office holder at the club, before her ground-breaking appointment as Chairman in 2017.
She comes from a family with an extensive history in thoroughbred racing, breeding and administration. Her father, Ian Bayles, was also Vice Chairman of the VRC and a long-standing committee member.
The Thornton family is also synonymous with thoroughbred racing, with Stephanie’s father Glenn a trainer and her brothers, Boris and Damien, both jockeys. She was presented with her $1,500 scholarship by the 2016 Lady of Racing, Cheryl McCarthy, so becoming the fourth apprentice to receive the grant after Jess Eaton (2015), Georgina Cartwright (2016) and last year’s recipient, Chelsea Hall.
Thornton, recently appointed a Festival of Racing Ambassador, is in her final year of RV’s Apprentice Jockey Training Program. She is currently in a rich vein of form, with 19 city winners moving her to ninth in the 2017/18 Victorian metro jockeys’ premiership.
Clarke was the other award winner earlier today, collecting the Spirit of Racing Award for her services to the industry.
Her stable star Rich Charm, whom she bred and part-owns, will soon contest his first Group 1 race when he runs in the Lexus Newmarket Handicap on ‘Super Saturday’ at Flemington.
But it was mainly for the remarkable love and care she bestowed on Heza Dude, whose life she saved and whom she subsequently nurtured after the foal lost his mother, that Clarke was adjudged a worthy winner of the award.
For the first few weeks of his life, Clarke fed and cared for Heza Dude around the clock, even sleeping in his stall until he was strong enough to survive on his own.
Remarkably, despite the tough start to his life, Heza Dude made his racecourse debut in a Moe maiden two years later and has since won four races and more than $150,000 in prizemoney.
Other notable names at the star-studded ceremony include renowned actress Rachel Griffiths; Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Giaan Rooney; AFLW player Breann Moody; Giles Thompson, Racing Victoria CEO; and Christine Downing, President of the Victorian Wakeful Club.