The first lady of racing makes the most of her trade
THERE are not many 20-year-old women who are as calm, collected and determined as NSW’s first female racing steward, Katie Atherton.
Only two weeks after being appointed a full-time steward by NSW Racing, Ms Atherton heard top jockey Nash Rawiller swear – but not directly at her, she stresses. Ms Atherton initiated action which resulted in Rawiller being fined $500 for inappropriate language, but she was unfazed by the incident. ”They [jockeys like Rawiller] have hard jobs, and I understand that they’re under a lot of pressure,” she said.
At 20, Ms Atherton is the youngest steward – racing’s rule-keepers and magistrates – and the first woman to be appointed a full-time racing stipendiary steward in NSW, said Ray Murrihy, Racing NSW chief steward. ”We’re certainly very much open to female applicants,” Mr Murrihy said. ”But up to this point in time, the stewards’ ranks have certainly been historically dominated by men and that’s changing.”
It’s not surprising that Ms Atherton is horse crazy at work and at home. She admits that she was one of those girls who fell in love with pink ponies at five. Even now, she admits to dressing her male horse, Joey Johns, in pink, too.
Her love of horses prompted her to leave five years ago to qualify as a veterinary nurse. After a year, she realised she wanted something more challenging.
She got her foot in the racing door when she landed a job as a rider for Gary Portelli, a racehorse trainer at Warwick Farm. She went from training horses to observing them in her next job working for a bookmaker, Henry Noonan.