Jockey: Female apprentice moving up the ranks


Apprentice jockey Stacey Callow. Photo: Trent Needham

You’re on a 500kg animal and you’re holding on for dear life, as the gates crash back.

You’re a young female jockey in a sport that has been dominated by males for centuries.

You’re Stacey Callow.

Callow is a 20-year-old apprentice jockey in South Australia moving up the ranks as one of the most talented riders in the state.

The decision to commit to becoming a full-time jockey only came at the end of her year 12 studies, when she was on the brink of studying law.

“I did quite well at school, so my options were open, and I really loved the idea of studying law but in the end my love for horses was too much and I decided to stick to the riding career,” said Callow.

Racing is in Callow’s bloodline through and through with both her father and grandfather being professional jockeys.

Her father Noel is still a professional jockey in his own right and reached the height of racing by winning five Group 1 races throughout his career.

But her dad wasn’t her only role model growing up; when she was 13 year-old an inspiration of hers won the 2015 Melbourne Cup.

“The most obvious role model I looked up to be was my dad, but Michelle Payne definitely gave me the fire in my belly to one day do what she did in 2015,” says an inspired Callow.

Payne’s victory changed the history of horse racing forever – not only did she win the Melbourne Cup, but her victory speech is seen as a defining moment in women’s sport in Australia.

The words she uttered – “I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed” – have been etched into racing history and are looked to by Callow for inspiration.

Payne’s Melbourne Cup triumph built on an earlier milestone for women in racing; Claire Lindop was the first woman to ride in the Cup in 2003 smashing down doors for women in the sport.

In 2021 Jamie Kah completed something no other woman has done, taking out the Melbourne jockey’s premiership.

The Melbourne jockey room is the most competitive in Australia and Kah was able to register the most city wins that season – a hundred, which no jockey of any gender has done.

Callow is riding in South Australia as an apprentice to Jon O’Connor who welcomed her after she was denied access to the Victorian jockey apprentice school.

For now her dreams are high but her goals are realistic.

“I just want to work through my apprenticeship, ride on Saturdays and just improve my riding ability as a whole.”

Callow has only had 176 race rides, but has notched up 25 wins going at an impressive 14.2% for an apprentice.

While a move to Melbourne will happen one day she’s happy working her way through the grades in Adelaide before hitting the big smoke.

“I want to follow the path of Jamie Kah, she started off here in Adelaide and dominated before moving to Melbourne – I want to do the same,” she says.