Women of the Racing Industry in Conversation – Sarah Mannion

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Thoroughbred horse racing is commonly known as the Sport of Kings, but this week in the lead up to Quincy Ladies’ Day, we are celebrating the queens of the sport.

Sarah Mannion is a valued member of the Brisbane Racing Club team and the Queensland racing industry. As a BRC Clerk of the Course, Sarah rides each Saturday escorting the horses racing on the day. Sarah also does a lot of work with retired racehorses.

Where did your love for the racing industry start?
I’ve been riding since a young age, but I got my first pony when I was nine. If my mother could tell you, she’d tell you I had a need for speed. I have just always loved going fast, always on the cross country course going as fast as possible & I actually won a Duncan Derby once, and that was it, I was hooked. I really wanted to get into racing after that. So in 1997 when I was 16 years old, I went into the Newmarket British Racing School where I did a 9 week course there to get my qualifications to start working in the racing yards in the UK.

So when did you move over to Australia?
I moved over to Australia in 2008, but I was in the racing industry in the UK since the age of 16. As soon as I finished school when I was 16, I went to the British Racing School which was in October 1997, and finished in December ‘97. Then, just after Christmas I went into my first racing yard. I was only 16 then, so it was a bit scary moving away from home but it was one of those things. It’s a tough sport and it’s for the toughest.

What’s been your biggest achievement in the racing industry/what are you most proud of?
I think my biggest achievement was when I came over to Australia in 2009/2010 and I won the Women in Racing of the year award from Racing Queensland, for doing the Clerk of the Course.

We know you do a lot of work with rehoming retired racehorses, can you tell us a bit about that?
A number of trainer’s contact me when the horses are retired and they normally come around to my place, rest in the paddock for a little while just to let down from the racing. I generally assess them under saddle to be able to tell what style of rider they’re suited to outside of racing. Some can be a bit hotter than others, so you just make sure you find that experienced rider. There’s a home for all of them, even if they’re not ridden horses afterwards. I just recently got Meteorologist off the track, and he’s going to stay with me for good! I’m really looking forward to seeing his progress outside of racing and seeing what he achieves.

Do you have any words of advice for any women interested in getting into the racing industry?
I definitely recommend it! But it is a tough sport, so you’ve got to be prepared to work hard to get your rewards. You get to look after some fantastic racehorses, and there are great opportunities for travel, not just as a jockey, but to be a strapper too, and you get to work with some really nice horses. When I was riding trackwork, I used to ride Quintessential who won the 2012 QLD Oaks. I was her trackwork rider for John Sargent when she was over here. That was definitely a highlight of my career. I’ve never sat on anything as amazing as her, she was a lovely.

What is your favourite part about working in the racing industry?
Oh, I couldn’t choose! Probably the racedays if I had to pick. I love all of it. I love the preparation, preparing the grey horses & making sure they’re nice and tidy. Even though I am forever shampooing horses. I just love the atmosphere of the races, especially when you’ve got a nice big crowd there. When there’s a great atmosphere, it’s brilliant.

If you had to pick a favourite grey, who would it be?
As long as the boys can’t hear me, it’s very tough between Max & Ghost. I do love Mr Max, he’s been here for a long time. He came to us in about 2011, and I started riding him a lot, so I’m probably more used to Max than I am Ghost. But you can’t help but love Ghost, he’s like a puppy dog. So if I had to pick, I couldn’t pick between the two!