Day At The Track

Will a third female take out Crown or Tiara?

08:38 PM 01 Feb 2017 NZDT
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Amanda Turnbull
Amanda Turnbull

Can a third female driver add their name to either the Bathurst Gold Crown or Tiara winners list when the harness racing carnival gets underway in less than two months?

To this day with 60 Crown and Tiaras decided, there have been only two female drivers to bathe in the glory of the victory – Julie Weidemann in 1997 and Amanda Turnbull in 2015.

In March 1997 a tough little filly, bred in Rockhampton, with the unlikely name of Sheza Fake, gave Queensland-based driver Weidemann one of her biggest thrills in harness racing.

Sheza Fake was broken in by her breeder Tony Burgoyne, who then sent her to the Weidemann sisters Julie and Lola to qualify her and get her started on a racing career. She was paid up for the Bathurst series, so Tony’s instructions were “you’ve got to be in it to win it”.

It is over 850 kilometres from Clifton in Queensland to Bathurst so Julie took on the task of being the first Queenslander to conquer Bathurst.

“No-one in our family were keen about a trip to Bathurst so I put my hand up,” Weidemann said.

“We finished second to Sanctum in our heat and then won a semi-final so just needed a good draw for the final.”

Well history shows that the marble in the draw wasn’t kind to Sheza Fake – the dreaded number six, which meant starting from the outside of the front line.

“I let the dust settle after the start,” said Weidemann,

“Then took off around the field to sit in the breeze position.”

That was the winning move with the tough little filly sired by the record breaking stallion Fake Left.

In becoming the first female to win the Gold Tiara, Julie left in her wake legendary reins-men Brian Hancock and Steve Turnbull.

Today Weidemann is the most successful female trainer in Australian harness racing, having now trained around 2,300 winners. 

That’s not bad for a young girl who started out in the equine Industry taking ponies to shows around Queensland.

“The judges didn’t seem to like us Weidemann girls, so we tried our hand at Harness Racing,” said Wediemann jokingly. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

Lola Weidemann has left her mark as well, having now driven more than 2,800 winners – second only to Kerryn Manning amongst Australia’s gifted female drivers.

Sheza Fake is now in foal to Art Major for the Weidemann sisters, but she could have been lost to the Industry a couple of years ago.

The Rockhampton floods of 2013 washed away the fences of the paddock in which Sheza Fake was grazing and she went missing for two weeks. Fortunately her owner Tony Burgoyne located and rescued her.

Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

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