Bill Draper of Woodford dropped into the Museum and gave us copies of newspaper clippings about his great Aunt Eva Draper who was Queensland’s first female jockey. The article written by Patrick Wildie in the Greater Queensland Racing reads,
Eva Draper: Years Before Her Time
Who was Queensland’s first female jockey?
It’s a question that would stump even the most avid racing fan and spark heated debate among supposed trivia experts.
The answer is Eva Draper, a more-than-capable horsewoman who overcame every hurdle except convention during the early 1900’s.
Newspapers of the day claimed ‘she should have been born a boy” while she was living in hope that “someday some enterprising body of racing enthusiasts will cater for lady riders,”
Eva was never granted a jockey’s licence but she ‘did the impossible’ in 1915 when she became the first lady jockey to ride on a registered racecourse in Australia.
And, she not only rode, she won!
Eva’s father, a hobby trainer, had taken his stable star, Mown Hay, to the Rockhampton Turf Club Boxing day meeting in 1915, only to discover that his son, Gordon, who was to ride the horse, had fallen ill.
When a frantic search for a replacement rider came to no avail, the trainer approached Chief Steward, Dick Hill, with a request, that by the stewards of the day, was unusual to say the least.
Draper fronted the stewards with the idea that his daughter, Eva, who helped around the stables and rode trackwork, could take over for her injured brother.
With only minutes to race time, Stewards granted the request and Eva was legged aboard
Mown Hay raced twice at the meeting, as was typical of the era, rewriting the history books as Eva returned triumphantly to scale, all 6st 12lb of her, after the second event.
The critics were lavish in their praises of the ‘workmanlike fashion’ in which she handled the horse but race fans throughout the State were more than a little surprised when news came through that an amateur lady rider had beaten the professionals!
Such a reaction may seem ludicrous by today’s standards, with female jockeys competing successfully on racetracks everywhere, but Eva Draper had forged a path where no woman had trodden before.
Apart from her history-making ride, Eva was a remarkable horsewoman, excelling in all spheres of the equine world.
Alec Barnes remembers that Eva was a champion equestrienne and one of the most sought-after trackwork riders at the now defunct Kedron Park track.
She drove trotters and, in later years, trained her own team of horses, while her husband, Ipswich born Barry King, became one of Queensland’s leading trainers.
Born at Woodford, Eva made her first acquaintance with horses while still literally ‘a babe in arms’.
Her mother, also a keen horsewoman, took Eva riding before she could walk.
By the time she was eight, Eva was riding the majority of her father’s horses in work.
He services as a show rider were in such great demand that she regularly rode more than one horse on a show jumping program.
Once, at the Melbourne Show, she rode three horses, two of whom were ordered to repeat their routines as the judges deliberated on their decision.
In all, she rode almost 12 miles, including 96 hurdles, that afternoon and yet, to coin a racecourse colloquialism, wouldn’t have blown out a candle at the end of the day’s work.
Eva Draper is not a name which immediately springs to mind when discussing Queensland’s racing greats but her remarkable efforts in the equine world make her a worthy member of Queensland’s racing hall of fame.