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Racing Mourns Loss Of Betty Lane

Trailblazer passes away aged 97

October 23, 2023

Gai Waterhouse has paid tribute to the late Betty Lane for being instrumental in blazing the trail for women in racing.

“Betty was a lovely, kind lady and a great mentor to me,” Waterhouse told News Corp.

“I remember when I was trying to get my trainer’s licence she really supported me, kept pushing me.

“She was the only female trainer at Randwick at that time and was instrumental in getting my licence.

“A few years earlier, Betty went through something similar because the AJC (Australian Jockey Club) wouldn’t give her a licence and she had to go to the bush to train.

“But she kept going and eventually got her licence to train in Sydney.”

Betty Lane passed away on Sunday. She was 97.

In 1976, Lane was the first female to be granted a Sydney trainer’s licence by the AJC, which controlled the sport at that time. Some seven years later, Lane was given a number one licence and to this day, only Waterhouse has also been afforded the honour.

But it wasn’t always this way for Lane. She first applied to the AJC for a trainer’s licence in 1962 and the club’s response was brutal: “I’m sorry Miss Lane, we do not licence women. Good day.”

Lane then set up stables at Geurie and won several premierships in the central-west district before again applying for a licence to train in Sydney.

In 1976, the AJC relented and Lane was granted her licence to train at Royal Randwick alongside racing legends Tommy Smith, Bart Cummings and Neville Begg.

“In 1962, racing wasn’t male dominated … it was male exclusive,” Lane said.

“Things were very, very different and I don’t think the women of today really realise how difficult it was.

“There were no anti-discrimination laws, no ifs, no buts. When I applied for my licence, I was accustomed to the ways things were, and you just had to accept it. You had no choice.”

Lane established herself in the competitive Sydney training ranks and prepared many top class gallopers including stakes winners Smokey Jack, Belle Tetue and Timothy.

Smokey Jack won the 1977 Breeders Plate and gave Lane one of the great thrills of her training career when he ran second to champion Manikato in the 1978 Golden Slipper.

But Lane conceded getting a foothold in Sydney racing was always a challenge for her.

“It was hard,” she admitted. “It was really hard, but I did it.

“I was young and had no ties, and I was the only (female) licensed trainer at the AJC for 15 years.

“I used to think that maybe they were using me as an example, that they’d say, we’ve got Betty Lane, we’re not discriminatory. Probably not, but I sometimes used to wonder.”

Lane said she “never had big owners, or wealthy owners because I was a woman. I think Gai broke down that barrier – but that’s just the way it was.”

Waterhouse said racing owes a great debt to Lane.

“Betty was a very good trainer and both she and ‘Tiger’ Holland were a very good partnership not only in their personal life but in their training,” Waterhouse said.

“I worked alongside her at Randwick for many years and she was an inspiration and such a positive influence in my life.

*Story courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

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