G is for Lorraine Grant
The late Lorraine Grant was a trailblazer, though it appears she didn’t want to make a big deal about making her way in what was a male-dominated industry.
“Really driving is all in the hands and feet, sex makes no difference," she said at the time, "Of course, there will always be those against women drivers, but I was surprised by a lot of the others."
She’d been involved with horses since she was a teenager and in the 1960s helped her husband Murray Watson at their Methven property in Mid Canterbury.
He died in hospital after a race crash at Motukarara in October, 1971. "I felt I had to keep on, I didn't want to see all the work he'd done go to waste, or the horses go to someone else," she said. "And that's what he would have wanted."
According to HRNZ statistics her best year would be 1993. As a driver she won 8 from 35 that year and in 25 years of training (1972-97) there were 46 wins from 219 starters.
But it’s her association with stable star Rainbow Patch (10 wins – 51 starts) that saw her make New Zealand Cup history. In 1995 she was the first woman to drive in the country’s most important race. The combo started as the rank outsider, and finished last in the 14-strong field, with Mark Purdon and Il Vicolo winning the first of their two New Zealand Cups.
It would be 20 years before a female driver would take out the Cup, with Australian visitor Kerryn Manning winning with Arden Rooney, just a week after Michelle Payne created history by being the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.
Natalie Rasmussen, of Blacks A Fake fame, but now very much at the heart of the all-powerful All Stars stable with Purdon, would repeat the dose with The Fixer in 2018.
Lorraine Grant finished race driving and training in 1997, and after suffering health issues, died a year later, aged 54.