BATHURST is almost a second home for Cowra-based jockey Eleanor Webster-Hawes, so come September 27 she plans to be at Tyers Park.
That is when the Bathurst Thoroughbred Racing Club stages the richest meeting on its calendar - the Bathurst Cup day.
A valued track work rider at Cowra for trainers Andrew Molloy, Michael Lynch and Kathryn Cahill, Webster-Hawes also travels three times a week to ride work at Bathurst for Dean Mirfin and the father-son trainer partnership of Don and Andrew Ryan.
Somehow, Webster-Hawes finds time for study at CSU in Bathurst too. She is halfway through a three-year course to qualify as a paramedic.
Webster-Hawes has ridden 104 winners, including success in some major races, but there was not much in her family background to suggest a career as a jockey.
Her mother, Anastasia Webster-Hawes is an ordained Anglican priest now serving at Denman after a previous eight-year term in Blayney, while her father, Donald Hawes, was a draftsman working at the mines in Broken Hill and then, before retirement, an industrial arts teacher.
Of the eight children in her family, Eleanor Webster-Hawes was the only one interested in horse sports and she attributes her involvement to her grandfather, the late Ray Webster.
"Granddad was a great horseman and stockman who rode at rodeos and he had me riding by the time I was about three-years-old," she revealed.
"I was mainly interested in educating horses but eventually did a TAFE course run by trainer Joan Pracey and began riding track work in the Hawkesbury area at Agnes Banks."
Gaining an apprenticeship at Dubbo, Webster-Hawes joined the Peter Nestor stable.
Her first winner was Atomic Food for local trainer Mick Cox at Coonabarabran, but with so much competition for rides at Dubbo, she began making long trips to the far west to get mounts at Cobar, Broken Hill, Enngonia, Louth, Pooncarie. She also rode at Cunnamulla in south west Queensland.
"Wayne Prisk, a trainer at Cobar, was a staunch supporter and regularly supplied me with mounts at the remote area meetings," she recalls.
Parts of her apprenticeship were later served with Mirfin, Don and Andrew Ryan and Kathryn Cahill, the sister of champion jockey Mathew Cahill.
"Mathew has played a big role in improving my race riding with his advice, but I still enjoy occasionally beating him home in a race, including a recent close photo finish," she said with a chuckle when referring to her long time partner.
Highlights so far for her include winning the $150,000 Country Championship at Mudgee on Cosmologist for owner Ross Williams and Mirfin. A brave ride by saw her steer the $51 outsider through torrential rain to a memorable victory.
Owned by Steven and Karen Deal and partners from Bathurst, the Mirfin trained Worldly Pleasure became the first metropolitan winner for Webster-Hawes when successful at Canterbury.
"Worldly Pleasure is a joy to ride and I was so pleased to see her judged as the Central Districts Horse Of The Year after her numerous other wins were taken in to account," the jockey said.
At the other Sydney tracks Warwick Farm, Randwick and Rosehill she has also ridden placegetters in Cosmologist, Ave and Somebody.
Ave and Somebody were trained by the Ryans for whom Eleanor has ridden plenty of winners.
"During my apprenticeship with them, and now as a senior jockey, the Ryans have always treated me like one of the family and have been wonderful supporters and friends," Webster-Hawes said.
Webster-Hawes recently had a thrilling win at Wellington on the speedster Just A Flash which is trained by Andrew for Peter Evans from Orange.
"Just A Flash is probably the fastest horse I have ridden and despite the outside barrier at Wellington, amazed me with how easily he found the early lead against a field of very smart sprinters and then held on so well to beat the favourite Emilette a last start third placegetter at Randwick," she said.
Feature race winners have also included the Gilgandra Cup on Devilgate Road plus the Collie Cup at Gilgandra on Mirfin's Art 'N' Ollie.
Webster-Hawes recently became a part of racing history in New South Wales as one of the first to be granted a dual trainer-jockey licence, a career path also taken by Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne.
Nominations for the September 27 meeting featuring the Ray White Emms Mooney Bathurst Showcase Cup and the $80,000 Panorama close at 11am Tuesday, September 22.