Meet Catherine McDonald, HRNZ Racing Manager

05 Feb 2021


The Harness Racing industry is proud of the contribution made by reinswomen and industry sponsors as it is one of the few sports with a balanced representation of women and men. This makes the support of ANZGOG’s research, improving life for women with gynaecological cancer, very relevant. This is why we have chosen to highlight some of the amazing women in senior positions within the Harness Racing Industry across Australia and New Zealand. 

Unlike other sports, in Harness Racing men and women compete against each other. How has the harness racing industry been able to achieve this, and what is the significance of women’s role in the sport?

The Harness Racing industry has evolved over time from the 1970's when they had non-tote ladies' races where you got a box of pantyhose for participating, to today where the gender of the driver is not even considered when choosing who drives your horse. I believe it has been achieved over that time through the industry giving women the opportunity to be licensed and then the women competing and showing everyone that they are great drivers. They are accepted for their driving ability. You can look back to the likes of Noeline Ferguson, Lorraine Grant and Jo Herbert and many others, who helped pave the way for today's women in the sport. These women slowly helped prove that it is your ability as a driver rather than what gender you are, that makes the difference when choosing who should drive your horse. It's not brutal strength but the feel of the horse in your hands, your ability to read a race and confidence to take your chances that sees you succeed as a driver in our sport.

Today more and more women are getting involved in the Harness Racing Sport as a career, from trainers, drivers, owners, breeders or involved in administration in some way. Also, for many years women on a volunteer basis have helped run trials and race meetings for their clubs. The best thing, today, is that the men in our industry have also evolved over time and relate to the women as partners in Harness Racing and together we are helping to grow an amazing sport.

Team Teal is a national campaign to promote awareness of ovarian cancer and raise important funds to support prevention and education programs. Why do you think the harness racing industry has embraced the campaign as much as it has?

I think we have embraced this campaign because it is naturally such an important cause, but it also helps us showcase the women in our industry. This year 62 women will participate in the campaign and when you watch, either live at the race meeting or on Trackside, you see the Teal drivers pants and you immediately know it's for Ovarian Cancer and start cheering for the teal pants to win. Also, the fact that we race throughout New Zealand helps us promote awareness of Ovarian Cancer on a national scale. I'm proud of the fact that we are able to do this.

What is your call to action for the harness racing community of why the message about ovarian cancer should be shared?

My call to the Harness Racing Community over this campaign is to get in and support both the women drivers so that we have lots of teal out there on the racetrack as well as the clubs who will be fundraising on the day at their race meeting. Bring your family and friends to the course and help by donating to the cause. Awareness of Ovarian Cancer needs to be raised so that women are educated about it and seek diagnosis and treatment early. So, let's get out there to the races and support this wonderful campaign!

In the absence of a vaccine or detection for ovarian cancer we encourage women to know the symptoms, the risks and take prompt action with their family doctor should they be experiencing symptoms that are unusual for them and persist longer than 3 weeks.