BENDIGO’S band of emerging female drivers are hoping to turn the winners’ enclosure at Bendigo Harness Racing Club (BHRC) into a sea of teal over the next five weeks.
The drivers have thrown their undivided support behind the Team Teal campaign, to raise much-needed funds and awareness about ovarian cancer.
From February 1 until March 10, female drivers across Australia and New Zealand will don the teal pants on race days.
For each win in teal pants in Victoria, the TAB and Harness Racing Victoria will donate $200 each to the Women’s Cancer Foundation.
Those pledges will be matched by the BHRC for each winner at Lord’s Raceway.
The fundraising was given a timely kick along on Thursday night, with a trio of wins coming from Team Teal ambassadors Monique Burnett and world champion reinswoman Kerryn Manning, who ended the night with a double.
It was just the start to the campaign Michelle Phillips, Shannon O’Sullivan and Tayla French, who have taken on the role as Bendigo’s Team Teal junior ambassadors, and senior ambassador Burnett were looking for.
Phillips, who has notched about 20 winners in little under 12 months in the sulky, said while the girls were rivals on the track, they were 100 per cent united off it in support of a ‘special’ cause.
“We are always striving for a winner, but for this month and a bit we are going all out,” she said.
“Being able to contribute to the campaign and foundation makes it a little bit more special.
“I know all the girls (across Australia) will be doing their best to support Team Teal every night and hopefully come out with a few wins.
“I know when one of the girls gets a win, it’s a good feeling for us all.”
Phillips did not have a drive at Bendigo on Thursday, but the 21-year-old hopes she can add her name to the teal winners’ list when she partners the Shaun McNaulty-trained Fratellino in the J.A. Connelly Crystal Bucket at tonight’s Echuca Cup meeting.
Abbey Turnbull and Marika Eriksson have taken on similar ambassador in Shepparton.
I know all the girls will be doing their best to support Team Team every night and hopefully come out with a few wins.Michelle Phillips
Burnett, 25, who hails from Kilmore, but spends up to four days in Bendigo each week, has been involved with the campaign since its inception in 2017.
She said she was honoured to become an ambassador and prouder still to become the first driver to contribute a winner at Bendigo this time around, when she accompanied the Glenn Douglas-trained Ozzie Major to victory in Thursday night’s opening race.
“There’s been a few seconds for me this year, so I was glad to break the duck and get the win up,” she said.
“I’m proud to say I have had some part of the fundraising.
“It’s still a competitive game out on the track – all the girls want to cross the line the first – but us girls we are all strong-willed and like to get behind each other.”
According to Cancer Council estimates, 1510 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year.
It is the eighth most common cancer affecting women in Australia.
The five year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 45 per cent.
Originating in Victoria, the Team Teal campaign is the brainchild of prominent industry identity Duncan McPherson and Harness Racing Australia chairman Michael Taranto, in honour of McPherson’s wife Lyn, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 2010.
For Burnett, the devastating impact of ovarian cancer really hit home in a simple conversation with her boss.
“He told me that his mother died of ovarian cancer 36 years ago … and there’s still no answer for it,” she said.
“We are hoping the more (awareness and funds) we raise, hopefully we can get some answers for those with cancer.”
BHRC will ramp up its fundraising with a big night of racing on February 21.
Entry is by gold coin donation, with all funds going to the Women’s Cancer Foundation.
The club will be supported by the Bendigo Greyhound Racing Association (BGRA), which will also donate $200 for very winner in teal.
BGRA manager Troy Harley said the club pleased to be involved in raising funds and awareness for yet another worthy cause as well as support its harness racing neighbours.
“The numbers and statistics relating to ovarian cancer, like many cancers, are daunting but hopefully by supporting wonderful campaigns like team teal and organisations such as the Women’s Cancer Foundation it can assist in research, trials and treatment of ovarian cancer,” he said.