THIRTEEN. It's considered unlucky by some.
But popular harness racing identity Duncan McPherson OAM insists that the female drivers will be riding with plenty of luck this month and for the first half of March during the 13th instalment of the industry's Team Teal campaign for ovarian cancer awareness.
And the early figures have backed his opinion, with Victoria's female drivers combining for 45 winners up until the end of the February 17 meeting at Swan Hill.
Encouragingly, it's a local who is leading the charge, with Bendigo's Tayla French showing the way with 10 winners, ahead of Team Teal ambassador Kate Gath and Danielle Hill on five, Hamilton's Jackie Barker on four, with Bendigo's Ellen Tormey, who led the tally in 2021, on three.
The start of each campaign brings with it a chance for McPherson, the principal of Aldebaran Park stud and Team Teal founder, to reflect on how it has evolved.
"2010 we started, the first function was back then, and now the 13th function is in 2022 - the industry has been great to the cause and the cause has been great for the industry," he said.
"It's a win-win situation.
"The ovarian cancer message is one that will never get old - it's in our world and the more we can do to get people to take the message home with them the better.
"The awareness part of the campaign is what it's all about and that's what Team Teal does.
"It puts teal pants on reinswomen in Australia and New Zealand and everybody asks why they are wearing teal and the answer is we are promoting awareness about ovarian cancer, to improve the outcome of women's health."
McPherson speaks from experience. He lost his own wife Lyn to the disease in 2010.
He has made it his mission since to do whatever he can to help families in need and create awareness around the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
That commitment will take him to most harness racing tracks around Australia and New Zealand during the campaign period, which runs from February 1 to March 15.
It's a labour of love.
McPherson is confident the ovarian cancer message, more than ever, is getting through, but he warns there is always more that can be done and to be done.
To that end, he believes the message is equally as pertinent to men.
"The men have got to shape up, in many cases, we are the carers, and if you have never been in that situation and it hits you, you've got to be ready for it," the father of three said.
"And guess what, the bloke or carer is left behind.
"Whether it's your mother, your sister, your aunt, your wife, your daughter, or a friend, or friend of the family, the fellas have to understand what's going on as well.
"They need to be able to be more receptive and listen to their wives and understand that if they are feeling crook, ask the question.
"Sometimes the question is just not asked and it gets left behind."
In Bendigo last week, McPherson praised the ongoing and unwavering support of the Bendigo Harness Racing Club and the neighbouring Bendigo Greyhound Racing Association.
The two clubs have worked hand-in-hand in fundraising for the past four years and held a dual-code meeting last Thursday.
McPherson praised the dual-code concept 'as something unique'.
More than $2.1m has been raised across the two countries since the start of Team Teal in 2010.
Last year there was a total of 113 Team Teal winners in Victoria, tipping in $45,200 to the cause (at $400 donated per win).
McPherson is quietly hopeful of eclipsing last year's record tally.
"We don't really count, we just keep it rolling," he said.
"Two-hundred and 50 reinswomen Australian and New Zealand-wide, $372,000 raised (last year), the girls are putting the message out there.
"As we know, 50 per cent of our participants in harness racing are female, so we are doing our bit in raising awareness."
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