Before there was Gai Waterhouse there was Joan Peever.
The Catherine Field trainer got her licence in the 70s and has had a love affair with horses ever since.
She was the first female trainer at the Australian Turf Club, Randwick.
Illness meant the 76-year-old could not be trackside at the $3.5 million Golden Slipper feature race at Rosehill Gardens last Saturday but the former trainer can still pick a winner.
Ms Peever predicted She Will Reign would get across the line first because the filly could handle the wet and liked heavy tracks despite drawing badly in the barracks.
The horse waded through the mud to beat Frolic, to the joy of Narellan-based syndicator’s Darby Racing.
Ms Peever is fighting skin cancer and takes solace in tending to horses on her property.
However, she still fondly recalls the “good old days”.
“I would wake up at 4am and go to the track,” the former Picton resident said. “I supervised the horses, I got a rider, my daughters helped me at the track, I would use my binoculars to watch the horses gallop and I would nominate them for rides.”
One of Ms Peever’s career highlights was her win at the Magic Millions on the Gold Coast with race horse, Shady Manner, and jockey Johnny Marshall.
“We won 33 to one,” she said.
“I part owned Shady Manner and her owner sent her over from New Zealand to be trained by me.”
Winning the Canberra Cup twice with Reingard, a New Zealand stallion, were also highlights.
“Everyone would say, ‘here comes Joan and Reingard’ – those were the good days,” she said.
“Canberra was a good track to me.”
However, she was devastated when Reingard was not accepted into the Melbourne Cup because of an administration issue.
“It is every trainer’s dream for their horse to run in the Melborune Cup,” Ms Peever said.
“I was ready – I had a new outfit and hat. I was heartbroken when Reingard couldn’t race.”
For all the highs there were also some lows, especially in the beginning of her career.
“When I applied for my licence, women weren’t welcome in the industry,” Ms Peever said.
“Male trainers used to say to me, ‘what do you think you are doing training horses’, ‘women don’t train’, ‘you’re not coming onto the track, you don’t have a licence’. But gradually they learnt to accept me.”
After years at Randwick, Ms Peever bought a house at Warwick Farm and trained at the racecourse.
She was mentored and shown the ropes before moving to Coffs Harbour.
“Coffs was one place that didn’t accept women,” Ms Peever said. “If I got a winner the men used to say ‘the race was a weak field’.”
However, she had a successful career with many wins as did her daughter Cindy Eastwood.
“Cindy was a track rider when she was younger,” Ms Peever said. “She rode for Bart Cummings for six years. Cindy would do gallops with the horses, get them ready for the races – do the hard slog.”
After moving back to Warwick Farm to train, Ms Peever eventually got out of the industry because it became too expensive for small trainers to compete with larger trainers.
She said the friends she made during the “good old days” were still her friends to this day.