Ground-breaking NZ jockey Linda Jones lends name to new retirement village

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Linda Jones with Ryman Healthcare chief executive Gordon MacLeod at the opening of the new retirement village named after the former jockey.
Linda Jones with Ryman Healthcare chief executive Gordon MacLeod at the opening of the new retirement village named after the former jockey.

A Hamilton retirement village has been named after New Zealand’s most famous female jockey, Linda Jones MBE.

The name of Ryman Healthcare’s new retirement village on River Road in Hamilton was revealed on Friday at a special event held at the Hamilton Working Men’s Club, and Jones was present for the occasion.

As the first woman to be inducted in the NZ Racing Hall of Fame, Jones is a true Kiwi icon who now joins a long list of great New Zealanders whose names have been lent to Ryman retirement villages, including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Bruce McLaren, Possum Bourne and Sir Edmund Hillary.

Fittingly, her brief but brilliant career was forged in the Waikato. After getting noticed in the women-only ‘Powder Puff Derbies’, Jones became a media sensation by leading the campaign for equal rights in horse racing.

Her first attempt to apply for an apprentice licence was turned down. The reasons for the refusal included being too old (she was 24), not strong enough, and the fact that she was married.

It took her three years to get the licence but finally in 1977 she became the first New Zealand woman jockey to gain the right to race against men.

It was at Te Rapa in 1978 that she notched up her first win, which then led to a flood of historic firsts to be achieved.

She was the first female rider in the North Island to take home first place and she became the first woman to ride four winners in one day, also at Te Rapa.

Linda was also the first woman to win a Group Race, the first to win at Ellerslie and the first woman in the world to win a derby.

She cracked some firsts across the Tasman too, including becoming the first woman to win against men in Australia.

Ryman Healthcare chief executive Gordon MacLeod said the company had sought input for village names from prospective residents at public meetings held before the village’s construction started.

“Linda is New Zealand’s most famous female jockey, she was a trailblazer for women and a brave and fierce competitor in a tough sport.

“When it came to finding a name for our River Road site we turned to our locals at a meeting at St Andrews Golf Club last year and this was a popular suggestion,” he said.

“She’s a New Zealand icon whose career was forged in the Waikato so I can’t think of a more fitting namesake for our beautiful new village in Hamilton.

“I’m sure it is a name that everyone in our village community will be proud of.”

Jones travelled from her home in Queensland to be at the naming ceremony and said she was delighted to lend her name to the new village in an area that was dear to her heart.

MacLeod also thanked Piripi Matika from Ngati Wairiri for performing a karakiato open the event.

The first residents will move in to the first townhouses to be completed next month. The village will offer a range of retirement living options with care tailored to each resident’s needs. It will include independent apartments and townhouses, serviced apartments and a care centre with resthome, hospital and dementia-level care options. Also included will be an indoor swimming pool, spa, gymnasium, hairdressing and beauty salons, café, movie theatre, library, a bar and billiards room.

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