She currently occupies third position on the Victorian Jockeys Premiership with a superior strike rate to all other riders inside the top 50 but Linda Meech isn’t getting carried away ahead of a busy summer period. The modest jockey, who has ridden 43 winners so far this season at a strike rate of 17.69%, is part of a growing band of women in the female jockey ranks that are tasting great success on Victorian tracks this season, reports Racing Victoria.

An impressive 26 of Meech’s wins have come since the start of November, including a history-making quintet at Echuca on 19 November, the first time such a feat has been achieved by a woman at a Victorian professional race meeting.

“I’m really happy with my riding at the moment, things are going super,” Meech said.

“I like to think I work pretty hard so it’s great to be getting the results.

“Riding five winners at Echuca was right up there for sure in terms of my career, I’d obviously never done it before but it felt like a bit of a fluke so hopefully one day I can do it again.”

While she remains as hungry as ever for success on the track, Meech credits a more balanced lifestyle with her solid form over the past few seasons and admits she is looking forward to a freshen-up early in the New Year.

“My main goal is to keep a bit of a balance in my life,” Meech said. “You can go a bit overboard sometimes so I’m planning to take a week off in January and go back to visit my family.”

Female peers including Nikita Beriman (34 wins in Victoria this season) and Michelle Payne (23) are also flying the flag for the girls this season and also sit comfortably inside the top 30 on the Victorian Premiership table.

Despite a horror run with injury, apprentice Kayla Nisbet has ridden an impressive 18 winners this season while Jackie Beriman (11) and Katelyn Mallyon (10) are among other youngsters to excel in 2013.

Lily Coombe, who is currently completing her first year in Racing Victoria’s Apprentice Jockey Training Program (AJTP), added a first Victorian winner to her list of interstate successes at Stawell on Saturday and is another who has impressed those around her during her short time in the saddle.

Coombe’s win was one of six achieved by female riders at the weekend’s Stawell meeting, where both Meech and Nikita Beriman claimed doubles.

While Meech is thrilled with the success of her female rivals, she admits the battle of the sexes offers little personal motivation, instead preferring to chase those ahead of her in the Premiership race.

“You’re with the other girls almost every day and you see them quite often and you’re happy for them and you want them to do well,” Meech said.

“I don’t really take any notice of it and I don’t buy into the whole girl versus boy thing.

“I just go out and ride and don’t worry about beating other girls or anything like that, I just do the best that I can for myself.

“I’d probably say I’m more motivated to go out and beat the Brad Rawillers and the Dean Yendalls and those guys that are at the top of the Premiership.”

But the 33-year-old is nonetheless encouraged by the increasing female participation in the riding ranks and said the days when trainers were reluctant to utilise the skills of women in the saddle were largely over.

There are 60 females licensed to ride in Victoria, with 27 of those based within the state, and the intake of new apprentices into the AJTP over recent seasons, including 2013 when there was equal gender participation, suggests the number will continue to climb.

“I remember when I was a kid it was hard to get rides because people didn’t want to put girls on and the only horses I rode were 100-1 shots that nobody else wanted to ride.

“I don’t think there’s any reluctance from the trainers to put a girl on anymore but I definitely still think that there are a lot of owners that don’t want to put you on their horses.”

Racing Victoria (RV) has made building attendance, viewership and engagement in Victorian thoroughbred racing a key objective in its recently released 2013-16 strategic plan with particular focus afforded to growing female participation and interest in racing.

RV CEO Bernard Saundry said racing, unlike most other sports, afforded neither gender any concessions and recent AJTP intakes suggested female participation in the Victorian riding ranks would continue to grow.

“Horse racing is one of the only sports in the world where men and women compete against each other on a level playing field,” Saundry said.