A Girl, A Horse, A Dream is the epic story of Australian women jockeys and their extraordinary battle to compete with men on the track. Horse racing is one of the only sports in the world in which men & women compete equally…or so the theory goes.
The narrative focuses on a year in the life of Bernadette Cooper, the top female jockey in Australia, as she competes for victory in Australia’s most prestigious races. 20 years after the breaking of the ban, the glacial progress of female jockeys means Bernadette is one of few women racing (& winning) on major Metropolitan tracks today. Funny, articulate & full of joie de vivre, she’s a force of nature. Female jockeys, like Bernadette, fuelled by a determination to race thoroughbreds fight an almost medieval culture of rigid tradition, discrimination, endemic sexual violence & harassment at odds with the glamorous image of the Australian Racing Industry.
The film begins in January 2002 with Bernadette Cooper racing in the Triscay Stakes then moves to the 2002 Sydney Autumn Carnival – 8 days of Australia’s richest races including the Coolmore Classic, the Golden Slipper & the Doncaster. This begins a year-long romp of record- breaking achievements & days of appalling results. We travel around the country to metropolitan & provincial tracks & in November we head with her to the Melbourne Spring Carnival (& the Melbourne Cup). With Bernadette we enter the seldom seen engine rooms of the races – jockey enclaves, Stewards inquiries, Barrier Trials and the back breaking daily trackwork that starts at 4am with steaming, edgy, foul tempered horses pounding down the turf. Her tale takes us into contact with a cavalcade of racing identities that include the likes of John Singleton, Gai Waterhouse & Roy Higgins. We also see her competing with Australia’s best jockeys such as Darren Beadman, Chris Munce, Scott Seamer & Damien Oliver. We learn of the horrific dangers faced by every jockey, the history of women ice-breakers who took on male bastions of racing & observe some eye-opening footage that reveals, disturbingly, how very dark the heart of this glamorous industry can be. Bernadette’s extraordinary talent, warmth, openness, self deprecating humour & insights that accompany these images allows the audience to embrace this parallel universe in a completely unique & fresh way.