Topic: Native Affairs

Top jockey’s grandmother disguised herself to race against men

By Leah Te Whata

Jumps jockey Aaron Kuru became an internet sensation last month when his horse fell, recovered and then won, during a race in Palmerston North.

His biggest fan is his nan, Yvonne Kuru, who has passed on her horse-riding skills to her grandson.

Yvonne was the first woman to race at Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland.  She was forced to wear a balaclava to disguise herself because they didn’t allow women to race at the time.

“As a girl, you stood up to the boys.  I learned to stand up for myself and the boys learned to respect me,” she says.

Aaron (26) is one of New Zealand’s top jumps jockeys.  He says he’s always calling upon his inspiring grandmother for advice.

“She congratulates me, even if I have a bad day. She tells me that the next day will be better,” he says.

Aaron was raised in Flaxmare in Hastings but currently lives in Cambridge.  He became a top softballer, making the Black Sox squad at 19.

His parents, Melody Kuru and Trevor Wharepapa, are proud of their son’s many achievements.

“He’s just not doing it for us, his parents. He’s also doing it for those before us,” says Trevor.