A perfect morning complimented by the perfect afternoon.
Trainer Paula Wagg could not have scripted a better Australia Day if she tried.
Wagg was recognised on Wednesday with an Order Of Australia medal in the Australia Day honour’s list for service to the racing industry.
A trailblazer, Wagg became the first female jockey in Western Australia to ride against men when she was granted her license in 1979.
In an era when males dominated the racing landscape, Wagg fought hard to break down the barriers and forged a successful career in the saddle.
Her determination to compete against the men helped paved the way for the prominent roles currently played by female jockeys across Australia.
Wagg also made a successful transition to training and won acclaim at the elite level when she prepared Kim Angel to win the Group 1 WA Derby (2400m) in 1998.
Inducted into Western Australia’s Women’s Hall Of Fame (2017), Wagg said she was proud and humbled by her award.
“It was really nice and quite emotional,” Wagg said.
“I had such lovely messages from some people I don’t even know.
“I thought ‘wow,’ this is amazing.
“I was quite surprised by their reaction and how they said I deserved it.
“It was quite a shock to know it had an impact on people.
“I was surprised to be nominated and I’m looking forward to the ceremony in a couple of months.”
Later at Belmont, Wagg’s improving three-year-old First Missile capped a special and momentous day.
Following his Pinjarra maiden win, First Missile finished strongly to win a 1600m handicap and validate favouritism.
After displaying indifferent form in his maiden campaign last winter, First Missile has struck back with consecutive wins.
But despite being the number one seed with punters, Wagg was filled with apprehension before the race.
“Everyone kept saying what a great day it would be if he happened to win after I received my award earlier,” Wagg said.
“I thought there was enough pressure on the poor thing as it was and I could hardly watch the race, I was just sitting there.
“He has definitely improved and is going good.
“I think it’s a maturity thing and the firmer tracks.
“He didn’t appreciate the softer tracks last year.
“He’s happier on a dry track.
“He’s pulled up well, but I haven’t worked out what’s next.”
How does one celebrate a unique Australia Day milestone?
Wagg took on both accomplishments with pride, but kept the celebrations low key.
She proudly reflected on her Australia Day medal and enjoyed First Missile’s victory second time around.
“I came back home and had a glass of champagne with a pizza,” Wagg said.
“I sat back and watched First Missile’s replays a few times.
“It’s so far more relaxing when you know you have already won.
“It’s so much nicer when the pressure is off.”