It’s one of the sad stories in Australian racing but it could have a positive twist this weekend when Kayla McEwen rides in the Mungindi Cup aboard Bang Clang Alang.
More than a decade ago the South Coast jockey made a promise to her daughter that she’d win the race amid terrible family circumstances.
The year was 1999 and Kayla was engaged to Kris McEwen, their daughter Elisha having just been born.
Kris worked for Racing NSW and had received a job transfer to Mungindi where he was to work in the ambulance station.
Kayla couldn’t move with him right away as they were struggling to find a suitable property so she stayed in Sydney to look after their new baby.
“I couldn’t go up there because I had the baby and there was nowhere suitable for us to live at first. They were trying to find accommodation for us so we could be together,” Kayla said.
Her life was thrown into turmoil though when Kris suffered a massive asthma attack just two weeks after starting his new job.
The attack proved fatal and Kris’s life was cut short, just two months before the couple’s wedding day.
“He was transferred up there with Racing NSW and died of an asthma attack two months before we were supposed to be married,” she said.
Kayla said then and there to her baby Elisha that she would one day make it to Mungindi and she would win the Mungindi Cup for her and for Kris.
Now 12 years on she will get her chance as she travels over 1200km from her home town of Bega to turn her promise into a reality, Elisha right by her side.
“She’s (Elisha) coming with me, we’re doing this together,” she said.
Kris may have only been in the town for two weeks but the community certainly hasn’t forgotten about him, in fact they managed to raise enough money to build a memorial house in his honour.
“The town raised money and bought a house, they did it up and it’s now called the Kristopher Markworth McKewen house, it’s a memorial house,” she said.
Obviously winning the race would make it one of the most emotional race victories ever and she has the overwhelming support of the public.
She also rates her horse Bang Clang Alang as a big hope in the event despite drawing barrier eight of eight in the field.
Not only is the journey about winning the event. It’s also a journey for her daughter to learn more about the history of her father who has had such a big affect in the area.
“I want to take her there and show her the ambulance station to give her some background on her dad,” Kayla said.
“He died when she was only six months old, she never got to know him. He would be so proud if he could see her today.”