LOCAL racing is to see its first female jockey in action since the sport turned professional in the early 70s when apprentice Sherie P. W. Kong steps out for the second event on Happy Valley's equitrack card tomorrow night. It could be quite a baptism of fire for the 17-year-old Kong, who is attached to Patrick Biancone, as there is a very short run to the first bend in the 1,400-metre race she finds herself in. To add to the difficulties she may encounter, she has drawn a bad barrier, jumping from gate six towards the outside of the eight-runner field. She'll also be rubbing shoulders with some of the legends of the turf, including local favourite Tony Cruz, plus English and Irish Derby winner riders, Walter Swinburn and Alan Munro. But at least her mount, Jade Signet, has bundles of natural speed which should be able to get her out of any scrimmaging at the notorious first bend on the equitrack circuit. Biancone, a renowned mentor of apprentices in France where he nurtured the likes of Gerald Mosse and Eric Legrix to stardom, said last night: ''She has been with me since September and now it is time to put her into races proper. ''Let's go and we'll see how she handles things, though obviously it will be very difficult for her first time out as she is a beginner when it comes to riding races. ''But she came to me already well taught by the Jockey Club's apprentice schools and has done all that we have asked of her in 13 to 14 barrier trials on all surfaces, the grass, the equitrack and at Sha Tin and at Happy Valley.'' Biancone added that he thought it was good for the sport to see women, who until recently weren't even allowed to muck out stables in Hong Kong, now involved at all levels. ''Women do everything these days,'' he pointed out. ''In racing it can be a fight to be strong and sensible. ''Horses look to gallop for Sherie. She could have the iron fist inside the velvet glove.'' Meanwhile, a syndicate of leading Hong Kong owners and trainer Geoff Lane came agonisingly close to landing the New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie on Boxing Day. The aptly-named Shatin Heights looked the winner for every metre bar the final 10 in the 2,400-metre event and was eventually caught in the shadows of the post by the Lance O'Sullivan-ridden filly Popsy. Those great mates and popular local owners Archie Da Silva and Gabriel D'Azedo (owners of Nervous and Clever Witness and Cheguei and Jogador), each have a leg in Shatin Heights, as do Tony Gurkha (Redcap) and Lane. Shatin Heights is now bound for some of the top races in Australia and the pace he showed in the New Zealand Derby suggests he would be an ideal candidate for next year's W.S. Cox Plate - Australia's leading weight-for-age contest over 2,000 metres.