Horse Racing: The Rise of Women Jockeys

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

The role and participation of women in sport has been under active discussion recently in sporting circles, and, in this Post, we will turn our attention to horse racing, often referred to as ‘The Sport of Kings’.

Although it is 48 years ago that Meriel Tufnell became the first female rider in the UK to win an official horse race, it is only in the last ten years or so that women jockeys have come into their own and are racing against men on an equal footing.

In fact, this has led women in horse racing to remark that:

“We are not female jockeys we are just jockeys.”

In the last few years, wins by women jockeys have increased by 76%.

In 2019, in The Cheltenham Festival, the Olympics of jump racing, women outperformed men. Of the 28 winners, 14.3% were women despite only 9.2% of the riders being women.

Furthermore, this year, Rachael Blackmore won decisively on the first day of the Festival and has been appointed the first woman jockey trainer to Henry de Bronhead, one of the most powerful stables in the entire jump racing world.

In flat racing, last year, Hollie Doyle broke the record for the most wins for a woman jockey, namely 116. 23-year old Doyle remarked:

“I think that the wider industry has realised that …… women are just as good as men and gender should not come into the equation.”

And added:

“It is important for horse racing and for setting examples in other sports that this is recognised, and we are referred to as jockeys rather than ‘female’ jockeys.”

Few, if any, would argue with that characterisation!

 

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’