Success of women jockeys and trainers at the Cheltenham Festival is celebrated

Winning women jockeys at last year's Cheltenham Festival, from left, Harriet Tucker, Lizzie Kelly and Bridget Andrews. (PHOTO BY: Great British Racing)
Winning women jockeys at last year's Cheltenham Festival, from left, Harriet Tucker, Lizzie Kelly and Bridget Andrews. (PHOTO BY: Great British Racing)

Extraordinary female jockeys and trainers in Jumps racing are being showcased to celebrate International Women’s Day today.

The initiative has been overseen by Great British Racing ahead of one of the sport’s biggest events next week, the Cheltenham Festival.

Women have historically achieved terrific results at the Festival and 2018 saw a new record set with four female jockeys riding winners during the most fiercely contested week in the Jumps calendar.

To mark their accomplishments, Great British Racing has created an inspirational video featuring three of those winning jockeys still currently riding, Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker.

It has also created an on-course photographic portrait series of some of the most successful women in Festival history which will be on display throughout the week at Cheltenham.

Racing is the second biggest spectator sport in the UK and has the biggest proportion of female fans of any major British sport, with women accounting for approximately 40 per cent of racegoers.

As the one of the few professional sports in which men and women compete directly against each other, the video shows how women in horse racing are every bit as tough and capable as their male counterparts.

The three jockeys embody what it is to be a top athlete through their personal commentary and race footage of their spectacular rides in 2018, now etched into Cheltenham Festival. and sporting, history.

Partly narrated by Richard Johnson, the three-time Stobart champion jockey, the video also lists the universal qualities that jockeys need in order to achieve an extraordinary feat such as winning a race at the Festival, most notably courage, resilience, determination and ambition.

Kelly returned to the Festival last year with something to prove after falling at the second fence in the 2017 Gold Cup, and did just that by winning the Ultima Handicap Chase on Coo Star Sivola. As the first woman to win a Grade One race over Jumps, she says she’s seen a positive shift in racing and its inclusion of women.

She said: “Women in racing are becoming more common now and it’s a huge thing for racing to be able to use the talents that we have.

“Plenty of women work within yards throughout the country and for them to have the opportunities that we’re seeing now is really important.

“There was a time when Lucy Alexander was the only professional female jockey in the country and the fact that she won the champion conditional title goes to show that she can do it and that we can all do it.

“Since then, plenty more women have had success and I think we’re in a really good groove at the moment in terms of how women are getting on. We’re in a golden era for women in racing and long may it continue. Hopefully, we will get even more women coming into the sport.”

Tucker became an unexpected star of the 2018 Festival when overcoming the pain of a dislocated shoulder sustained during the race to drive Pacha Du Polder home to win the Foxhunter Chase, becoming the 14th female rider to enjoy success in the history of the meeting. She will be looking to repeat her success next week.

She said: “If someone said to me women can’t be jockeys, I’d laugh in their face because women can do it and we’re proving now we can do it and that we’re equal. Doors are opening and more women are coming into the sport.

“I like to be as tough as I can. Winning was more important than my shoulder. I had to lift the trophy with my arm shaking but I didn’t care. No pain, no gain. I love the adrenaline, the thrill, the buzz.”

Jubilant scenes followed Andrews’s success aboard Mohaayed in the County Hurdle last year as she embraced boyfriend (now fiancé) Harry Skelton, the stable jockey and brother of Dan Skelton, trainer of her mount, after the winning post.

She said: “After Cheltenham, I believed in myself so much more. I had two massive goals last year. One was to ride a Festival winner and one was to ride out my claim, and I’ve done both. That makes me think that actually I can do it.

“Dan] has given me the opportunities. He believes I can do it and everyone in the yard believes I can do it, so I’m definitely more confident now.”

With another exciting Cheltenham Festival around the corner, the previous victors will be returning with hopes of claiming more glory, while Bryony Frost, who won at the Festival in 2017, could become the third female jockey to ride in the Gold Cup, on Frodon. She also looks set to be crowned Stobart champion conditional Jockey at the bet365 Jumps Finale at Sandown Park on Saturday, April 27.

Other women riders who will be aiming for success at the Festival, include Rachael Blackmore, who is currently seeking to become the first female Irish champion jockey, as well as trainer Emma Lavelle, who heads into next week with the well-fancied Paisley Park in one of the feature races, the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.

The portraits that racegoers will be able to see on course next week have been taken by award-winning sports photographer Jon Enoch.

They feature both current jockeys and trainers who have enjoyed incredible successes at the Festival in the last 15 years, as well as trailblazing women whose legacies are synonymous with Jumps racing. These include Gold Cup-winning trainers Henrietta Knight and Jessica Harrington, the most successful female jockey in Festival history, Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh, sister of the mighty Ruby, and legendary trainer Jenny Pitman, among others.

Venetia Williams, the female trainer with the most wins in the history of Jumps racing, also features in the series and said: “There are so many talented women at the heart of racing and it’s brilliant to have so many of them all displayed together during the Cheltenham Festival.”

THIS article has been kindly supplied by Great British Racing.