We are proud of the fact that Horse Scout is an enterprise run by women. We not only love what we do both in business and in our equestrian pursuits, but we have never seen our gender as a limitation. So you could say that for us, every day is International Women’s Day. We also go to great lengths to provide as much coverage of great female equestrian athletes as we do. This week we will be championing the great female jockeys heading to The Magners Cheltenham Festival. Last year history was made when there were four female winners at The Festival, which really is the Olympics of Jumps Racing. The jockey entries have not yet been confirmed but we are expecting to see more girls on the cards than ever before including Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker who all won last year as well as Bryony Frost, Lucy Alexander and Rachael Blackmore who lies second in the Irish jump jockeys table. Will they go beat last year’s record by scoring even more Festival victories and take a share of the? Can Bryony Frost be the first ever woman to win the Gold Cup?
National Hunt Racing has always been a sport contested by men and women. Yet of all equine-related activities, it has been the most challenging for women to make their mark in, over sports like Eventing, Dressage or Showjumping. There have been World Champions in all three Equestrian disciplines but there has never been a female Champion Jockey, in either Flat or National Hunt. Maybe this is because racing is a sport where the boys massively outnumbered the girls. Some say there have been fewer opportunities for women to excel, with many trainers and owners favouring a male jockey over a female for reasons that include physical strength or because they don’t like seeing girls get hurt. Or maybe the female jockeys have simply not been as good as the men.
In the last five years, the tide is has turned and since Lizzie Kelly shot to fame in 2015 when she became the first female jump jockey to win a Grade One race when she won the Novices’ Chase on Tea for Two at Kempton Park in 2015. It is now a regular occurrence to see women first past the post. Furthermore, trainers are giving them rides on good horses and there are more female jockeys turning professional than ever before. It is perhaps significant that 10 time Champion Jumps Trainer, Paul Nicholls employs Bryony Frost as one of his leading stable jockeys.
There have been 14 winning female jockeys at The Festival in total but with 23 winners between them. The first woman to win at was Caroline Beasley who won in 1983 on Eliograty and Gee Armytage was the first woman to have two winners in one year. The first professional female jockey was Lizzie Kelly last year on Coo Star Sivola who she plans to ride again this year. Whilst the most successful female jockey to date is Nina Carberry with six winners in total.
Female trainers have had their fair share of Festival winners. There have been 27 winning female trainers over the years with 68 winning horses between them. The first was Jackie Brutton who trained Snowdra Queen to win in 1966. The most successful so far has been Irish trainer Jessica Harrington, with 11 winners in total, including training Sizing John to win the Gold Cheltenham Cup in 2017. Jenny Pitman was the first woman to train a Gold Cup winner, when Burrough Hill Lad won in 1984, one of two Gold Cup victories for Pitman. The second success came in 1991 when Garrison Savannah won, ridden by her son Mark Pitman. She was also the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National courtesy of Corbiere in 1983. Once again, an achievement she would repeat when Royal Athlete who in 1995.
One of the most popular female trainers of all time has to be Henrietta Knight, who trained the legendary horse, Best Mate to three Gold Cup victories and had seven Festival winners in total and over 700 winners throughout her career.
This year, there are a number of female trainers presenting some promising horses to the mix. Emma Lavelle saddles Paisley Park, one of the favourites for the Stayers’ Hurdle and Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae will be a decent contender in the same race. Small time trainer, Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor is a strong hope for the Arkle Trophy. Also seen on the entries list are Venetia Williams, Sue Smith (wife of Harvey Smith), Lucinda Russell, Rebecca Curtis and Horse Scout’s ambassador Amy Murphy.
Last year’s Festival really reinforced the Women’s Revolution in racing with so many female winners. You can see three of those Festival winners, Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker on this video, discussing what the sport and the win really means to them.