Three Races Where Female Jockeys Can Make History In 2018
Last year was a big 12 months for female jockeys in horse racing as so many great riders were rewarded with some brilliant opportunities in the leading Grade/Group One races around the world. Given that so many female jockeys are growing in reputation, 2018 could be an even bigger year with the prospect of history being made in some cases. Here is a look at three races where a female jockey could come out on top for the first time.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup is the feature race of the Cheltenham Festival and arguably the most prestigious contest in national hunt racing around the world. Run over 3m2f, the Gold Cup takes place on day four of the four-day meeting and it generally includes the leading 3m+ chasers from the UK and Ireland. In 2017, Lizzie Kelly made her debut in the race, which featured 13 runners. Unfortunately for the female jockey, it did not last very long as her mount Tea For Two blundered at the second fence and unseated her from her saddle in the race won by Sizing John.
Kelly will have her second opportunity to create history in March as she is set to partner Tea For two once again. The nine-year-old bounced back immediately from his error at Cheltenham to win the Grade One Bowl Chase at Aintree a month later, where he finished half a length ahead of Cue Card. Given what she has achieved so far in her career, Kelly is already in the history books alongside the likes of Blythe Miller for recording wins in big races around the world.
racNick Williams’ runner has had four runs so far this season and his best finish was third place in the King George VI Chase at Kempton in a respectable outing. The talented chaser is now rated at 164 over fences and has ante-post odds of 50/1 with Betway in the Gold Cup, which is likely to tempt many punters into an each-way bet.
It is surely only a matter of time before a female jockey wins the Randox Grand National. We have come a long way since Charlotte Brew became the first woman to ride in the race in 1977 as, in the last 40 years, there have been 26 horses ridden in the steeplechase by a female jockey.
Katie Welsh currently holds the record for the best finish in a Grand National. In 2012, she came home third on board Seabass, five lengths behind Neptune Collonges. The daughter of trainer Ted Walsh has now finished the race on five different occasions and is likely to be given another opportunity on one of the leading Irish horses this year.
If Walsh does go on to win the race in 2018, she won’t be the first woman to be victorious in the Grand National. Jenny Pitman, who, just like Michelle Allen, is Australian, went successfully from a jockey to a trainer and was responsible for the winner of the 1983 race, where Corbiere scored at odds of 13/1. Since then, Pitman landed her second success in 1995, while Venetia Williams, Sue Smith and Lucinda Russell have all added their names to the roll of honour as trainers.
Ana O’Brien became only the third woman to ride in the Derby when she partnered The Anvil for her father Aidan last year. Such is the depth and quality of horses that O’Brien trains at his Ballydoyle operation, the horse was always bred to take part in the most prestigious flat race in the UK so it was a fantastic opportunity for her.
There is a strong possibility that Ana will have another opportunity to ride one of her father’s horses in 2018. The apprentice jockey works wi many of the leading horses in the stable every day and, therefore, will have formed a relationship with many of them, which can only help their chances on the track. If Ana does have success, she is likely to spur other female apprentice jockeys, such as Morgan Kerr, on as they will believe they too can reach the very top in the sport.
Hayley Turner currently holds the record for the best finish in the English Classic as she finished ninth in 2012 with Caveleiro in the race won by Camelot. With the right horse in June, Ana could take that record and may also be dreaming of much more as Wings of Eagles won the race for Ballydoyle in 2017 at odds of 40/1.
Let’s hope 2018 is a huge year for female jockeys around the world as they continue to perform at an excellent level in flat and national hunt racing.