Female Jockeys in the UK & Ireland: The Stats Behind the Growing Dominance of Women
Women jockeys are claiming mounts across the world. Compared to a decade ago, the number of females employed by horse racing trainers and owners is significantly higher. However, the UK and Ireland seem to lead the way regarding smashing glass ceilings.
Last year provided a ton of anecdotal evidence. For example, Rachael Blackmore was not only the top rider at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, the Holy Grail of National Hunt racing, but she became the first woman to win the Grand National in April 2021. Sheís not the only female jockey taking on the men and winning, though, and here are the reasons why.
Increase in Rides for Women
An essential factor in the number of women jockeys crossing the finish line is the fact that there are more of them in the sport. Although ladies have never been underrepresented throughout the entire industry, this is because around 50% of handlers are women. Jockeys are mainly men.
Thankfully, the demographic of the sport has changed considerably since 2015. During the 2019-20 season, for example, there was a 76% increase in rides for female jockeys compared to four years previously. This automatically led to a higher percentage of winners, too. The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is a fantastic example because women accounted for 14.3% of winners even though they mounted 9.2% of the horses.
The stats show that if the trend continues in an upward direction, then thereís no reason why women wonít compete with men regularly. Indeed, a 14-year study by the University of Liverpool reports this is already the case, as there is almost no disparity when the quality of the horse is considered.
Role Models for the Next Generation
Of course, itís impossible to ignore the jockeys who are leading the way and passing the torch to the next generation of women. Rachael Blackmore is the most famous due to her stunning performances at some of the top meetings in the world, including Cheltenham and Aintree. When the people trying to break through see that she is on the +1000 third-favorite as calculated by the horse racing betting, they canít fail to be inspired, especially when she won around 25% of her rides at Cheltenham in 2021.
Blackmore isnít the only trailblazer, either. Bryony Frost was the first woman to win a Grade 1 race at Cheltenham when she secured the Ryanair Chase on Frodon. Also, letís not forget the jockeys who came before, such as Katie Walsh. Walshís performances up until 2018 are partly the reason why the likes of Frost are +20000 for the National Hunt Jockeys Championship. Five years ago, she wouldn't have been in the running.
As Katie Walsh has proved, once the jockeys are finished riding, they tend to remain in the industry. This has a knock-on effect because they can help other women coming through the ranks where they may have been ignored before. The flat racing championship boasts incredible female jockeys, too, like Hollie Doyle and Hayley Turner.
As you can see, the attendance figures for women are healthier than ever, which has two effects. Firstly, female jockeys win more races. Secondly, the successful riders show the way for the ladies who want to emulate their victories. In the UK and Ireland, this happening more than anywhere in the world.