Are the girls really getting less chances?

Historically there certainly there have been less opportunities for female jockeys because of chauvinistic attitudes, but is this really still the case? In the last few years more and more girls have been given the chance to become apprentices and they are taking their chances and surely its only a matter of time now before we see the figures evening up at the top end of the sport. There are a few clues that this might just be happening…

Josephine Gordon returns to winners enclosure after an excellent ride on Zippy at Yarmouth last October
In two of the last five years the champion apprentice has been female, hardly a sign that things are heavily stacked against younger female riders. This season on the all weather only two jockeys have had more rides than the excellent Josephine Gordon, perennial champions Luke Morris and Adam Kirby, both of whom actively target the all weather and have years of experience that make them go to options, they are quite simply the most experienced people riding on the circuit right now. Hollie Doyle has had the most rides amongst the apprentices and is currently the leading apprentice on the all weather circuit this winter by number of winners – indeed she sits ninth on the list overall, three spots behind Josephine. Yesterday afternoon Jane Elliot won the hands and heels series, a scheme designed for those just beginning their careers. Of course it will take time for the current young group of riders to reach the top of the sport, there are still plenty of men riding who began riding when there were hardly any female apprentices. It will be interesting to see how the numbers balance up as this generation retires and is replaced by the younger generations who have much larger proportion of female apprentices in them.

Luke Morris wining for the yard on Dixie’s Double

People often ask who we use as a jockey, ultimately if an owner has a preference we will work with them, part of the fun of owning a racehorse is making these decisions. When we choose a jockey we try operate on a best available basis to a large degree, there are many good established jockeys who we have good relationships with and work regularly with. On the whole we like to keep the same jockey on a horse once they have ridden it, unless an owner requests different or the jockey has another commitment. Only very rarely can a piece of brilliance by a jockey result in an inferior horse winning a race. Generally the best horse on the day wins most races. A race is far more likely to be lost by a jockey error than won by inspirational decisions or power packed finishing drives. It is for this reason that it is so hard for young jockeys to make their way against their older more experienced peers, experience means less mistakes are made. Particularly once the advantage of a claim disappears a young jockey has no real edge over a more senior established jockey. So unless, like Josephine, a jockey stands out as making very few mistakes it will be a tough road. The other aspect that can help or hinder a jockey is their ability to deliver post race feedback, once again the veteran of thousands of rides is at a distinct advantage in comparison to their younger peer. When you choose your jockey looking at a whole horses career who would you want telling you what they thought? You may have won or you may not have, either way in that unsaddling enclosure the plans begin as we plot how we can win next time…

Outrage winning at Yarmouth under Dane O’Neill. A classic example of Dane experienced feedback and knowledge of the horse paying off. Having ridden the horse on its previous start, together we came up with plan that suited horse and saw a switch in tactics and idstance that led to this win and three subsequent wins.