Twenty-one year old Ana O’Brien, the youngest daughter of Champion Flat trainer Aidan, will compete at the inaugural Lady Jockeys’ Thoroughbred World Championship at Europe’s newest racecourse, Bro Park, Sweden, today.
The new racing event will boast an all-star cast of international female jockeys with representatives from three continents; Asia, Australasia and Europe, including star apprentice Kei Chiong from Hong Kong and New Zealand’s leading female jockey Danielle Johnson, currently second in the New Zealand jockeys’ championship.
As well as Ana O’Brien, the European contingent comprises Ballyclare, Co. Antrim-born Sammy Jo Bell, Prix de Diane jockey Maryline Eon (France), Stefanie Hofer (Germany), Fanny Olsson (Sweden) and Scandinavian Open Championship winner Sara Slot (Denmark), while Britain’s most successful female jockey, Hayley Turner, will come out of retirement for the event.
The Lady Jockeys’ Thoroughbred World Championship will be decided on a points basis over five nine-runner races, forming part of a six-race programme. Four independent experts have assessed each race and ranked the runners 1-9 before dividing the rides into three groups – Group A (top rated category), Group B (second rated category and Group C third rated category. Each rider will be drawn to ride 1 x A, 2 x B and 2 x C rated horses over the five races, to ensure they all have equal opportunities for victory.
Ana O’Brien has ridden over 60 winners since she rode her first at Dundalk on Fairylike as a 16 year old. She won her first Listed race on Arya Tara in the Stanerra Stakes, a horse trained by her brother Joseph. The young rider was the first female jockey to ride in the Darley Irish Oaks when finishing fourth on Beyond Brilliance, and in June of this year, Ana was the only female rider in the Investec Derby at Epsom.
The second Irish-born rider at the event in Sweden is Sammy Jo Bell from Co. Antrim. The 26 year old began her career working with Jim Bolger and Kevin Prendergast for whom she had her first winner, Celtic Dane, in what was only her third racecourse ride. Having ridden 10 winners in Ireland, Bell moved to Irish-born North Yorkshire-based trainer Richard Fahey in 2013. She rode her first British winner, Shot In The Sun, at Beverley in July of that year. In 2015 Bell rode two winners in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot when called up as a late replacement for the injured Cathy Cannon. Sammy Jo helped ‘The Girls’ team to victory and in the process won the Silver Saddle for the leading rider at the meeting. Last year Bell was thrown by a horse that then rolled over her at Carlisle and has only recently returned to race riding following a lone period of rehabilitation. The Ulster woman has over 70 wins to her name so far in her career.
There will be live coverage of the Lady Jockeys’ Thoroughbred World Championship on Racing UK, with the first race off at 5.10pm Irish time.