Will female jockeys find acceptance in the horse racing world?

In the past few years, we have witnessed many quality female jockeys such as Bryony Frost, Katie Walsh, Hayley Turner and more recently Hollie Doyle.

Female getting excellent results at some of the biggest horse races and we will see some of the best female jockeys in the world this weekend at the Shergar Cup.

Despite their commendable efforts, there remains a big question over how well female jockeys are being received in the world of horse racing.

Although there are many newspaper headlines reporting on events such as the UK seeing the first female Muslim jockey at Goodwood, these are by far the exception to the rule. As a result, it seems that something needs to change the perceptions of figures in the horse racing industry.


It’s something that has also been shown in the betting industry. Although female riders outperformed male jockeys at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, it looks like punters are less willing to back a runner if the jockey is a woman.


Although all decent betting sites for horse racing allow punters an easy way to wager on both male and female riders, there is still a lingering perception that women jockeys are unable to compete on the same level as their male counterparts.


It’s something that has also been found in terms of how trainers pick jockeys. A study in 2018 found that 46% of trainers failed to pick a female rider for any of their runners. This undoubtedly has an effect on how the public perceive the relative success of female riders, and whilst it could lead to value bets for some discerning punters, it is not going to help to create a level playing field in the horse racing world. 


However, it’s the success of female jockeys that could be pivotal in shifting perceptions. The sight of Bryony Frost, Rachael Blackmore and Lizzie Kelly winning races at this year’s Cheltenham Festival might have been surprising for some, but it’s just the latest wave of success for women jockeys in a previously male-dominated sporting arena.


Although only 9% of the riders at the Cheltenham Festival were female, over 14% of the 28 winning riders were women. Female jockeys can take heart in the fact that there have been more of them in the racing world than ever before. Since 2014, the number of female riders has doubled although it would take nearly half a century to match their male counterparts at this rate. 


Last year 9.5% of riders on the flat were female, although only 5.7% of rides over jumps were by women. Although these figures are still small, they represent a big increase since the days when Katie Walsh first made her appearance on the horse racing scene back in 2003.


Walsh leapt to public attention as the result of her Cheltenham Festival double in 2010, and she provided plenty of inspiration for other female jockeys. Rachael Blackmore is one of the rising stars of the scene and whilst she has struggled with injury, she has ridden more than 90 winners and she lit up the sporting world when she got her first Cheltenham Festival win on A Plus Tard earlier this year. 


Similarly, Bryony Frost quickly proved the doubters wrong when she triumphed at Kempton Park on Boxing Day in 2017 on Black Corton. Although she is just 24-year old, Frost has gone from strength to strength and was unlucky not to win at the recent Galway Plate. 


Such riders have done much to improve perceptions about female jockeys within the horse racing community. But as long as only around 11% of all professional jockey licences are currently held by women, it’s a testament as to how much work there is to do to level the playing field.


As soon as punters catch onto the fact that female jump jockeys might offer more value bets than their male counterparts, it might alter things. Money has the power to change people’s minds, and with a recent article by Racing Post pointing out that female riders outperformed male jockeys in all but one of the past five jump seasons, there is hope that we might finally see a change in the way that trainers pick their jockeys.


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