When people think of professional race jockeys at big race meets such as The Everest or the Aintree Grand National, they tend to envision diminutive men such as Frankie Dettori. They think of men perched atop a sweat drenched steed, accepting the applause and adulation of the horse and betting enthusiasts in the crowd.
Although women have always been mainstays in other varieties of competitive equestrianism such as cross country, dressage, and eventing, for one reason or another, they have been left out of the flats and steeple chase fold.
Fortunately, all that is changing, thanks to some trailblazing female riders of the past as well as a new breed of women jockeys, who all register grade 1 wins on the regular.
Women jockeys have been hunting down their male counterparts in the last few years and often surpassing them
Rachel King Leads the Way Down Under
Although most of the biggest traditional race meets on the calendar tend to take place in Europe and the US, Australia is fast growing into a genuine powerhouse in the sport, boasting some of the biggest prize funds to be found anywhere, as well as punters who are renowned for being passionate about their horses and the wagers they back them with.
Riding on the coattails of the sport’s success Down Under is jockey Rachel King, who swapped life in the UK for Australia back when she was aged just 24.
Since making this bold move she has risen to become one of the top 10 rated jockeys in the world, having notched a whopping 55 winners last season, delivering time and again for those horse racing tipsters who know to make a note of her name when she is due to appear in the starting gates.
Further establishing herself as part of horse racing royalty, she recently tied the knot with fellow jockey Blake Spriggs and then topped that in 2020 by racing at one of the richest races in the world, The TAB Everest at Randwick. Unfortunately, the odds were against her in October, with her unfancied steed, Eduardo, fading down the stretch to finish 2nd last.
Being a jockey is no longer only a male pursuit, with women pro riders breaking through all over the world
Alex Greaves Set the Path for Others to Follow
Long before King was even saddling up for the first time, Alex Greaves was wowing racing fans with over 300 race wins during a career that spanned the best part of 15 years.
Her crowning achievement came at York Racecourse where she became the first woman in Britain to ever win a grade 1 race.
Her victory atop of Ya Malak in 1997 was a watershed moment, as thousands of other aspiring women jockeys saw what was possible.
Hayley Turner Picked Up Where Greaves Left Off
While Greaves partly made it into horse racing because her husband was a famous racehorse trainer, Hayley Turner did things the hard way, building all the way up from being a lowly apprentice to become the most respected woman jockey ever.
2008 was her true breakthrough year, when she notched a record 100 wins on the flats in the UK. She was particularly prolific that season, saddling up at a total of 900 races. Her dedication to the sport would later earn her an OBE.
Turner still races today and is being groomed to be a television presenter, having appeared multiple times on ITV’s coverage of major race meets around the country.
Sophie Doyle is Another Brit Abroad
Whereas Rachel King bolted to Australia when her horse racing apprenticeship was over, Sophie Doyle went the other way, heading stateside.
She has gradually been building a solid reputation there, and in 2019 went on to claim her maiden grade 1 win, riding her favourite horse Street Band. 2021 promises to be an exciting year for Doyle as she is set to team up with revered owner Danny Caldwell.