International Women’s Day 2019: Shining a Light on Racing’s Stars
It is International Women’s Day this Friday 8th March so it’s a great time to showcase the extraordinary women in jump racing ahead of one of the biggest sporting events of the year, The Festival™ presented by Magners, at Cheltenham Racecourse, from Tuesday 12th – Friday 15th March.
Women have historically achieved great results at The Festival and 2018 saw a new record set with four women riding winners during the most fiercely contested week in the jump racing calendar.
To celebrate their accomplishments, here’s a video featuring three of those winning jockeys still currently riding: Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker, as well as an on course photo series of some of the most successful women in Festival history which will be on display throughout the week at Cheltenham.
Racing is the second biggest spectator sport in the UK and has the biggest proportion of female fans of any major British sport, with women accounting for approximately 40% of racegoers. As the one of the few professional sports in which men and women compete directly against each other, the video shows how women in horse racing are every bit as tough and capable as their male counterparts.
The three jockeys embody what it is to be a top athlete through their personal commentary and race footage of their spectacular rides in 2018, now etched into Cheltenham Festival – and sporting – history. Partly narrated by Richard Johnson, the three-time Stobart Champion Jump Jockey lists off the universal qualities that jockeys need in order to achieve an extraordinary feat such as winning a race at The Festival, including courage, resilience, determiantion and ambition.
Lizzie Kelly returned to The Festival last year with something to prove after falling at the second fence in the 2017 Gold Cup, and did just that by winning the Ultima Handicap Chase on Coo Star Sivola.
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 13, 2018
As the first woman to win a Grade 1 race over jumps (a race at the highest level), Lizzie said she’s seen a positive shift in racing and it’s inclusion of women.
“Women in racing are becoming more common now and it’s a huge thing for racing to be able to use the talents that we have. Plenty of women work within yards throughout the country and for them to have the opportunities that we’re seeing now is really important,” she said.
“There was a time when Lucy Alexander was the only professional female jockey in the country and the fact that she won the Champion Conditional title goes to show that she can do it and we can all do it.”
“Since then plenty more women have had success and I think we’re in a really good groove at the moment in terms of how women are getting on. We’re in a golden era for women in racing and long may it continue. Hopefully we get even more women coming into the sport.”
Harriet Tucker became an unexpected star of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival when overcoming the pain of a dislocated shoulder sustained during the race to drive Pacha Du Polder home to win the Foxhunter Chase, becoming the 14th female rider to enjoy success in the history of the meeting and who will be looking to repeat her success again this year.
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 16, 2018
“If someone said to me women can’t be jockeys, I’d laugh in their face because women can do it and we’re proving now we can do it and we’re equal. Doors are opening and more women are coming into the sport.”
“I like to be as tough as I can. Winning is more important than my arm. I had to lift the trophy with my arm shaking but I didn’t care. No pain no gain. I love the adrenaline, the thrill, the buzz,” she said.
Jubilant scenes followed Bridget Andrew’s success aboard Mohaayed in the County Hurdle last year, as she embraced boyfriend (now fiancé) Harry Skelton, the stable jockey and brother of Dan Skelton, trainer of her mount, after the winning post.
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 16, 2018
“After Cheltenham I believed in myself so much more. I had two massive goals last year, one was to ride a Festival winner and one was to ride out my claim… and I’ve done both. That makes me think that actually I can do it.”
“Dan [Skelton] has given me the opportunities. He believes I can do it and everyone in the yard believes I can do it, so I’m definitely more confident now,” she said.
With another exciting Cheltenham Festival around the corner, the previous victors will be returning with hopes of claiming more glory while Bryony Frost, who won at The Festival in 2017 is likely to become the third female jockey to ride in the Gold Cup. She also looks set to be crowned Stobart Champion Conditional Jockey at the bet365 Jump Finale at Sandown Park on Saturday 27th April.
Others who will be aiming for success at The Festival, include Rachael Blackmore, who is currently seeking to become the first female Irish Champion Jockey and claim a maiden Festival win, as well as trainer Emma Lavelle who heads into next week with the well-fancied Paisley Park in one of the week’s feature races, the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.
You can see extraordinary women in action at The Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse from Tuesday 12th – Friday 15th March.
 Inexperienced riders are allowed a weight concession to compensate for their lack of experience against their colleagues. A Conditional Jockey can “claim” a weight (i.e. carry less weight) allowance of 7lbs until they have 20 wins, 5lbs until 40 wins and 3lbs until 75 wins. Once they have 90 wins they are considered professional and race on a level playing field.