Women in Jump Racing
One of the sport’s most engaging and exciting stars, having emerged to take British jumps racing by storm in the last couple of years. A swashbuckling crusader for fun, with a refreshingly positive attitude towards every challenge, 23-year-old Frost scored at the Cheltenham Festival as an amateur in 2017, but turning professional shortly afterwards, had a first Group 1 in the bag within a matter of months. Hailing from a racing family – father Jimmy rode a Grand National winner – and supported by a champion trainer in Paul Nicholls, Frost’s talent can only see her career go from strength to further strength.
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 the meeting. A groom at the stable of winning trainer Paul Nicholls, Somerset-born-and-bred Tucker has enjoyed further success since at point-to-point level after undergoing an operation last June on her troublesome shoulder and is eyeing a shot at a dream double at Cheltenham in the next couple of weeks if she and Pacha Du Polder can make it to the starting line again.
Cemented her status at the very top table when riding Tea For Two, trained by step-father Nick Williams, to history-making success in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton at the King George VI meeting in 2015, the first top-level success for a female jockey in British jumps racing. A second top-drawer victory followed aboard the same horse in the Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree in 2017, making her the first female rider to notch two Grade 1 victories. With a number of significant Cheltenham successes also to her name, Kelly can often be seen out of the saddle as a regular contributor to TV and radio and has also completed a placement with the marketing team at Newbury racecourse.
Jubilant scenes followed Andrews’ success aboard Mohaayed in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last year, as she embraced boyfriend Harry Skelton, stable jockey and brother of Dan Skelton, trainer of her mount, after the winning post. A burgeoning partnership with the Skeltons continues to flourish with Andrews recently riding out her claim with the next target to ride 100 winners under Rules. Formerly a champion amateur jockey, she hails from a rich racing background, with her father the winning rider in the 1988 Fox Hunters’ at Aintree, while sister, Gina, is also a successful amateur jockey and fellow Cheltenham Festival winner.
Blackmore made the bold move to turn professional in March 2015 – only the second female jumps jockey to do so in Irish racing history – but has never looked back.
She is currently second in the Irish Jockeys’ Championship and preparing herself for a battle for the crown in the final months of the campaign.
It took just over two years for Blackmore to ride out her claim when partnering her 60th career winner in June 2017, shortly after becoming the first female champion conditional in Ireland.
At 29, Blackmore has never been riding better and further success is assured if she can maintain such remarkable progress in the saddle.
One of the most famous Irish jockeys of recent years, Walsh brought an end to a glittering career at Punchestown in April 2018, aptly steering home a winner for Willie Mullins, for whom she’d enjoyed much of her success.
Daughter of trainer, Ted, and brother to Ruby, Katie has written her own lengthy chapter in her family’s rich racing dynasty, with Grade 1 success complimenting three Cheltenham Festival winners, as well as finishing third in the 2012 Grand National aboard the heavily-backed Seabass trained by her father – it remains the best finish achieved by a female jockey in the race’s history.
Williams is the winning-most female trainer in British National Hunt history, with over 1,400 winners spanning her 25-year career to date.
She is best known for training Mon Mome to win the 2009 Grand National at odds of 100-1, and, in doing so, becoming only the second female trainer after Jenny Pitman to win the Aintree showpiece, 21 years after riding in the race as an amateur herself.
Williams has trained seven Cheltenham Festival winners, including when saddling the 1-2 in the Freddie Williams Festival Plate in 2009, just hours after Kayf Aramis had won the Pertemps Final earlier on the same card.
A former international show jumper and ladies’ champion, Smith initially took up training racehorses as a hobby back in 1990 but that quickly turned into a successful vocation and a place in racing history has followed.
Smith would become only the third female to train a Grand National winner when Auroras Encore won at Aintree in 2013, a landmark victory for the Yorkshire trainer who is ably supported by her husband, Harvey.
A glut of Graded winners have arrived during her 30-year training career, with Cheltenham success also coming her way courtesy of Mister McGoldrick, who landed the Racing Post Plate at the Festival in 2008.
Lucinda Russell OBE
Russell has emerged as a leading powerhouse in Scottish racing over the past decade, dominating the Scottish and Northern racing circuits as well as matching National Hunt’s leading names at the biggest meetings.
A breakout season in 2011/12 was capped with Grade 1 success courtesy of Brindisi Breeze, who landed the Albert Bartlett Hurdle under the late Campbell Gillies at the Cheltenham Festival.
Better was yet to come for the Kinross handler, partner of former champion jockey Peter Scudamore, as One For Arthur would land the 2017 Grand National, a success that no doubt contributed to Russell’s receiving the OBE for services to racing in 2018.
Curtis took little time to get her training career up and running when starting out back in 2007, with 100 winners recorded by the end of her first four full seasons with a licence. That level of success gained the attention and the patronage of powerhouse owner JP McManus, whose involvement was quickly rewarded when At Fishers Cross recorded a Grade 1 double when successful at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals in 2013. The gelding is one of four Cheltenham Festival winners for Curtis, whose initial foray into racing began under the tutelage of Peter Bowen, then embarking upon an educational spell in America before returning to Wales.
Andrews has enjoyed huge success in the amateur ranks, becoming three-time female point-to-point Champion as well as achieving the remarkable feat of riding five winners on the same card, four of whom were trained by Andrews alongside her husband, Tom Ellis. Andrews’ interest in the sport naturally started at a young age due to her strong racing heritage and she would ride a winner on her very first ride, just a week after celebrating her 16th birthday. Plenty of success has subsequently followed, crowned by steering home Domesday Book to win the 2017 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Gordon Elliott was full of superlatives for O’Neill’s ride after her success aboard Tiger Roll in the 2017 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Not only had O’Neill given her mount a fabulous ride but she also plays an integral role in the setup at Elliott’s Cullentra base, from pre-training to bringing horses to the racecourse and riding them too. Despite taking 95 rides to register her first winner, it is testament to O’Neill’s hard work and dedication that she has enjoyed success on the grandest stage of all, as well as becoming only the second female rider to win the Kerry National in 2016, a race she would go on take again 12 months later.
Lavelle started out in the training ranks at just 25, but quickly affirmed herself as a force to be reckoned with in British jumps racing. Lavelle tasted Cheltenham Festival success in 2008 and 2009, with Crack Away Jack bolting up in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle and Pause And Clause landing the Martin Pipe Conditionals’ Hurdle the following year. A third Festival success could soon be on the horizon as Paisley Park heads to Stayers’ Hurdle seeking to provide his trainer with a second Grade 1 success of the season, following on from December’s JLT Hurdle victory.
Woollacott took over from husband, Richard, in exceptionally difficult circumstances following his death in early 2018. However, she has carried on his legacy with great credit, leaning on her own experience having previously trained over 100 point-to-point winners, and scored a poignant victory with Lalor winning a Grade 1 hurdle at last season’s Randox Health Grand National meeting, just months after the bereavement. The stable star is on course to contest the Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle at this season’s Cheltenham Festival, and goes there with leading claims following the horse’s ultra-impressive victory in a Grade 2 over the same course-and-distance in November.
Caroline Beasley (now Robinson) made history as the first female to win at the Cheltenham Festival when partnering Eliogarty, who she owned herself, to success in the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase in March 1983. The amateur rider then became a pioneer when scoring over the Grand National fences as she guided the same horse to victory in the Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree three years later. Robinson is now a leading point-to-point trainer and breeder based in Shropshire, with her daughters, Immy and Kitty both successful amateur jockeys themselves and riding the majority of her runners on the track.
Charlotte Brew (now Budd) was the first female jockey ever to ride in the Grand National, as the 21-year-old lined up aboard Barony Fort, who she trained herself, in the world’s most famous steeplechase in 1977. Twelve months earlier Brew had partnered the same horse to finish fourth in the Foxhunters’ Chase at the same meeting, thus qualifying her to ride in the Aintree showpiece. The race itself will be mainly remembered for Red Rum’s record-breaking third victory in the event, but, despite her mount refusing at the fourth last, Brew’s name will be forever etched in the history books. The Sunnewspaper made her participation in the race the front-page headline on National day.
Rimell was the third woman to ride a winner at Cheltenham Festival, enjoying success when partnering Three Counties, who she rode in her own colours, in the 1989 Foxhunter Chase. Her mount was trained by her grandmother, Mercy Rimell, who, herself, was the first female to train a Champion Hurdle winner when Gaye Brief scored at the Festival in 1983. Katie’s grandfather, Fred Rimell, husband of Mercy, was also one of National Hunt racing’s all time greats, having been champion jockey four times before going on to train the winner of four Grand Nationals, two Cheltenham Gold Cups and two Champion Hurdles.
Curling became the fourth woman to ride a winner at the Cheltenham Festival as Fantus sauntered to victory in the 1995 Christie’s Foxhunter Chase. Curling was an extremely accomplished rider, a former champion in the pointing ranks with 220 victories to her name, as well as frequently enjoying success in hunter chases when racing under Rules. She won a substantial number of races for Richard Barber, leading point-to-point trainer and handler of Fantus, and Curling would become the first female rider to win five races on one point-to-point card – a record which remained unmatched for 22 years. Her record of 40 victories in the 1995 point-to-point season still stands to this day. Curling is now a successful trainer herself.
Needham, the fifth female rider to score at the Cheltenham Festival, needed all of her strength to guide home Last Option to land the 2002 Christie’s Foxhunter Chase. With a narrow lead jumping the last, Needham repelled the challengers, led by Polly Gundry, whose mount faded into third in the closing stages. Needham was wearing a fifty-year-old knitted jersey, used by her father – the trainer and breeder of the winner – during his own riding days some forty years earlier. Father and daughter combined again in the same race the following season where Last Option made an admirable defence of his crown in finishing third. Needham is now a well-known figure in northern jumps racing as general manager of Catterick racecourse.
Amaryllis “Rilly” Goschen entered the history books as the sixth female jockey to win at the Cheltenham Festival as she and her mount, Earthmover, battled back up the hill for a four-length victory in a thrilling renewal of the 2004 Christie’s Foxhunter Chase. Rilly, a leading point-to-point rider throughout her career, struck up a particularly successful partnership with the gelding with the pair going on to win the “Earthmover” Foxhunter Trial, named in honour of the horse, at Fontwell in February 2005. Sadly they could not replicate the previous year’s Festival heroics when only managing sixth in the 2005 Foxhunter Chase. Goschen is now a trainer based in Dorset.
Surrounded by horses her entire life, Leech acquired an honours degree in Equine Science in 2001 and always held ambitions of pursuing a training career. She met her now-husband, Christian, amateur jockey and future BHA handicapper, whilst working in the commercial department at Warwick Racecourse, shortly before deciding to start training on the point-to-point circuit prior to taking out a full licence in 2007, with Christian acting as Assistant. Leech has subsequently trained well over 100 winners operating out of her Gloucestershire base and is currently enjoying her best season to date, with over £180,000 in prize money earned so far during the 2018/19 season.
Candlish has steadily emerged as a talented racehorse trainer since initially taking out a licence in the 2002/03 season. Her breakout season arrived in 2010/11 when she broke double figures for the campaign for the first time, a feat she has achieved every year since, whilst also saddling a Grade 2 winner at Haydock, ridden by her partner and Assistant, Alan O’Keeffe. The current 2018/19 campaign could be the best yet, with stable star Big Time Dancer recently landing the prestigious Listed Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton and the six-year-old being targeted at further glory at either the Cheltenham Festival or Aintree Grand National meeting in the spring.
Whilst other female riders had already contested the Grand National prior to Geraldine Rees, who partnered the aptly-named Cheers in the 1982 renewal, she is the one who holds the honour of being the first to complete the course, as Rees and her mount negotiated their way around the famous fences to finish last of the eight finishers. Rees was an eventer prior to her career in the saddle and subsequently went on to assist her trainer father, Captain Jim Wilson, before going on to be a trainer herself, starting up in 1998 before relinquishing her licence in 2010 to focus on breeding interests.
When first becoming a trainer in 2016, Murphy was the youngest licence-holder in Britain. But any thought that she might need time to hit the ground was quickly dispelled. By that time, Murphy had already spent time working for Tom Dascombe and Luca Cumani, as well as for Gai Waterhouse in Australia. Her greatest moment so far on the racecourse came when Kalashnikov took the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February 2018. Owned by her father, Paul, Kalashnikov is likely to head to the Cheltenham Festival for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy next month.
Part of a trailblazing cohort of female jumps jockeys in the late 1970s and 1980s that included Diane Clay, Tarnya Sherwood, Jacqui Oliver and others, Lorna Vincent (now Chavez) was arguably the most successful of the group, riding 22 winners in the 1979/80 season and teaming up with some of the leading stables of the era, including Michael Dickinson. The first professional female jockey to ride any winner in Britain, Vincent moved to the US in 1995 and still remains an active and much-respected work rider at Gulfsteam Park and Saratoga where she is known as ‘The Pink Lady’ and can often be seen sporting a pink body protector or riding cap.
Having twice begun university courses but failed to make it through the first term, the call to racing clearly proved too great to resist for Alexander, who made an immediate impact once committing to the sport. Within months of turning professional, she had broken a longstanding record when partnering an impressive 38 winners in the 2011/12 campaign, that biggest seasonal tally for a female professional jumps jockey enabling her to become Britain’s first-ever female champion conditional. Alexander has gone on to ride well over 100 winners, despite a number of enforced absences caused by injuries sustained in action. Based in Scotland and a popular choice for local trainers, she is now firmly on course for her most successful season in the last three or four years and continues to ride with style, strength and intelligence.
Clearly ahead of her time, Linda Sheedy (as she was then known) made history when becoming the first female jockey to ride in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, partnering Foxbury in the 1984 renewal. Incredibly, it wasn’t until 2017 that Lizzie Kelly would emulate her. The mother of twins and frequently described in newspaper reports at the time as ‘the Welsh housewife’, Sheedy was also the third woman to ride in the Grand National at Aintree. It speaks plenty about expectations at the time that one bookmaker offered 8-1 about Sheedy and her mount Deiopea even being able to complete the first three fences successfully. In the event, they were still going on the second circuit when forced out of the race by a loose rival. She retired from riding after breaking her neck in a point-to-point fall in 1986 and in 2002 re-married and moved to a farm in Abergavenny. She died in 2010, aged 57.
One of a small band of female jockeys to have successfully ridden out their conditionals’ weight allowance, Green became a mainstay of the racing scene in the South-West, both under Rules and in point-to-points. Riding her first winner between the flags in 2002, she went on to join the powerful yard of Richard Barber and became national point-to-point champion, riding a total of over 100 winners. Joining the stable of her now-husband Anthony Honeyball in 2009, she proved just as successful as a rider under Rules too, partnering a total of 76 winners before taking a backseat in order to look after her young family. Green had by that stage also proved herself as a trainer too, spotting the potential in a very young Harry Cobden in 2014/15 to become champion small point-to-point trainer and help him become the champion novice rider.
Ruth Jefferson grew up at Newstead Cottage Stable in Yorkshire, where her father, Malcolm Jefferson, successfully trained for 37 years. After his passing in 2018, Ruth took over the running of the yard and has 30 horses in her care. One of her biggest stable stars, Waiting Patiently, was a favourite heading into the 2019 Cheltenham Festival but just two weeks before, owner Richard Collins decided he would not run in the Ryanair Chase as it was too soon after his run in the Ascot Chase in February, in which he came second. They now look to run him at The Randox Health Grand National Festival, where Ruth tasted success in 2017 with Cloudy Dream.
Kerry Lee was born to train racehorses. From an early age she was assisting in the running of her father Richard’s successful stable and now holds the licence in her own right. With a stable of 31 horses in training, Kerry’s focus is on each individual horse. Based at Byton, The Bell House nestles in the rolling Herefordshire countryside. The purpose-built yard features a six furlong private all weather gallop known as Brand Hill, schooling grounds including cross-country jumps, brush hurdles and fences, as well as extensive woodland hacking. The yard is located on the Shropshire and Welsh borders and we count Bangor, Cheltenham, Chepstow, Ludlow, Worcester and Warwick racecourses as our local tracks.
Caroline has been involved with horses all her life. Her father, the late Dick Saunders, rode as an amateur and successfully trained with a permit. He rode Grittar to win the Grand National in 1982. Her mother, Pam, rode in point-to-points and enjoyed many years in the hunting field. Caroline evented successfully as a teenager, beginning in the Pony Club and going on to compete for the British Junior Team at the European Championships. She began riding in point-to-points aged 16 years and rode many winners. She rode 18 winners under National Hunt Rules and was the first female jockey to ride a winner at Cheltenham Racecourse, winning on Ptarmigan III. Caroline had a very successful career training point-to-pointers before taking out a full license in 2006 and in 1999 she trained Castle Mane to win the 1999 St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at The Cheltenham Festival.
Cherry is the daughter of the legendary North Yorkshire trainer Mick Easterby and worked for him after finishing school, in the racing days of Mrs Mcardy (1000 Guineas) and Lochnager (Champion Sprinter). Cherry has always had Point to Pointers and has held an extremely successful Permit with numerous winners. After moving to Low Moor Farm in 2000, she has gradually expanded her Point to Point yard and in 2008 trained Amicelli (or ‘Celli’) to win the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at The Cheltenham Festival.
Trained winner at Cheltenham Festival – St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase in 2009 with Cappa Bleu
Sheila Crow was born into a farming family and grew up with horses. She started riding at a young age and eventually became three-time leading female rider in the North West Area. She took out a training license and garnered a top reputation for winning races over the years. In 2009, she trined Cappa Bleu to win the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at The Cheltenham Festival.
Mags Mullins is an Irish trainer who in 2015, trained Martello Tower to win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.
Lucy was brought up in London and though neither of her parents had an interest in horses, she spent much of her childhood riding in Norfolk. She became involved in racing initially through riding and training point-to-pointers, which she combined with working for the BBC in London and, after moving to Newmarket, graduated from being a permit holder to a licence holder in 1997. Lucy’s training career since then has been defined by a consistently good strike rate of winners to runners, enhanced by her ability to hold her own in the highest grade, all from just a fraction of the runners at the disposal of some of jump racing’s major yards. Among the higher profile individuals to have emerged from her peaceful stables at Moulton Paddocks are the Grade 1-winning hurdler United, El Dancer, Le Reve, The Dark Lord and the Stakes winning Flat mares Lady Tiana, Dorcas Lane, Crystal Gal, Cassique Lady and Enforce proving that their trainer is more than capable of preparing horses for either code.