International Women's Day | Racing's Leading Lights

Features | 8th March 2022

International Women’s Day gives us a chance to show our appreciation and pay tribute to female champions within Horseracing. 

As a sport, Horseracing is uniquely privileged to have so many fantastic women participate both on and off the track. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we got the thoughts of three inspiring women from across the industry. Jockey Page Fuller, Clerk Of The Course Sulekha Varma and Assistant Head Lass at Ed Walker Racing, Elousie O’Hart.

Page Fuller – Professional Jockey

Did you have a role model to follow as you developed your career? …

I was lucky enough that I grew up watching the likes of Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh riding at the top level for years. They were unbelievable riders and I suppose even though there had been pioneering female jockeys before them, they were the ones that were bringing it to the top level whilst I was growing up.

It’s amazing now to think they were riding as amateurs back then and so to watch Lucy Alexander to push that glass ceiling further by being the first woman to win the conditionals championship, it showed me that it actually was possible to compete as a professional jockey too!

How inspiring is it to be part of a sport where male and female athletes compete on a level playing field? …

I feel incredibly lucky to be competing and performing against my male counterparts. Whilst there are still aspects of racing that needs work , as all walks of life do, I’m incredibly proud to be a part of an industry that has been able to change its opinions towards women so quickly and embrace their participation like they have in recent years. 

It may well have been behind to start with but there has been a tidal wave of support for female riders even since I have been riding and I am so enjoying being a part of that movement. In addition, I love the fact that jockeys can come in all shapes and sizes. Each member of the weighing room brings individual qualities and talent to the track regardless of gender and it’s been brilliant to see jockeys being judged entirely on merit.

How can you help the next generation of girls in your position? …

I am pretty realistic that, whilst I feel I have achieved more than I could have ever imagined with my career, I might struggle to reach the heights given how competitive the industry is. I do however hope though that I can show other women that even without reaching those heights, you can have a successful career doing something you love. 

I believe it’s really important to try to encourage as many young female riders into the industry and to ensure that those that do arrive are able to pursue their own dreams.

Sulekha Varma – Clerk Of The Course, Aintree Racecourse

What inspired you get involved in horseracing? …

Initially my love of horses. I was lucky enough to learn to ride as a child through pester power. Neither of my parents were horsey but they saw how much it meant to me and gave me the opportunity. Riding and caring for horses taught me a lot about responsibility and independence from a young age. 

As I got older, school and then University became a higher priority and the horses were put to one side as a hobby. It wasn’t until I left school that I discovered, via a work placement with the trainer Lucinda Russell and then the BHA Graduate Programme, that there were a whole host of opportunities to work in racing without being a jockey or trainer. It’s still my love and respect for the equine athletes we are lucky to share our lives with that drives me today.

How important is it that we continue to see female representation at the higher echelons of racing operations such as the Jockey Club? …

I think it’s hugely important and we have seen incredible strides in recent years. I often joke that, in a time not that long ago, to become a Clerk of the Course you were expected to be white, male and ex-military. While none of those descriptions is a problem, nor do they stop anyone being an excellent Clerk of the Course, the formal recruitment and training programmes now in place mean that the role is open to a far wider group of people and is about what you know, rather than who you know. 

I hope the same applies across horse racing and, where women have spoken up and raised awareness of occasions they have been treated unfairly because of their gender, we are making a concerted effort that these instances should be a thing of the past.

How do you see the visibility of women in racing continuing to grow over the next five years? …

We have numerous women in top roles in our sport these days and I am pleased to see ever more talented people joining our teams. Our challenge now is to identify, develop and retain these talented individuals for the betterment of horse racing, regardless of their gender.


Elouise O’Hart – Assistant Head Lass, Ed Walker Racing

Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be involved in racing? …

I came into racing from a horsey background with no prior experience in the racing industry. I wanted to work with horses, and found through British Racing School advertising that a career in racing was very achievable with the right attitude. Thankfully, I was able to succeed there and my opportunity to work in racing really came from that.

How important is it that their are entities such as the British Racing School that provide a pathway for women to get involved in Racing? …

I think it’s vitally important as these are the businesses that can promote the sport and the opportunities that lie within, to ambitious women and other individuals that want to be involved.

In this day and age, diversity is incredibly beneficial to every business within our sport. It’s great that they encourage and provide opportunities for women but also people from other cultures and ethnicities. In a largely male dominant industry, it is highly rewarding to see women from all aspects of racing succeeding and pursuing their goals, and I hope that inspires other women to do the same.

You’ve just won a significant award at the Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards, how would you like your career to develop from here? …

I hope my career continues to develop in my current role as assistant head lad at Ed Walker Racing. I’m learning a huge amount where I’m currently working and have plenty of opportunities at the minute and I know that will continue to be the case in the future.

Over the next few years I hope to move up the ranks and continue to build on the experiences I have already had.

It was hugely rewarding to receive my recent award at the Godolphin Stud & Stable Awards and I hope that that might provide a springboard to allow me to work abroad in countries such as Australia, America, Dubai.

Hopefully, I can be a role model to other women, and show that our sport provides equality and opportunities.