Women in Racing, Striding for More | International Women’s Day 2021

Features | 8th March 2021

To celebrate International Women’s Day, today Monday 8th March, the Women in Racing, Striding for More’ campaign marks the incredible talents of women across the racing industry.

‘Women in Racing, Striding for More’ showcases the vast range of roles occupied by women in the sport through a series of videos that feature 10 women from across the sport.

The women in racing include record-breaking jockey Hollie Doyle, Aintree clerk of the course Sulekha Varma, broadcaster Alex Hammond, BHA raceday starter Sophia Upton, history-making Khadijah Mellah, as well as yard and racecourse staff.

The campaign coincides with data released today that shows the increase in women in the sport including Trainers, BHA and racecourse officials and that women riders competing in horseracing have continued to excel in one of the few sports in which men and women compete as equals.


Since 2016 there has been a 47% increase in the number of rides secured by women rides during the Cheltenham Festival, from 23 in 2016 to 34 in 2020 and double the 14 rides they had in 2010.

Women's rides at the Cheltenham Festival over the years

Since 2016, there has been an increase of almost 3% in the total number of women riders on the Flat and Jumps including amateur, conditional and apprentice riders and women now make up 23% of all riders.

Over the same time period, women have also achieved 2.6% more wins over Jumps and on the Flat. In 2016 5% of all wins (501) achieved were by women versus 7.6% of all wins (601) last year.

There has been a significant increase of wins by women over Jumps in the past decade, from 61 wins in 2010 to 175 wins in 2020.

On Boxing Day last year, Jump jockey Bryony Frost became the first woman to win the famed King George VI Chase at Kempton, whilst breaking the record for the most ever career wins (174) achieved by a woman over Jumps in the same race.

Flat jockey Hollie Doyle dominated the news last year by breaking the record number of wins achieved by a woman on the Flat with 151 wins.

She landed a historical fiver-timer at Windsor Racecourse in August; claiming her first Group 1 victory at QIPCO British Champions Day and ending the day as the leading jockey on Great Britain’s most valuable raceday.

Doyle deservedly went on to finish third in the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award and was also named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year.

Among Hollie’s achievements was a Royal Ascot win with Scarlet Dragon, making her only the third woman in history, alongside Gay Kelleway and Hayley Turner, to win a race during the prestigious festival.

As well as women securing more rides at Cheltenham in the last five years, the number of rides by women during Royal Ascot has increased dramatically with 27 rides for women in 2020, compared to just one in 2016.

Last year two wins were celebrated by women during the Royal Meeting, with Turner also enjoying a victory onboard Onassis in the Sandringham Stakes, thus become the first multiple-winning woman rider at Royal Ascot.

Women's rides at Royal Ascot over the years

Doyle, 24, said: “It is great to see that there have been a lot more women competing in recent years. We are just as good as men given the opportunity and I hope that other women continue to work hard and pursue dreams of working in racing.”

She continued: “It is also really important that the hard work from other women across the industry is recognised. There are some many people, men and women, that play a part in looking after our horses, getting them to the track and making the action happen once we are there.”

There has been a similar rise in the number of women holding trainers’ licenses over the past five years, with women currently holding 25% of Trainers’ Licenses (Jump, Flat, Combined), a 5% increase on figures from 2013.

This is unique in comparison to other sports where trainer positions are predominantly held by men.


Abby Bunyard

Abby Bunyard

Role:  Associate of the Worshipful Company of Farriers

Time in Industry: 29 years

Introduction to racing: Abby’s family had horses whilst she was growing up and was always fascinated by the farrier who came to shoe the horses. At about 7 or 8 Abby told the farrier she wanted to be and ended up doing her apprentice with him! When Abby was doing her apprenticeship, she worked under the great Michael Wood, and he was the on-call farrier at Wincanton so got a great insight into the world of racing at an early point in her career.

Career Aspiration: We all have a fundamental role to play with in the sport, but a personal aspiration of mine, is to continue to do what I am doing!  Shoeing Horses, that knowing that the horse is comfortable, and that they are performing to their best.

Alex Hammond

Role: Lead Presenter at Sky Sports Racing

Time in Industry: 23 years

Introduction to racing: Alex was a pony mad teenager and watched anything to do with horses on the TV which included racing. She fell in love with the sport, but at the time getting into racing with no connections seemed an impossible dream. However, Alex got a place at a college with a link to the industry and it progressed from there.

Career Highlight: It’s hard to highlight just one as there have been so many memorable moments, but forging a long career doing a job she loves, is something Alex is grateful for every day.

Women in Racing Aspiration: I hope there are many more opportunities for anyone with a passion for this sport to get into it and fulfil their dreams. Racing has been kind to me and I’d love anyone else to experience what a wonderful industry it is. Don’t let anyone tell you something isn’t possible.

alex hammond

Ashleigh Wicheard

Role: Assistant Travelling Head Groom

Time in Industry: 15 years

Introduction to racing: Having the confidence to ride Thoroughbreds at a fairly young age Ashleigh got into racing through her Auntie & Michael Blake. Ashleigh would help with Michael ‘s point to pointers and then then started work riding with his National Hunt horses.

Career Highlight: When Southfield Royale (Ashleigh’s favourite racehorse) won his first race at Market Rasen under Sir AP McCoy in June 2014 for Neil Mulholland Racing.

Career Aspiration: To increase diversity by inspiring people of colour to get involved in our industry. Racing is for everyone, horses don’t discriminate.

Bryony Frost

Role: Jump Jockey

Time in Industry: Four years

Introduction to racing: Bryony grew up around horses, her father is retired jockey Jimmy Frost, winner of the 1989 Grand National.

Career Highlight: Bryony has ridden more winners over Jumps than any than any other woman rider. In 2019, Bryony became the first woman to win a Grade One race over obstacles at the Cheltenham Festival, riding Frodon in the Ryanair Chase. The same year Byrony won the British conditional jockeys title for the 2018–19 season.

Hayley Turner

Role: Flat Jockey

Time in Industry: 20 years

Introduction to racing: Hayley started off in Pony Club and showjumping. She made her racing debut in March 2000 at Southwell and recorded her first winner at Pontefract aboard Generate.

Career Highlight: Becoming the first female since Gay Kellaway back in 1987 to win a race at Royal Ascot when landing the Sandringham Stakes on Thanks Be for Charlie Fellowes.

Hollie Doyle

Role: Flat Jockey

Time in Industry: 8 years

Introduction to racing: Hollie first came into racing eight years ago aged 16 and has always loved horses; she was 18 months old when she first sat on a horse. 

Career Highlights: In 2020 Hollie broke the record for wins achieved by a woman on the Flat finishing the year with 151 wins. In the same year, Hollie won her first Group 1 race with Glen Shiel on QIPCO British Champions Day and was third place in BBC Sports Personality of the Year 

Career Aspiration: Hollie’s next goal is simple – to rider as many Group 1 winners as she can!

Khadijah Mellah

Role: Great British Racing Ambassador

Time in Industry: 3 years

Introduction to racing: Khadijah was always very keen to ride. One day her mother saw a leaflet in the local mosque offering pony riding at the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton. Khadijah loves being around horses and before she started university in Brighton, she would spend almost every weekend there.

Career Highlight: Winning the Magnolia Cup in 2019 and being the first Muslim woman to win a horserace.

Career Aspiration: To increase diversity within racing. Khadijah would love to get people from urban areas to experience the amazing thrill that is horseracing. On a personal level, she would like to get back into training as she is currently studying at university, and to get an amateur license to be able to compete once more.

Naomi Mellor

Role: Veterinary Surgeon

Time in Industry:  14 years

Introduction to racing: Naomi took a job in Australia for a stud season followed by the sales but ended up staying there for 2.5 years working in a busy veterinary hospital with a racing caseload. It was hard work but a great grounding.

Career Highlight: Working at Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham festival – There is a brilliant team of both BHA and racecourse vets working closely together for big events and there is a great atmosphere for both weeks.

Career Aspiration: To still be enjoying work in 30 years’ time as much as Naomi does now!

Sophia Upton

Role: BHA Race Starter

Time in Industry: 21 years

Introduction to racing: Sophia’s parents trained horses (and rode as amateurs!) so has been in the industry as long as she can remember. Sophia was a jumps and flat jockey for 16 years, 9 years professionally and had 59 winners. Her Parents bred Rooster Booster so rode him/ won on him before they sold him.

Career Highlight: Sophia was Lady Champion Jump Jockey in 1995. Being a Conditional jockey to David Gandolfo and won 2 Lady Jockey Lester’s awards.

Career Aspiration: To be officiating for the starters team at more prolific fixtures like Royal Ascot or Cheltenham or even Aintree. For Racing, Sophia would like to see a female Champion Jockey.

Sulehka Varma

Role: Clerk of the Course – Aintree

Time in Industry: 11 years

Introduction to racing: Sulekha’s first memory of racing was being sat in a hotel room in Dublin at the age of 9 watching Minnehoma win the Grand National. It took her another 9 years to catch the racing bug and realise that there was the possibility of forging a career in the sport. Selukha’s first real foray into racing was at the age of 18, when she completed a work experience placement at Lucinda Russell’s yard. One ride up the gallops later and she was hooked.

Career Aspiration: In the next five years, Sulekha hopes to see more women in racing, the racing world has so much to offer and more and more women are taking more senior roles. Let’s keep it going girls!

Learn More

Women in racing

Women in Racing was created to develop the profile of women in the sport of horseracing. WIR aims to encourage senior appointments at Board level across the industry and to attract more women into Racing, to strengthen connections and collaborate on approaches to help promote the health of the sport and to enhance its reputation as an attractive sector in which to build a career.


Careers In Racing

Whether you are still at school or are looking for a career change, there’s no better place to start your search for a job in racing.

The racing industry is a diverse and thrilling world to work in, no matter your experience or skills. Get more advice on suitable courses, the colleges where you can take them, and chat to advisors for careers information and support on getting involved.