Photo courtesy of David Davis
The Cheltenham Festival is a phenomenal spectacle; a great multitude of fascinating stories all play out in front of a captivated audience over four pulsating days.
The horses and sportsmanship are top notch, there are entertaining characters and celebrity figures, but a huge draw is the fact that men an women compete against each other on a completely level playing field.
With the prominence of women within racing continually on the rise, we assess the top female jockeys and trainers that are set to grace the big stage at the Festival
Who’s got that Friday feeling?
Will Sizing John retain his Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup crown in three weeks time
— ODDSbible Racing (@ODDSbibleRacing) February 23, 2018
Jessica Harrington won the trophy all trainers want to get their hands on – the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Sizing John in 2017.
The feat was made even more remarkable given that Sizing John was the trainer’s first ever entry in the race.
Sizing John has sadly struggled with injury since.
But it hasn’t all been about recent success, over the last 20 years, Harrington has experienced top level success at Cheltenham training the likes of Moscow Flyer, Boston’s Angel and Jezki.
Harrington has a number of live chances going into the 2020 Festival, her biggest name Supasundae will be aimed at the Champion Hurdle.
She’s a force to be reckoned with at the Festival!
No, it wasn’t a dream.
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 15, 2019
The Thursday at Cheltenham last year really was a momentous day in racing. Bryony Frost became the first woman to win a Grade 1 over fences at Cheltenham in the Ryanair Chase.
Her win on Frodon couldn’t have failed to stir up emotions even in the hardiest racing fans. The strong bond between rider and horse was obvious to see.
In the immediate reaction to the race, Bryony said “Frodon’s got his day. He is Pegasus. He has got wings. He is most incredible battler. My god he jumps. When he got overtaken at turn 12, most horses would quit but not him. He’s perfection of just determination. Tell me and deny me he loves racing. He’s unbelievable, I love you mate.”
Bryony and Frodon have had a mixed season, this season. They finished third in a Grade 2 at Aintree and in the Btefair Chase. However, the pair looked back to their best when winning Silviniaco Conti Chase, finding that staying power in the home straight at Kempton was a very encouraging sign for Cheltenham.
The racing world will be sure to go into raptures if Bryony and Frodon repeat last year’s heroics in the Ryanair Chase.
What a ride this was from Rachael Blackmore as Minella Indo won the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at a huge 50/1!
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 18, 2019
Recently described by respected Irish trainer Tony Mullins as being in a “different league”, Rachel Blackmore is hands down the most successful female rider on this list. A brilliant tactician, her star has soared to new heights in recent years, with maiden Grade 1 winners and Cheltenham Festival victories coming her way.
This year she returns with a hugely promising prospective book of rides; the feature of which is likely to be A Plus Tard in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase. The six-year-old chaser was wildly impressive when giving Blackmore her first Cheltenham win last year and he appeared to still be in sparkling form when last seen competing at Punchestown in December.
Prior to Thursday, she’ll be aiming to become the first woman to win a Grade 1 Novice Chase at the Festival when she partners current favourite Notebook in the second race of the meeting, the Racing Post Arkle. The pair have already won Grade 1 honours when claiming the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown last month and look a hot ticket to back that form up and make yet more racing history.
Jockey Lizzie Kelly has already proved time and time again that she can handle the big occasions as she continues to build on her impressive CV.
She became the first female rider to win a National Hunt Grade One race when steering Tea For Two to victory at Kempton in the 2015 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
Lizzie has a great record at Cheltenham having enjoyed two Festival winners in the last two years.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 14, 2019
Venetia Williams has consistently outperformed many of her piers having maintained a position amongst racing’s training elite for almost twenty years.
Williams’ biggest moment in racing came in 2009 when she trained 100/1 outsider Mon Mome to Grand National victory.
The Herefordshire based trainer has had on and off success at the Festival.
She trained Something Wells to win the 2009 Freddie Williams Festival Plate, saddling the first two home, remarkably less than two hours after winning with Kayf Aramis in the Pertemps Final, capping a marvellous festival.