Harriet Rochester, Women in Racing (WiR) Committee Member for PR and communications, chatted to Steve Dennis of the Racing Post recently at the Qatar Goodwood Festival on a day when not one woman jockey had a ride at the fixture.
The balance tipped just a week later with the all-female fixture at Carlisle and The Girls team winning the Shergar Cup at Ascot with Sammy Jo Bell claiming the Silver Saddle in an exciting and potentially historic set of results.
Harriet commented: "We (WiR) want to provide support, particularly at the grass roots, and although there's lots of work to be done we'd like to see any young jockeys with the right skill-sets and enthusiasm being the opportunities they deserve." (The Racing Post article is reproduced left, click to view.)
John Reid, former Derby-winning jockey, has his own views on female jockeys and supports them at every step through his role as a jockey coach: "Every jockey I coach has individual strengths and weaknesses, no matter what their age or gender, and they will only gain race-riding strength and experience from racing. If a jockey doesn’t get the rides they're simply not competitive as they miss that vital fitness and experience opportunity.
"A sprint race might only last 60 seconds – your first race feels like it's over in just two. By your 1,000th start you have the ability to break that same 60 seconds down and read the race as it goes. Mental as well as physical strength only develops with race-riding experience."
This fact makes fixtures such as Carlisle's Ultimate Ladies Night (August 3) rare opportunities for female jockeys to gain some of that vital experience in the saddle – a chance to showcase their ability and grab the attention of owners and trainers.
Horseracing is almost unique in being a sport where men and women can compete on a level playing field. But the challenge remains for women to get on to that field in the first place.
Leading lady jockey Hayley Turner interviewed Sammy Jo Bell for BBC2 ahead of the only all-female fixture in the world at Carlisle – watch the interview here.
Sammy Jo Bell also features in a feature in the Daily Mail Online... read the article.