It is generally assumed that women cannot rival men in direct sporting competition, with the traditionally male‐dominated sport of horse racing being no exception, but nothing can be further from the truth in the current horse racing landscape.

A recent study undertaken by Vanessa Cashmore of the University of Liverpool revealed a number of key observations:

  • Female participation was found to be extremely low. Women account for just 5.2% of rides over the last 14 years, despite holding 24% of jockey licences (including professionals and amateurs) and representing half of all stable staff.
  • The majority of female jockeys ride on amateur licences.
  • A greater proportion of female rides are taken on the flat (6.5% share of rides on the flat against a 2.9% share of NH rides).
  • Women are particularly underrepresented at the elite level of the sport.

When the quality of the horses was factored in, there was found to be very little difference between male and female riders, over the 14-year study period.

Unfortunately, despite the study finding that female jockeys are just as good as men, some trainers still refuse to use women riders on their horses. Interestingly, only 11.3% of professional jockey licences are currently held by women.

So who are the best female jockeys currently riding at the moment?

Here are 4 jockeys who we think will give you a great run for your money every time. Astute punters should have no gender preconceptions when it comes to smart sports betting.

Best Female Flat Jockeys:

Hollie Doyle

23-year-old Hollie Doyle enjoyed a groundbreaking 2019 season, riding 116 winners – more in a calendar year than any other female jockey.

She overtook Josephine Gordon’s record of 106 winners back in November and became only the third woman to reach a century, with Hayley Turner being the first to complete that feat in 2008.

The 2020 season had started brightly for Doyle, racking up 35 winners, before racing was forced to shut down.

Doyle has been supported by over 130 trainers to make her milestone, with the majority of those winners coming for the Archie Watson stable.

Her successes have also amassed more than £1 million in prize-money, and she was ahead of the likes of James Doyle, Richard Kingscote and Ryan Moore in the annual jockeys' standings last season.

Her dedication is second to none and she is certainly a punters friend.

Hayley Turner OBE

Hayley Turner has ridden over 1,500 flat race wins and is considered one of the most successful UK female jockeys of all-time.

In 2011, Turner made history becoming the first female jockey to win a British Group One, Newmarket’s July Cup aboard Dream Ahead.

2012 saw her become the first female jockey to win the Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes, which was a high level victory in the US.

She retired from the saddle at the end of the 2015 and established a media position with ITV Racing. However, she came out of retirement in 2018 and has since has been part of the winning team in the Shergar Cup at Ascot.

Her career highlight was probably at Royal Ascot in 2019, when she became the first female jockey to win there for 32 years aboard Thanks Be (33/1) in the Sandringham Stakes. Only Gay Kelleway, way back in the summer of 1987, had done it before.

“It was only a matter of time” said Turner as she rode triumphantly back into the Royal winner’s enclosure.

She added: "Nothing is going to happen overnight, but if you look at this in 10 years' time I bet a lot more girls have done it. It will become a common thing and the media won't care that much, as it will become normal."

Josephine Gordon

Born 16th May 1993, Josephine Gordon became just the third female jockey to win the Champion Apprentice title in 2016, following in the footsteps of Hayley Turner and Amy Ryan.

Her early jockey career saw a period of 18 months elapse between her first and second winners, but she then began working with retired jockey John Reid and she progressed to ride more than 70 winners in 2016.

Gordon was doing so well in 2016 that she was honoured with two gongs at the annual Lester Awards, receiving the top Apprentice of the Year and Lady Jockey of the Year.

In November 2017 Gordon became only the second female jockey to ride 100 winners in a year in Britain after Hayley Turner.

The following season things took a little bit of a downturn in fortune for Gordon and she rode 57 winners in 2018, just a year after her link with trainer Hugo Palmer helped her achieve the historic 100.

In early 2019 it was announced that Josephine Gordon was to ride as a freelancer in after relinquishing her role as stable jockey to her long time employer Hugo Palmer.

In her first year as her own boss, Gordon rode 37 winners and in 2020 she stands at 25 victories as of November 2020.

Megan Nicholls

The daughter of the famous trainer Paul Nicholls, Megan was the winner of the very first edition of the Silk Series – an initiative set up by the ARC group to provide female jockeys with more riding opportunities during the summer months.

It is an initiative that has been greatly received and welcomed by many aspiring young female jockeys. Nicholls has now won the Series a total of three times.

At the start of 2020, Megan had been signed as a retained rider for the Titanium Racing syndicate as well as becoming an ambassador for York Racecourse.

Nicholls was delighted to ride out her claim with victory aboard Kryptos at Wolverhampton the other day and she is definitely a jockey going places.

She was rather unlucky not to be able to ride in her first Group One in France (Prix Morny) in August after an administrative mix-up, but she is sure to get more chances like that in the near future.

Nicola Currie

Originally from the Isle of Arran in Scotland, Nicola Currie is based in Lambourn with trainers Richard Hughes and Jamie Osborne and is one of the rising stars of the weighing room.

Just last season Nicola claimed the All-Weather Championships riding a total of 30 winners, which was 12 more than her second placed rival Phil Dennis.

Currie received £4,000 for winning the All-Weather Champion Apprentice title last season and at the time of writing her current lifetime winners tally resides at 173.

Back in February a team of seven international jockeys, including Nicola Currie, became the first women to race in Saudi Arabia during the Jockeys' Challenge competition.


Best Female Jumps Jockeys:

Rachael Blackmore

Rachael Blackmore is the 29-year-old Irish sensation who is deemed by many as one of the best National Hunt jockeys around.

She constantly holds her own against her peers, whether they are male or female and she has a wonderfully astute tactical racing brain.

From County Tipperary, Blackmore rode 11 point-to-point winners and seven winners as an amateur rider before turning professional in March, 2015.

She gained her first big race success when riding Abolitionist to victory in the Leinster National at Naas on March 12, 2017. That season she became the first female jockey to win the Conditional Riders’ title in the 2016/2017 season with 32 winners.


A Plus Tard gave Rachael her first Cheltenham Festival success when taking the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase in March, 2019.

She was also became the first female jockey to ride a Grade 1 winner over hurdles at the Festival when Minella Indo landed the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the same meeting.

Blackmore tasted Festival joy once more in 2020 when she partnered the Henry De Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle to take the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle.

Bryony Frost

Bryony Frost made history by becoming the first female jockey to ride a top-level Grade 1 winner at the Cheltenham Festival when she was triumphant with Frodon in the Ryanair Chase in 2019.

And it was not her first win at Cheltenham either, having won the Foxhunter Chase on Pacha Du Polder as an amateur two years prior.

After she had won her second race of the first International Women’s Day all-female race meeting at Southwell at the start of March, Frost said to a reporter: “I’ve always said if you’re a boy or a girl, your horse doesn’t know. It’s the way you ride.

"I don’t want special concessions. What I believe is, doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re good enough you’ll go somewhere.”

Lucy Alexander

Having started out in the point-to-point sphere at the age of 16, Lucy Alexander was soon crowned the Northern Area Novice Champion Rider and also picked up the coveted Princess Royal Trophy.

Lucy quickly rewrote the record books for female National Hunt jockeys by being the first of her sex to become Champion Conditional Jockey in the 2012/13 season.

After turning professional in September 2011, Lucy made a huge impact on National Hunt when she became the first woman to break Lorna Vincent's 1980 record of 22 winners for a female jockey in a British jumps season.

She has now ridden well over 150 winners with the lion’s share of those victories achieved on horses trained by her father – Nick Alexander.

She rides out at Kinneston (the Alexander family home and training yard) most days and has also worked for Aidan O’Brien, Sir Michael Stoute, Kevin Ryan & Guillaume Macaire in France.

Maxine O’Sullivan

The O’Sullivan family are quite a racing dynasty on the Emerald Isle, but outside of Ireland it is surprising how relatively unknown their surname is to your average punter.

That might explain how It Came To Pass and Maxine O’Sullivan went off at odds of 66/1 before tasting glory in Cheltenham Festival’s amateur race - the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase.

That victory emulated her father Eugene’s victory with Lovely Citizen in 1991. Eugene immersed Maxine in horses from being a toddler until she gained her riding licence aged just 15.

After many informative years, Maxine spent 12 months working for trainer Tony Martin before returning to her father’s base to work full-time and ride point-to-pointers in 2014.

Maxine O'Sullivan has been crowned the leading female point-to-point rider on four occasions in her native Ireland.

Lisa O'Neill

Lisa O’Neill has been closely associated with the Gordon Elliott stable for many years, and it was Elliott who provided Lisa with her first big race success when Wrath Of Titans won the Kerry National Handicap Chase at Listowel in 2016.

Unbelievably that was O’Neill’s first winner over fences and just her 15th success under rules. A daughter of trainer and former jockey Tommy O'Neill, Lisa became the second female rider to win Kerry National after Katie Walsh’s victory in 2014.

The year 2017 will be one O’Neill won’t forget in a hurry as she enjoyed the biggest win of her career when landing the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival aboard the Gordon Elliott-trained Tiger Roll.

If that wasn’t already her personal pinnacle she then remarkably added a second Kerry National to her C.V when successfully steering Potters Point, again for Gordon Elliott, to victory in the September of the same year.

Lisa was crowned leading lady amateur rider for the 2017/18 season with 20 winners and retained the title the following year with a total of 27.

She won the title again for the foreshortened (Covid) 2019/2020 season and who would bet against her winning the 2020/21 award?


Bottom Line:

Even accounting for all of the successes of the aforementioned women, current statistics still suggest that female riders are still lagging behind their male counterparts in terms of opportunities.

Although women account for more than 50 per cent of the new entrants into the established racing colleges, they accounted for just one per cent of the riders in Group One races in 2019.

Disappointingly, around half of the UK racehorse trainers did not use a woman rider last year. That figure is somewhat better in Ireland however.

Punters however have been much more receptive to female jockeys in recent years, and many of them can be followed with confidence when you bet on horse racing.


*Credit for the main photo belongs to Amr Nabil / AP Photo*

 

FIRST PUBLISHED: 13th April 2020

About the Author
By
Steve Mullington

Steven is a sports and horseracing enthusiast and is a member of the Horseracing Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) in the United Kingdom.

He is a regular visitor to Paris Longchamp for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a lifelong fan of the Aintree Grand National, a subject he writes about 52 weeks of the year. Last year he reached the impressive milestone of attending the last 25 renewals of the Grand National.