To celebrate International Women’s Day this Friday 8th March, Great British Racing is showcasing extraordinary women in jump racing ahead of one of the biggest sporting events of the year, The Festival™ presented by Magners, at Cheltenham Racecourse, from Tuesday 12th – Friday 15th March.

Women have historically achieved great results at The Festival and 2018 saw a new record set with four women riding winners during the most fiercely contested week in the jump racing calendar. To celebrate their accomplishments, Great British Racing has created an inspirational video featuring three of those winning jockeys still currently riding: Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker.

Great British Racing has also created an on course photographic portrait series of some of the most successful women in Festival history which will be on display throughout the week at Cheltenham.

Video courtesy of Great British Racing, with race footage courtesy of ITV and RTV.

Racing is the second biggest spectator sport in the UK and has the biggest proportion of female fans of any major British sport, with women accounting for approximately 40% of racegoers. As the one of the few professional sports in which men and women compete directly against each other, the video shows how women in horse racing are every bit as tough and capable as their male counterparts.

The three jockeys embody what it is to be a top athlete through their personal commentary and race footage of their spectacular rides in 2018, now etched into Cheltenham Festival – and sporting – history. Partly narrated by Richard Johnson, the three-time Stobart Champion Jump Jockey lists off the universal qualities that jockeys need in order to achieve an extraordinary feat such as winning a race at The Festival, including courage, resilience, determiantion and ambition.

Lizzie Kelly returned to The Festival last year with something to prove after falling at the second fence in the 2017 Gold Cup, and did just that by winning the Ultima Handicap Chase on Coo Star Sivola. As the first woman to win a Grade 1 race over jumps (a race at the highest level), Lizzie said she’s seen a positive shift in racing and it’s inclusion of women.

“Women in racing are becoming more common now and it’s a huge thing for racing to be able to use the talents that we have. Plenty of women work within yards throughout the country and for them to have the opportunities that we’re seeing now is really important,” she said.

“There was a time when Lucy Alexander was the only professional female jockey in the country and the fact that she won the Champion Conditional title goes to show that she can do it and we can all do it.”

“Since then plenty more women have had success and I think we’re in a really good groove at the moment in terms of how women are getting on. We’re in a golden era for women in racing and long may it continue. Hopefully we get even more women coming into the sport.”

Harriet Tucker became an unexpected star of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival when overcoming the pain of a dislocated shoulder sustained during the race to drive Pacha Du Polder home to win the Foxhunter Chase, becoming the 14th female rider to enjoy success in the history of the meeting and who will be looking to repeat her success again this year.

“If someone said to me women can’t be jockeys, I’d laugh in their face because women can do it and we’re proving now we can do it and we’re equal. Doors are opening and more women are coming into the sport.”

“I like to be as tough as I can. Winning is more important than my arm. I had to lift the trophy with my arm shaking but I didn’t care. No pain no gain. I love the adrenaline, the thrill, the buzz,” she said.

Jubilant scenes followed Bridget Andrew’s success aboard Mohaayed in the County Hurdle last year, as she embraced boyfriend (now fiancé) Harry Skelton, the stable jockey and brother of Dan Skelton, trainer of her mount, after the winning post.

“After Cheltenham I believed in myself so much more. I had two massive goals last year, one was to ride a Festival winner and one was to ride out my claim*… and I’ve done both. That makes me think that actually I can do it.”

“Dan [Skelton] has given me the opporutnities. He believes I can do it and everyone in the yard believes I can do it, so I’m definitely more confident now,” she said.

With another exciting Cheltenham Festival around the corner, the previous victors will be returning with hopes of claiming more glory while Bryony Frost, who won at The Festival in 2017 is likely to become the third female jockey to ride in the Gold Cup. She also looks set to be crowned Stobart Champion Conditional Jockey at the bet365 Jump Finale at Sandown Park on Saturday 27th April.

Others who will be aiming for success at The Festival, include Rachael Blackmore, who is currently seeking to become the first female Irish Champion Jockey and claim a maiden Festival win, as well as trainer Emma Lavelle who heads into next week with the well-fancied Paisley Park in one of the week’s feature races, the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.

You can see extraordinary women in action at The Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse from Tuesday 12th – Friday 15th March.

For more information or to find out more about women in racing and International Women’s Day, visit www.greatbritishracing.com/international-womens-day<http://www.greatbritishracing.com/international-womens-day>

*Inexperienced riders are allowed a weight concession to compensate for their lack of experience against their colleagues. A Conditional Jockey can “claim” a weight (i.e. carry less weight) allowance of 7lbs until they have 20 wins, 5lbs until 40 wins and 3lbs until 75 wins. Once they have 90 wins they are considered professional and race on a level playing field.

PHOTO SERIES: Cheltenham Winners on Display at The Festival

To celebrate the extraordinary women within jump racing, Great British Racing has commissioned a series of portraits which will be displayed on the Crescent Walkway at Cheltenham Racecourse throughout The Festival from Tuesday 12th–Friday 15th March.

The portraits, taken by award-winning sports photographer Jon Enoch at Cheltenham Racecourse, feature both current jockeys and trainers who have enjoyed incredible successes at The Festival in the last 15 years, as well as trailblazing women whose legacies are synonymous with jumps racing. These include Gold Cup-winning trainers Henrietta Knight and Jessica Harrington, the most succesful female jockey in Festival history, Nina Carberry, and legendary trainer Jenny Pitman, amongst others.

The photos also incorporate a number of universal qualities that jockeys and trainers require in order to achieve an extraodinary feat such as winning a race at The Festival. These words, emblazoned on the photos, include courage, resilience, determination and ambition.

Venetia Williams, the female trainer with the most wins in the history of Jump Racing, also features in the series and said “There are so many talented women at the heart of racing and it’s brilliant to have so many of them all displayed together during The Cheltenham Festival.”

The display can be found on the Crescent Walkway for all four days of The Festival and will feature the following sixteen leading women in Jumps racing:

Jockeys who have ridden winners at The Cheltenham Festival in the last 15 years:

  1. Bryony Frost – Jockey
    Won at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase aboard Pacha Du Polder
  2. Lizzie Kelly – Jockey
    Won at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival in the Ultima Handicap Chase aboard Coo Star Sivola
  3. Bridget Andrews – Jockey
    Won at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle aboard Mohaayed
  4. Harriet Tucker – Jockey
    Won at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival in the St James’s Palace Foxhunter Challenge aboard Pacha du Polder
  5. Gina Andrews – Jockey
    Won at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase on 40/1 shock Domesday
  6. Katie Walsh – Jockey (now retired)
    Rode three winners at the Cheltenham Festival – Poker De Sivola and Thousand Stars in 2010 and Relegate in 2018
  7. Nina Carberry – Jockey (now retired)
    The most successful female jockey at the Cheltenham Festival with six winning rides in total
  8. Lisa O’Neill – Jockey
    Won at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival in the JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup aboard Tiger Roll,

Trainers who have trained two or more winning horses at The Cheltenham Festival in the last 15 years:

  1. Venetia Williams – Trainer
    The most wins by a female trainer in the history of National Hunt Racing and trainer of six Cheltenham Festival winners in total
  2. Rebecca Curtis – Trainer
    Trainer of six Cheltenham Festival winners in total
  3. Emma Lavelle – Trainer
    Trainer of two Cheltenham Festival winners in total, with Paisley Park entered in the 2019 Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle this year
  4. Jessica Harrington – Trainer
    Winning trainer of the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup and trainer of 10 other Cheltenham Festival races

Pioneering women in racing, specifically in regards to The Cheltenham Festival:

  1. Henrietta Knight – Trainer
    Seven victories at the Cheltenham Festival in total, with Best Mate winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on three consecutive occasions
  2. Jenny Pitman – Trainer
    The first female trainer to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Burrough Hill Lad in 1984 and winning trainer of seven other Cheltenham Festival races. Widely renowned as ‘one of national hunt’s greatest trainers’.
  3. Caroline Robinson – Jockey (now retired)
    The first female jockey to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival on Eliogarty in 1983
  4. Gee Armytage – Jockey (now retired)
    The second female jockey to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival and the first to win two in one year in 1987

Main picture: L–R: Cheltenham Festival winning jockeys in 2018, Harriet Tucker; Lizzie Kelly and Bridget Andrews, courtesy of Great British Racing.

FURTHER READING:

Have you seen Eclipse Magazine’s Grand National Ladies Series?  – click here.

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12th March 2019 – Day One: Champion Day click here

13th March 2019 – Day Two: Ladies Day click here

14th March 2019 – Day Three: St Patricks Thursday click here

15th March 2019 – Day Four: Gold Cup Day  – click here

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