Ascot – The wait for a female jockey to ride a second winner at Royal Ascot now stretches back 32 years but Hayley Turner has predicted women will soon make a breakthrough despite a paucity of riding opportunities at the Flat’s premier meeting.
Bryony Frost, Lizzie Kelly and Rachael Blackmore stole the show with winners at March’s Cheltenham Festival, but that top-level success over jumps has not yet been replicated on the Flat.
Nowhere has that been more evident than at Royal Ascot where Gay Kelleway’s Queen Alexandra win on Sprowston Boy in 1987 remains the only one by a female rider.
Just nine rides at an average SP of 41-1 were given to women at last year’s royal meeting, but Turner, who has recorded three placed efforts from 36 rides at the meeting, said: “Since I came back to riding it’s been great to see the standard of female jockeys rising massively and I think that’s making things easier for all of us.
“Rides at big meetings will come in time, but it’s not going to happen overnight and we should be grateful for how far it’s come already and certainly not panic. There will be opportunities in the future without doubt because the standard is always increasing.”
Almost a 20-year veteran of the weighing room, Turner is encouraged by the further emergence of young apprentices and conditionals whose development, she believes, is critical to widening the pool of top-tier female riders.
She said: “The numbers are getting bigger and the opportunities are coming. It’s happening now, but it does take time for these things to change.
“I don’t think the girls are getting restless about it and we need to remember it’s hard for all the guys as well. It’s difficult for anyone to get rides at Royal Ascot.”
Hollie Doyle, who partnered Ortiz to finish runner-up in the Sandringham Stakes last season, is one of two female Flat riders in the top 20 on wins in Britain this year, along with Nicola Currie.
Doyle said: “It’s going the right way. Ascot is the top level with only the best jockeys in the world riding there and female riders are working their way up the list to get into that top bracket.”
By the numbers: female riders at Royal Ascot since 1989
10 placed finishes since 1989
9-2 best SP for any female-ridden runner
21 rides for female riders in 2012
1 ride for female riders in 2016
36 rides for Hayley Turner
2 placed finishes in Group races
“I don’t think there is any negative feelings towards female jockeys now, it all feels very normal and we’re all riding on a daily basis with the guys.”
Since Kelleway’s success in 1987, only 10 women have managed to finish in the places at the royal meeting, but in 2012 a sharp spike led to 21 rides by female jockeys.
That figure is now something of an outlier, and while asserting that no bias exists against female riders, Kelleway is puzzled as to why racing was not able to build on that landmark season.
“We seemed to hit a sweet spot where a lot of girls were getting fantastic chances, but that seems to have died a death a bit,” the trainer said.
“I can see that they don’t seem to get the same rides anymore, it almost seems like female riders have gone out of fashion a bit and I’m not sure why, but I don’t think there is any bias against them from trainers.
“However, what is sad is that you can still count the top female riders on one hand. You just have to hope that they keep coming through and eventually getting the chances.”– Racing Post.com