Female jump jockeys could offer punters better value, says research

Jockey Bryony Frost
Bryony Frost rode Frodon to victory at the Cheltenham Festival in March

Female jump jockeys could offer better value to punters than their male counterparts, research of 1.6 million rides has suggested.

Analysis covering an 18-year period revealed a woman riding a 9-1 chance has the same likelihood of winning as a man on an 8-1 shot.

At this year's Cheltenham Festival, female jockeys won 14.3% of the races.

That's despite receiving 9.2% of the rides, according to statistics gathered at the University of Liverpool.

"The betting public consistently underestimate these jockeys," said report author Vanessa Cashmore.

"This analysis seems to suggest there is a significant difference between the material performance of female jump jockeys and the public perception of their capability."

Her research suggests that a horse ridden by a female jump jockey at a starting price of even money has a 52% chance of winning, although there was little difference observed in Flat racing.

Despite a gradual rise in the number of women competing, nearly half of all racehorse trainers did not use a female jockey on any of their runners last year.

And parity in the number of rides for men and women is unlikely to be achieved for another 50 years on the Flat and almost a century over jumps.

Cashmore, a PHD student at the University of Liverpool who also works for the Northern Racing College, carried out the research, published by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) with support from Women In Racing and the Racing Foundation.

New landmarks in 2019

Horse racing, along with other equestrian sports, holds a unique place in elite-level sport with women competing against men on an equal footing.

It has been a landmark year for female jockeys in the UK and Republic of Ireland:

  • Bryony Frost, aboard Frodon, became the first woman to ride a Grade One winner over jumps at the showpiece Cheltenham Festival.
  • Rachael Blackmore, who rode two winners at Cheltenham, was runner-up in the Irish jump jockeys' title race, which has never been won by a woman.
  • Hayley Turner, on Thanks Be, became only the second female jockey - and the first for 32 years - to ride a winner at Royal Ascot.

"Riding a racehorse requires a high level of skill and strength which are abilities that can be developed by both sexes, with opportunity being the crucial final component," said Women in Racing chair Tallulah Lewis.

"Vanessa's research makes clear that if women have the same opportunities as their male counterparts they can compete very successfully as jockeys, just as they can in any other sphere in racing."

Rose Grissell, appointed to a new role with the BHA last year as head of diversity and inclusion, wants to see more done to support female jockeys.

"As an example, an audit of female jockey facilities at each racecourse is currently being carried out by female jockeys themselves, so we hope to learn where improvements can be made on the racecourse," she said.

Jockeys in numbers

  • Cheltenham 2019 - Male rides: 452 (90.8%)
  • Female rides: 46 (9.2%) Wins: 14.3%
  • 150 different men rode at the meeting, and 15 women.
  • In 2018, female jockeys took 9.5% of all available rides on the Flat and 5.7% of rides over jumps, following an upward trend since 2014.
  • Rides for female jockeys are skewed towards older horses, with women taking 11.2% of mounts on 14-year-olds over jumps but only 1.7% of rides on jumpers aged three, four or five.
  • On the Flat, 15.7% of rides on 12-year-old horses went to women but only 3.2% of rides on two-year-olds.

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