Record Of Female Jockeys In The Grand National
As Katie Walsh bids to become the first female jockey to win a Grand National and forever solidify her name into the history books, we look back on the record of female riders in the National and how they have faired to date.
In it’s history only fifteen different female jockeys have taken to the Aintree Grand National fences and the first to break the glass ceiling was in 1977 when Charlotte Brew partnered Barony Fort going off at a very outside 200/1. Success was not on the cards and he refused four out and it was two years before another woman took her chances.
That was in 1979 when Jenny Hembrow, the first female jockey to ride in two Grand Nationals, rode Sandwilan who unfortunately fell at the first.
Another year later and he got another shot, in 1980, and for the second year in a row went off at 100/1 but pulled up at the 19th fence.
The 1980’s saw a terrific spell for the female jockeys and in 1981 Linda Sheedy went off at
100/1 on Deiopea before he too refused at the 19th fence so it was up to Geraldine Rees, in 1982 to become the first woman to actually finish a Grand National and she did it by finishing in 8th place on board Cheers who had gone off at 66/1.
Five years on from her historic debut at the Grand National, Charlotte Brew was back in the saddle on board Martinstown in 1982 and again, at outrageous odds of 100/1, took to the fences only to be unseated at the third.
One of the most famous faces in National Hunt Racing took her chances in 1988 when Venetia Williams, winning trainer of Mon Mome in 2009, paired with Marcolo alongside Gee Armytage and Penny Ffitch-Heyes in another ground breaking year as it was, and still remains, the only year in which three female jockeys competed in the Grand National. But none completed the course and the following year when Tarnya Davis pulled up at the 21st, the first dry spell for female jockeys descended on Aintree.
It would be five years before Rosemary Henderson made history by becoming the highest placed female jockey in the Grand National, finishing 5th on Fiddlers Pike and another 11 years before another woman went to the National to equal her record.
That was the legendary Carrie Ford whose partnership with Forest Gunner saw her go off as the shortest odds female jockey in the race at 8/1. Until that year the shortest price for a horse with a woman on board was 28/1 in 1983 with the majority of the others at least 100/1 or more.
But Carrie Ford saw off her detractors and brought home a victorious fifth place behind the ultimate winner Hedgehunter before retiring as a professional jockey, passing the mantel to Nina Carberry to duly rode Forest Gunner the following year to ninth place.
It would be another four years before she got the opportunity to ride again and this time, in 2010, it was Character Building. By now female jockeys were more common place in National Hunt racing and neither bookies nor punters were so quick to dismiss them out of hand, so odds shortened a great deal with Nina going off at 16/1. She finished seventh and once again made history by becoming the first woman to successfully navigate the course on two separate occasions with two different horses.
And the record breaking continued for Nina Carberry, when in 2011, once again on board Character Building, she was the first female jockey to ride and finish in three Grand Nationals and not content with that she was back in 2012 riding Organisedconfusion, a firm punters favourite who went off at 20/1.
But it was Katie Walsh who defied all the odds to finish in third place on the much loved Seabass for her father and trainer Ted Walsh in 2012 that finally brought some real glory to the women of racing. An incredible display of strength and skill, Katie Walsh made history that day and with three weeks to go until the fingers are firmly crossed that the amazing Seabass, with the equally wonderful Katie Walsh on board, can finally close the book on the ‘Can-they-can’t-they’ question about a female jockeys’ ability to win a Grand National.
The Unofficial Guide To All The Major National Races. Visit http://www.grand-national.me.uk for more information.