With the Aintree Grand National just around the corner (10th April) I’m sure we’re all starting to put thought into our selections. It’s a race that grabs everyone’s attention and whether you’re picking through skill or gut feeling, we’re all in with a shot of our selections winning over such a challenging and unpredictable course. Despite there being a 7/2 favourite this year (Cloth Cap) there are no guarantees in the Grand National.
There’s often so much more to a race than the event itself though. Katie Walsh in partnership with Betway, offers an illuminating take on the challenges faced by female jockeys over the years. We all like to think (naively perhaps) that people are recognised solely by their merits, but that is often not the case and sometimes even getting a foot in the door to begin with is a major hurdle. Considering the long history of the Grand National it’s actually rather shocking that it took the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 before a female even took the reigns in the event.
The very first women jockey in the Grand National was Charlotte Brew in 1977, with Geraldine Rees becoming the first woman to actually complete the race (in 1982). Visibility in the sport eventually led to greater achievements. Success followed for both Rosemary Henderson and Carrie Ford in the 90’s and 00’s, both placing fifth. Indeed it was Walsh herself who took these achievements to the next level in 2012 by finishing third on Seabass.
Three women jockeys are taking part in the 2021 Grand National, demonstrating that there is no turning back the tide now. Perhaps not this year, but it is surely now only a matter of time before we have our first female Grand National winner, in this, the ‘sport of kings’.