Women Getting the Jump on Men at Cheltenham: Female Riders Miles Ahead

"Michelle Payne with horse Prince of Penz" (CC BY 2.0) by PreciousBytes

Horse racing fans descend on Cheltenham every year in March for one of the biggest National Hunt events in the world. The home of world champions, iconic trainers, and legendary jockeys since 1860, the annual four-day festival commands attention whatever your equestrian preferences.

Against the odds

As ever, the latest Cheltenham odds are littered with top prospects and seasoned stayers, including Gerri Colombe, who was tipped at 5/4 in the 2023 Broadway Novices Chase. Riding the top tips are, as you’d expect, some of the top male jockeys in the business. However, something that often gets lost in the mix is the fact women have ridden at Cheltenham.

In fact, if you look through the 2023 Cheltenham horse race betting markets, you’ll see the name Rachael Blackmore. Racing fans will be familiar with Blackmore’s name as she became the first female rider to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2022. Blackmore’s stunning victory A Plus Tard shone a spotlight on females in the sport and, in 2023, she’s going for it again.

Golden Girl Blackmore

Blackmore is riding A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup, as well as other horses throughout the festival, including Captain Guinness and Western Diego. As it stands, Blackmore is the darling of Cheltenham and, indeed, the racing world at large. Her momentous Gold Cup win in 2022 showed Blackmore can ride and win on the biggest stage. That’s inspiring.

Blackmore isn’t the only woman who made a mark at Cheltenham. Although female jockeys, such as Michelle Payne, are more common in flat racing, their presence in the jumps world has been steadily increasing.

Caroline Beasley was the first to show women can jump just as well as men. Beasley won the 1983 Foxhunters Chase on Eliogarty. Next to push the boundaries was Lizzie Kelly. Kelly was the first “professional” female jockey to compete at Cheltenham when Kelly rode Coo Star Sivola in the 2018 Ultima Handicap Chase.

A History of Women in Racing

A14I8127.jpg” (CC BY 2.0) by MBandman

Bryony Frost is possibly the most recognizable name in female jump racing other than Blackmore. Frost rode and won at Cheltenham in 2017 as an amateur then returned in 2019 to win again as a professional on Frodon. Other notable names blazing a trail at Cheltenham and beyond in recent years are Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry. Along with their peers, they’ve shown that women can leap over any barriers to entry and climb to the top of racing.

This is important to remember. The achievements of women in racing are often overlooked, particularly at events like Cheltenham. Rachael Blackmore’s Gold Cup win in 2022 couldn’t be ignored and won’t soon be forgotten. However, Blackmore isn’t the only one to enjoy success at the highest level in jumps racing.

Women are more than capable of competing with men in the saddle, whichever saddle that may be. Now, with recent success stories inspiring other women getting into the sport of racing, we could see more record-breaking wins in the next few years.

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