Female jockey numbers are on the rise, with racecourses across the UK now featuring more female races, and initiatives such as the Silk Series helping to promote races specifically for female jockeys.
Held across ‘ladies days’ at 13 different racecourses in the UK, the Silk Series is helping to showcase talent and improve diversity in the sport. The Silk Series is being recognised, winning at the Racecourse Association’s Showcase Awards in November 2017, whilst it was also a finalist at the BT Sports Industry Awards and the Women’s Sports Trust #BeAGameChanger Awards.
This year’s Series, entering its final stages, is proving to be a hotly contested and highly competitive featuring some of the leading female jockeys across the UK as well as some of the stars of the future, including Silk Series Ambassador and up-and-coming jockey Hollie Doyle.
Discussing the Silk Series, she said: “It’s really good because it gives you a chance to ride for trainers that you don’t normally race for on a daily basis, so it helps you to build new connections and it gives people more opportunities.
“It also helps to highlight and showcase the abilities of female riders.”
You’ve just got to get up, get back on the saddle and get on with it
Doyle is enjoying an encouraging season despite a terrifying encounter in June where she was trampled after her horse stumbled, and the barely five-foot-tall jockey was unseated. She faced oncoming horses who trampled and tripped over her, resulting in knocking out her front feet and a badly bruised arm. She came away from that lucky and was back on the saddle ten days later. “You’ve just got to get up, get back on the saddle and get on with it,” says Doyle.
This week, Doyle will be returning to Brighton and hoping to improve on her 100+ career wins to date on Ladies Day of the Marathonbet Festival of Racing, 8-10 August.
She will be up against some of the stars of the Series including Megan Nicholls, who is currently leading the Silk Series leaderboard and claimed a vital victory at Brighton in last year’s race on her journey to success.
Looking ahead to the event, she added: “Brighton gives a great opportunity for lesser grade horses to have a chance. It’s a unique course and some horses that you may not expect to win, will go and win in Brighton because they enjoy the course.
“It’s a very relaxed, scenic and laid-back course, with a nice atmosphere. I can’t wait.”
It’s been a life-long affair with horse racing for the 21-year-old, who has spent her life around horses, which she hopes will continue for many years.
My dream would be to win The Derby, because it’s so prestigious and no woman has ever won it
“I’ve always grown up with racehorses since I was a kid, because Dad had point-to-point horses. So, as soon as I was old enough I took up pony racing and it went from there.” And the Herefordshire jockey has big aims for her career, adding “I just want to ride as many winners as I possibly can.
“My dream would be to win The Derby, because it’s so prestigious and no woman has ever won it. It’s hard to say if it be achieved, but it would be brilliant.
“You’ve just got to work as hard as you can, keep your head down and mouth shut. Take every day as it comes.”
Whilst many might think that a jockey has an easy life, just turning up and riding a horse, Doyle explains that there is much more to it and that time-off is a luxury jockeys don’t tend to have.
Describing a typical day, Doyle continues: “I get up, ride out for someone and then come back and go to the gym where I do general strength and core work mainly. There is no time off, it’s all hard work.
“On a race day, I ride out at the beginning of the day, travel to the races, race and then come home. They are long days with lots of travelling.
“Jockeys spend a lot of time on the road, travelling to races mainly and I would say that I spend a good 25 hours or so a week on the road.”
Ultimately, however, Doyle believes it’s worth all the hard work to be able to ride a winner, something she will be hoping for in Brighton later this week.
Tickets for the Marathonbet Festival of Racing (8-10 August) start from just £15 and are still available across the three days at www.brighton-racecourse.co.uk
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