Study shows punters’ bias against female jockeys despite results

Parity in rides for men and women at least 50 years off on Flat and 100 over jumps

Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore celebrates after riding Minella Indo to win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle race on the final day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore celebrates after riding Minella Indo to win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle race on the final day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

 

The betting public is behind the times in its assessment of female jump jockeys according to a statistical analysis of 1.6m rides over the last 18 years which was released by the British Horseracing Authority on Thursday. The study also suggests that while female riders outperformed their male counterparts at the Cheltenham Festival in March, parity in the number of rides for men and women will not be achieved for another 50 years on the Flat and almost a century over jumps.

Vanessa Cashmore, a PhD student at the University of Liverpool, conducted her research with support from Women In Racing and the Racing Foundation. Her analysis suggests that a National Hunt horse ridden by a female jockey at a starting price of even money has a 52 per cent chance of success, while a 9-1 shot has the same chance of winning as a male-ridden horse starting at 8-1.

Cashmore’s study also found that the use of female jockeys varies widely between trainers. In 2018, for instance, 46 per cent of all trainers did not use a female jockey on any of their runners, while 11.4 per cent of trainers with larger operations – defined as sending out at least 100 runners – did not use a single female rider.

Rides for women are also skewed towards older horses, with female jockeys taking 11.2 per cent of all rides on 14-year-olds over jumps but only 1.7 per cent of rides on jumpers aged three, four or five. This pattern was repeated on the Flat, where 15.7 per cent of the rides on 12-year-olds went to women but only 3.2 per cent of rides on two-year-olds

“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,” Cashmore said. “The betting public consistently underestimate these jockeys. This could be an indicator of negative public opinion about the ability of female riders but also ensures there is value to be found in backing horses ridden by female jockeys in Jump races.

“I hope this research can move us another step closer to altering attitudes towards female jockeys and more importantly, driving behavioural change.”

Three female jockeys – Bryony Frost, Lizzie Kelly and Rachael Blackmore – rode winners at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, with Blackmore adding a Grade One success on the 50-1 shot Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle to her win on A Plus Tard, the 5-1 favourite for the Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase, on the opening day.

As a result, 14.3 per cent of the 28 winners over the four-day Festival were ridden by women, despite only 9.2 per cent of the rides being taken by female jockeys.

That was still higher than the proportion of rides for women in the jumps season as a whole, however, despite an upward trend since 2014. Cashmore’s study found that female jockeys took 9.5 per cent of rides on the Flat in 2018 and 5.7 per cent of rides over jumps. When data from the last five years is included and the trend extrapolated, it suggests that women will take the same number of rides as men in 50 years’ time on the Flat and in the early part of the next century over jumps.

Tallulah Lewis, the chair of Women In Racing, said on Thursday that WIR is “delighted to be able to support Vanessa as she continues her ground-breaking research”.

Lewis added: “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. 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.” – Guardian

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