Turf Club has no plans for allowances for female jockeys

Irish Jockeys Association says to replicate French move could be discriminatory

The Turf Club has no plans to replicate French racing's introduction of a 4.5lb (2kg) allowance for female jockeys and the Irish Jockeys Association has said it can't see a similar initiative ever being considered here.

France Galop will bring in the controversial measure next month for almost 90 per cent of its races. The exceptions will be pattern races, both on the flat and over jumps. It is designed to encourage and support female riders in France.

There has been a mixed reaction to the move, with British champion apprentice Josephine Gordon labelling it "a bit offensive". Others have welcomed it as an opportunity to create greater career opportunities for women who want to become jockeys.

Leading conditional jockey Rachel Blackmore has made a major impact among the professional National Hunt ranks in Ireland this season, and she said on Sunday: "If anyone's going to give me an allowance, I'm not going to say no."


However the Turf Club's chief executive Denis Egan has said no such plans are in the pipeline for Irish racing.

“There are no plans to replicate it,” said Egan. “There is a European doctors meeting at the end of February, where I’d imagine it will be up for discussion. There will also be an international conference in relation to jockeys’ health, safety and welfare, which I chair, at the end of October, where it will be discussed too. But it’s not on our agenda at the moment.”

That won’t be a surprise to the Irish Jockeys Association which has described the possibility of a similar move here as potentially discriminatory.

"I can't see that being brought in here. It's anti-competitive and any male jockey would be entitled to feel it is discriminatory against him. Legislatively, I would imagine there would be significant difficulty with it," said the IJA's spokesman, Andrew Coonan.

“We weren’t aware of this as it hadn’t been discussed. Usually these things are discussed at international level, but it wasn’t this time,” he added.

France Galop is French racing’s ruling body and it aims to see more of a balance between male and female jockeys riding in races. It is the first such move instigated by a major racing nation. Currently, approximately 15 per cent of jockeys riding in France are female.

Blackmore has also indicated she will appeal a five-day suspension imposed on her under ‘non-trier’ rules at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

Blackmore rode the Ellmarie Holden-trained Look Closer in a maiden hurdle and told the stewards the horse jumped “novicey” and ultimately “emptied in the straight”.

Holden confirmed the instructions and said she was satisfied with the ride. The Turf Club’s veterinary officer reported the horse was lame on a back leg after the race. The stewards decided Rule 212 had been breached and fined Holden €2,000 as well as suspending Look Closer from racing for 42 days.

On Sunday, Blackmore had to settle for the runner-up spot on Sutton Manor in the handicap hurdle won by Isleofhopendreams, although Katie Walsh later went one better in the three and a half mile Grand National Trial when guiding BaieDes Iles to an all-the-way success.

Walsh rode the mare for her husband Ross O’Sullivan, who nominated Newcastle’s marathon Eider Chase in three weeks’ time as a next target and said: “That’s what she wants; three and a half miles on soft ground. Katie gave her a brilliant ride.”

Walsh, who beat her brother Ruby on Sambremont, added: “She loves that ground and keeps galloping and jumping. She’s a lovely mare, only six, and hopefully there can be a couple of more days in her.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column