Over the stable door: Female jockeys long overdue recognition

Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds.
Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds.
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Could it be women jockeys are finally receiving the recognition they deserve?

Hayley Turner, the first woman to win a Group One outright and ride 100 winners in a year in 2008, was awarded an OBE on Tuesday. Along with her family she went to Buckingham Palace where the Queen, for whom she has ridden four winners, presented Hayley with her award for services to racing.

“Her Majesty giving me rides at the point in my career that she did helped the girls in racing, because other owners and trainers were sure to follow suit,”Hayley said.

“The whole day has been brilliant. To have Her Majesty the Queen doing it was a big bonus. We had a brief chat. She asked about my mum who has rehomed some of her racehorses.”

The 33-year-old retired from race riding last November and is set to take up life in front of ITV cameras when the channel takes over racing coverage from Channel 4 in January.

Congratulations go to another top jockey this week - our newly crowned champion flat jockey Jim Crowley. The 38-year-old broke the record for most winners ridden in a month with 46 flat victories in September, but began his career over jumps in Yorkshire.

Eighteen years ago he began working for Sue Smith in Eldwick as an unusually confident 20-year-old amateur. A few years later he turned pro and rode 300 jumps winners before, due to his feather weight, he gave the flat a try.

I still rode out on occasion for the Smiths during the time Jim was based there and have spent more hours than I’d care to remember hacking across Baildon Moor listening to Jim, Dominic Elsworth, Paddy Aspell - another former jump jockey now based on the flat - and a variety of other gifted lads discuss their winners and losers, conquests and defeats, loves and lucky escapes.

Then, Jim had started dating the lovely Lucinda, daughter of the great Guy Harwood who trained Dancing Brave in the 80s. Lucinda would visit most weekends, leaving her family home - the well-manicured, state of the art Coombelands stables in Sussex - to stay with Jim in his draughty accommodation on top of an exposed windswept moor.

Upon arrival she would usually be handed a horse to ride out before having to jump in the car and trail to some obscure northern jumps track to watch her beau ride.

Lucinda is a kind, genuine girl and great fun. She was, and still is, arguably the sweetest, most eligible filly in racing with a pedigree any jockey or trainer would fight to claim as his wife. Jim knew he’d hit the jackpot. The lads would often joke he was punching way above his weight.

One day as we rode back up the gallops he told me his first ride over jumps came after persuading a trainer he’d ridden winners in Irish point to points, “when in actual fact I’d never ridden in a race in my life”. Such confidence has never wavered and after being crowned the 2016 champion 38-year-old Jim explained: “It is beyond my wildest dreams. To come from jumping and do this is just madness.”

Lucinda and Jim now live in Sussex with their three children. I’m as delighted for her as I am for Jim. I’m sure that without her support he wouldn’t have managed such an amazing feat.