Diary of a point to pointer: Woman jockey proves a winner all round

Winged Farasi finally rewarded our patience when cantering up at Sedgefield on Tuesday. Having reverted to hurdles after a spell on the flat, he jumped impeccably. I hope he can maintain full throttle before the handicapper reins us in.

The Smash-Block syndicate (named by some enthusiastic cricketers) were out in full force. I assumed it was to cheer their beloved horse home after his consistent performances recently. But as the blonde 23-year-old woman jockey approached our party in the paddock, the giddy schoolboy grins and strong aroma of aftershave told me otherwise.

I had booked a woman conditional jockey to ride Winged Farasi since, like many horses, he seems to go sweetly under a feminine touch. Gemma Gracey-Davison had travelled six hours from Sussex, a journey few lads would be prepared to do for one ride.

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Thankfully my quirky pony was like putty in her hands (ditto the owners) and never gave us an anxious moment. At 10-1 pockets were filled. I now have free scotch eggs for a year after the village delicatessen owner admitted he had "backed the socks off it" when I went for lunch next day.

It is incredibly frustrating as a trainer to see so few women taking to the professional ranks in jump racing. Obviously women are different, a fact which time won't alter and like it or not but they have plenty to offer the jumping world.

Flat racing has seen much progression due to the likes of Alex Greaves, who paved the way for Hayley Turner – the 2005 Champion Apprentice and the first woman jockey to ride 100 winners in a year – among a growing number of others.

"A good lady jockey is one you cannot pick out from the rest of the field," a successful northern trainer explained. With only two female professional jump jockeys registered in the country there is not much chance of the male dominated barriers being removed in the near future. Meriel Tufnell was the first woman to win a Ladies' race under Jockey Club Rules in 1972. She realised the sport needed serious regulation if woman were to be involved, so she founded the Lady Jockeys Association which today plays a vital role.

Not until 1976 were woman allowed to ride as professionals over jumps in England. They suffered constant animosity from the press who referred to them as "jockettes".

Ten years later, Gee Armytage became the first woman professional to ride a double at Cheltenham in 1987. On her retirement she said: "Basically, it went from girl jockeys being on the rise and doing very, very well, to people being terrified to give them a ride."

The foundations laid by these two pioneering females cannot rise any higher until more girls turn professional. There are plenty of experienced and successful amateur women riders, but unless they are encouraged up the ranks attitudes won't change. It is easy to blame trainers for not offering women chances. But who can they use when 70 per cent of our top jump jockeys originate in Ireland?

The answer may come from across the water where Nina Carberry and Katy Walsh hold their own against top pros. They both remain amateurs because that's where the best opportunities lie (amateurs ride the NH flat horses in Ireland).

Maybe Gemma Gracey-Davison will break the mould. I just hope she doesn't get bored of sitting on the motorway.

Jo Foster trains horses at Brookleigh Farm, Menston.