Hollie Doyle's path to Lincoln success at Doncaster paved by Alex Greaves
When Northallerton’s Alex Greaves did the same, back in 1991 on David Barron’s 22-1 outsider Amenable, there were few women riders in the sport, let alone ones enjoying any real success.
But just under two minutes later, Greaves had ridden her way into the history books with victory in the one-mile race at the meeting viewed as the traditional start of the new Flat turf racing season.
Greaves, who was featured on the QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Fame website as a trailblazer for women in racing as part of International Women’s Day last month, told The Yorkshire Post: “It was a great day.
“He went in, probably overlooked to be fair. He had won his last three races, admittedly two of them were claimers, but in those days you could run them in those because nobody cared or claimed them.
“He had won a Class 2 the time before at Lingfield and although we were transferring his form back to turf, he was very fit off the all-weather.
“You don’t go in there thinking you are going to win. It was a prestigious race at the start of the season, probably a bit more hyped up than it is these days.”
Greaves, now 54, and still riding out every day at Tim Easterby’s Great Habton stables, continued: “I was delighted to win, probably didn’t expect him to do it in the way he did. He actually had a bit in hand and maybe it was a bit more significant than we thought as he never actually won again.”
Amenable came from a fair way back on Town Moor to put himself and Greaves in the record books, overhauling Mick Easterby’s St Ninian (8-1), ridden by Mark Birch, and Band on the Run (20-1), the mount of Frankie Dettori, to prevail.
She said: “David [Barron] was always able to get one ready and he got in off a nice low weight. I don’t think Mark Birch was very impressed. They had been quietly fancying that for weeks and I think a few fingers got burnt! Well that was the story Mark told, God rest him.”
The horse was owned by the late Geoff Spinks and Greaves was always grateful too him for his support.
The former rider went to Leeds Polytechnic and admits she had no real aspirations for a career in the sport.
She said: “I never really set out to do riding as a career, I was just an amateur with a love of riding. I didn’t put any pressure on myself, which probably helped.”
Her early successes on the all-weather for Barron in particular, earned her the nickname the “Queen of the Sands" and she became the first female apprentice to ride out her claim.
Greaves was married to the late Sessay handler David “Dandy” Nicholls who was known as the “Sprint King” who trained 1,269 winners before retiring in February 2017, shortly before his untimely death that June aged 61.
Greaves set another couple of ‘firsts’ with Nicholls, becoming the first woman to ride in the Derby in 1996 on the rank outsider Portuguese Lil.
The following year she became the first woman to ride a Group 1 winner in Britain when Nicholls’ Ya Malak dead-heated with Coastal Bluff in the Nunthorpe Stakes in York.
Now the likes of Doyle, Turner, Joanna Mason, Faye McManoman, Nicola Currie, Josephine Gordon and many more are viewed on their ability to ride, rather than their sex.
“Hollie is ‘just a jockey’. There isn’t any difference when you are competing at that level which is great to see,” said Greaves.
"But it is like everything, it takes someone to break down the barriers. With retainers and agents and things, racing as an industry has moved on.
“I had a great career, I can’t complain at all, I rode all over the world and it was fantastic.”