The Action Replay Column from the January 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
Michelle Payne is the latest female jockey to prove that women can compete on equal terms with men in the saddle. However the form book evidence suggests that her Melbourne Cup success on 100-1 outsider Prince of Penzance will be a false dawn rather than a harbinger of gender equality in horseracing.
Men can continue to expect a near monopoly of the best opportunities in all the main racing nations, and it’s telling that Michelle got her moment of glory aboard a 100-1 shot. If a female jockey is ever booked to ride a hot favourite in a £2 million race, than we could consider whether equality really has been achieved.
Meanwhile, it is sobering to reflect that in the 235-year history of the Epsom Derby; just two runners have been ridden by women, both outsiders.
There continues to be something exotic about a woman taking part in a big race, a depressing state of affairs given that female jockeys have been making headlines at intervals for decades.
In 1993, Julie Krone rode the winner of the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the US Triple Crown, while over jumps; Gee Armytage rode two winners at the 1987 Cheltenham Festival. Three years earlier Ann Ferris had won the Irish Grand National. Kate Walsh became the third woman to win this race in April this year and has also finished third in the Grand National run at Aintree.
Hayley Turner, Britain's most successful female flat-racing jockey has retired at the age of 32, opting for a career change, in broadcasting. She has always taken the view that female jockeys will be used if they can prove they are good enough. Her 42 winners in Britain this year put her 48th in the jockey's league table and is the only woman in the top 50.
Richard Perham senior jockey's tutor at the British Racing School recently said that some trainers and owners 'were still living in the dark ages' in their refusal to employ female jockeys. So it seems.