Well, no, not really

Rachael Blackmore’s victory ends any debate about relevance of a jockey’s gender
Thanks to Blackmore, whether male or female, from now on riders will surely be referred to simply as jockeys

The package of weight versus strength does still vary between men and women. For any given weight we’d expect – expect, human variation can be rather large – a man to have greater strength. Depending upon how important that weight versus strength is in a jockey we might even find women becoming pre-eminent in the sport. Or this might remain as an example of that interesting variation across the population.

We don’t know as yet. It’s going to be interesting finding out, isn’t it?

22 thoughts on “Well, no, not really”

  1. Perhaps horse racing should now abolish the mares allowance whereby certain horses carry between 3-7lbs less weight than their opponents simply due to their birth-assigned gender.

  2. Any form of equestrianism is a team sport and it is the combination that is important. We can look at how it works in Showjumping, where there are plenty of women competing at the same level as men – and beating them.

    Steeplechasing is a mixture of a strong and fearless horse a skilful (and fearless) jockey and a lot of luck. Well done Ms Blackmore an excellent achievement, let’s hope there are plenty more to come.

  3. from now on riders will surely be referred to simply as jockeys

    Weren’t they anyway? I don’t follow racing these days but I don’t recall references to jockettes or jockstresses.

  4. A good level of strength to weight is needed to ride horses, but it’s not the sort of strength that will put you in the top 5% of the distribution where it’s almost all men.
    Balance and suppleness important too. There’s no reason to expect those with exceptional levels of those to be found equally across sexes.

  5. A weird old whinge – never heard of Hayley Turner, Katie Walsh, Nina Carberry or anyone else being called anything other than a jockey or rider.

    Take a bunch of men, all short-arses, and half starve the buggers over a twenty year career, until they’re touching forty. Add in a fair number of broken bones each year. Can’t see this ending well for a lot of women.

    And the wages per ride are shit. So I can’t see it being a particularly attractive career option.

    Anyway – substitutes. If women were an effective alternative for trainers or owners, in terms of wins/prize money per ride, over half-starved short-arsed blokes, then there’d be more women jockeys already. Or, the existing female jockeys would consistently already show that advantage in the stats.

    The jockey’s input to results appear to be fairly marginal, outside of the merest handful (McCoy, Johnson, Dettori, Walsh), almost negligible. Horse, then trainer. And some trainers ability is less in the training, more in successfully spotting opportunities in the calendar.

  6. WRT the career of Ramsay Clark, didn’t Rachael Blackmore play guitar for Deep Purple?

    My first thought reading the OP was to wonder if Ritchie had transitioned…

  7. It’s nothing to do with their gender, it’s biology, it’s due to their sex.

    “I’ll call myself Fred and wear trousers, bingo! I have greater weight and stronger muscles.”

  8. The Pedant-General

    ” Take a bunch of men, all short-arses, and half starve the buggers over a twenty year career, until they’re touching forty. Add in a fair number of broken bones each year. Can’t see this ending well for a lot of women.”

    This. Especially for jumps racing.

  9. In Sweden female jockeys now outnumber male ones:
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09523360601157206

    This (old) paper suggests that in the US female jockeys are discriminated against and earn fewer rides relative to their skill and potential
    https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ssj/12/1/article-p96.xml

    This paper suggests that the betting public generally do not significantly discriminate (bet against) female jockeys (they find female jockeys are 0.3% more likely to win that the odds suggest), but there is more discrimination in jumping where female jockeys are less common:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268115000062

  10. Saw her on the news this morning, was refreshing how when the BBC journo kept crowing on about the victory for feminism she brushed it off and said her gender had never caused her any issues (paraphrasing).

  11. Clever horse owners: “I really want win win that race and the $100,000 prize. I have a stable which leaves no stone unturned in training and care of horses. We get every ounce of weight we can off the jockeys. Nevertheless, we deliberately choose male jockeys for shits and giggles”

  12. Ken – the Swedes stage 70 race days per year. In the UK, the only days with no racing are Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. This may not be a useful comparison, particularly given that it may be entirely on the flat. Not much of a jumps culture in the US either. And the US flat courses are markedly different from UK and European, as far as it goes.

    There is a quote from Lucy Alexander to the effect that trainers and owners are unwilling to see the female hired help get injured. Overt freedoms, covert securities?

    Don’t know much about Blackmore, but Walsh and Carberry come from racing families.

  13. Blackmore comes from a completely non-racing, non-horsey family, which is a genuinely noteworthy achievement.

    One advantage women do have as jockeys is that the average female will have to do far less wasting to make the weight than the average male. That’s massive, and what will drive the numbers of female jockeys as much as anything else.

    But, I remember back in the mid-80s standing by the last fence at Plumpton and seeing Penny Ffitch-Heyes suffering a fall from a notoriously bad jumper called Hettinger. Penny was good – she won a lot of races around places like Plumpton, with Manhattan Boy being a particular favourite. But Hettinger used to get rid of top male jockeys for fun, so there was little chance of it letting Penny get around unscathed.

    The thing that’s remained in my mind from the fall that day is seeing Penny crying on the turf afterwards. It made horrible viewing, and ever since then I’ve just never been comfortable with the idea of women jockeys.

    Don’t get me wrong – if a horse’s connections employ a female jockey, and a woman wants to do it, then good luck to them. I really mean that. But I just have a feeling of discomfort about it, and I can’t shake it.

  14. Paul in Somerset

    I have the same issue with lady boxers, I find it voyeuristic ( although not have this with TaeKwonDo types). Perhaps they could solve this by filling the rings with custard or making them fight in squirrel suits.

  15. Blackmore comes from a completely non-racing, non-horsey family, which is a genuinely noteworthy achievement.

    Interesting to learn – Yes, I’d agree completely. Good on her.

    “One advantage women do have as jockeys is that the average female will have to do far less wasting to make the weight than the average male. That’s massive, and what will drive the numbers of female jockeys as much as anything else.”

    That was my thinking as well – women should (generally) have a height/weight advantage over men. However, I don’t believe that strength or any “typical” male advantage comes into play much – specifically, it’s the ability to “read” a race, or come up with a plan given the going, track and the opposition, and either stick to it, or change it on the fly – that gives certain jockeys a consistent-ish edge(*). No good reason to assume that women would be any better or worse at that than the men.

    But I’m not convinced the height/weight advantage will act to attract more women to the role – more that existing incumbents might get more rides, which is not quite the same thing as more bold type, but then this has probably already happened, back when Turner & Co were still riding (some as apprentices, admittedly). So, I’m back to assuming race reading and planning is more important, and get stuck as how women might be inherently better at it than men.

    “ever since then I’ve just never been comfortable with the idea of women jockeys”

    Fair enough. Breaking my own personal collarbone on a regular basis is definitely not for me, but I don’t really care about anyone else taking that risk. Their problem. But, please try not to do it when I’ve backed the nag you’re on.

    Hettinger, Manhattan Boy and Penny Ffitch-Heyes : Bloody hell, that’s a bit of blast. I can remember running a bit of a pot on when Hettinger would fall over. Bit of a stewards one day whether ditching the rider counted or not. Odd watching that horse, after a while you couldn’t really see why the little sod kept getting the entries.

    (*) Or one that lasts just long enough to get better access to better horses.

  16. I don’t see how we can possibly say she is the first woman, there could have been any number of women jockeys over the years hiding their authentic selves due to society’s transphobia.

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