Warwick Racecourse improves facilities for growing number of female jockeys

Warwick Racecourse has become one of the first race tracks in the country to install more changing rooms and improve its facilities to cater for the increasing number of female jockeys.

The number of female jockeys riding in professional horseracing has been on the increase for the past two decades.

"The priority is a level playing field for male and females," said Warwick general manager Tommy Williams.

"The emergence of females in the changing room is increasing," he added.

"And we have to match the facilities to suit that.

"Obviously Rachael Blackmore has done a huge amount for the sport over the last few years, winning the Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle and, on the flat, Hollie Doyle has made remarkable headlines.

"They've always been able to compete on a level playing field in what is an elite sport, and are treated no differently to the men, but, with all the high-profile success they've had in recent years, there's no reason why you can't go forward into the future and be more prevalent."

According to figures from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) the ratio of male riders to female riders, taking into account apprentice and conditional jockeys, averages out over 2023 now as two thirds male to a third female.

A far cry from four or five decades ago when Charlotte Brew became the first woman to compete in the Grand National, in 1977, followed by Geraldine Rees becoming the first woman to complete the course at Aintree on Cheers, in 1982 - all since eclipsed by Blackmore's victory on Minella Times in 2021.

Similarly, on the flat, although Doyle is yet to win one of the five British classics, she has had a string of Group One successes and classic wins abroad, becoming the first woman from outside Australasia to ride in the famous Melbourne Cup this week. And she and Hayley Turner, now within one of becoming the first woman to ride 1,000 winners, lead an increasingly competitive squadron of professional female jockeys.

After a BHA-led initiative, Warwick are following the example of courses like Brighton, Leicester and Worcester, where an entire new development is under construction.

"We've increased the space of the female changing rooms to allow for 12 jockeys," added Williams. "Rather than the four that we initially had last year.

"And we've stripped down two of our hospitality boxes to create a rest room, a physio room and designated warm-up area. "

"It works really nicely," said Herefordshire-based Tabitha Worsley, one of the 55 jockeys attending Warwick for the first day of this week's two day meeting. "Now we just need the rest of the tracks to hurry up and do the same."

Warwick will hold further meetings on 22 November and 12 December, before the annual New Year's Eve meeting - which attracts crowds of close to 10,000.