Nina Carberry Katie Walsh
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Female Jockeys in the Grand National

| 11.04.2015

There aren’t many sports where men and women compete on a level playing field. Horse racing and the Grand National buck the trend.

Not only do female and male competitors battle it out against each other in the present day. They’ve been doing so over for over 40 years, since Charlotte Brew became the first woman to ride in the Grand National aboard Barony Fort in 1977.

More and more female jockeys have competed both in the race and at the highest echelons of the sport ever since.

No woman has yet won the Grand National, although the endeavour of the likes of Lizzie Kelly and Bryony Frost in winning Grade 1 National Hunt contests suggests a first female winner isn’t far away.

Will a female jockey win the Grand National in 2019? Only time will tell.

Famous Female Jockeys in History

In total there have been 17 female jockeys throughout history to compete in the Grand National.

Five of those have competed in the race multiple times, with Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry holding the joint-record for most attempts with six.

The aforementioned Charlotte Brew started things off in 1977. Unfortunately she couldn’t become the first female jockey to finish the race after Barony Fort refused four from home.

That distinction goes to Geraldine Rees and Cheers in 1982, who finished 8th. 

Future Grand National-winning trainer Venetia Williams also didn’t get round the course as a jockey when falling aboard Marcolo in 1988.

In the modern era, Walsh and Carberry are the female jockeys most synonymous with the Grand National. Both have gone close to winning the contest, with Walsh 3rd on Seabass in 2012. 

Top 3 Female Jockeys in the Grand National

Katie Walsh

Walsh’s place finish aboard Seabass in 2012 makes her the most successful female jockey in Grand National history.

The pair tracked the leaders throughout and took the lead two from home before relinquishing it to Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhillboy in the closing stages.

Another subsequent tilt with Seabass, and then Vesper Bell, Ballycasey, Wonderful Charm and Baie Des Iles haven’t proved quite as fruitful.

Nina Carberry

Carberry has never managed better than 7th in the Grand National. But the daughter of Tommy was a consistent presence in the race prior to her retirement in April 2018.

The County Meath-rider has ridden Forest Gunner, Character Building (twice), Organisedconfusion, First Lieutenant and Sir Des Champs in her six attempts.

Although she may not have won the Aintree Grand National, she has won both the Irish Grand National and the Foxhunters’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Charlotte Brew

Brew may have been unsuccessful twice round the Grand National course. But there’s a special place in history for the woman who started things off all the way back in 1977.

After Barony Fort refused in her first attempt, Brew came back for another tilt in 1982.

Unfortunately it ended in similar disappointment, with Martinstown failing to finish the race after unseating Brew at the third fence.

Female Jockeys in the 2018 Grand National: How did they do?

A total of three female jockeys had rides in the 2018 Grand National. Katie Walsh boasted the most promising booking aboard the gorgeous grey and 16/1 shot Baie Des Iles.

Ross O’Sullivan’s charge completed two circuits but never really got into the race. The then-seven-year-old saw his challenge go awry when hampered at the second Valentine’s, eventually rolling home 12th – the last of the finishers.

Bryony Frost and Milansbar put in the best performance of the female-piloted riders. The 2018 Midlands Grand National runner-up gave a stout staying performance to finish 5th at 25/1.

They eventually finished 33l behind the leaders, but did pick up place money for each-way backers.

Irish hotshot Rachael Blackmore didn’t have such luck with Alpha Des Obeaux. The 33/1 pairing bit the dust along with Final Nudge and Chase The Spud when faced with The Chair at the 15th.

Female Jockeys in the 2019 Grand National

2019 could be another bumper year for female jockeys in the Grand National, with Frost, Walsh and Blackmore almost certain to gain rides.

Lizzie Kelly could also join them, along with Gina Andrews, who tends to ride for Dan Skelton. 

With more female jockeys at the top level than ever before, it’s a sound bet that we’ll see more and more challenging the men in the Grand National in years to come.

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Nick Murphy