What next for lady jockey?

  • On the final day of Goodwood, Lisa Jones became only the third woman jockey to ride out her claim, with a double win. Then, 24hr later, she registered a first ever winner on the continent, at Magna Racino, Austria. But even after holding off Kieren Fallon (pictured) for the crucial winner number 95 which brought to an end her apprentice days, the hard work for the 21-year-old really starts now.

    Jones must persuade trainers that she is the match of Fallon at level weights. Alex Greaves, the only woman to ride in the Derby, and Emma O’Gorman, her predecessors in graduating to senior ranks before reaching the apprentice cut-off age of 25, benefited at the same stage from powerful backing.

    In the former’s case, there was Mr Alex Greaves, AKA trainer Dandy Nicholls, while for O’Gorman, there was Bill, her father. In contrast, South African-born Jones is far from home support.

    The likes of Willie Musson and Ian Williams, to date the backbone of Jones’s success, are the key. Musson offered Jones a job in 2002 after she managed just one winner from 50 rides. Her first season riding for him yielded 15 winners. She has ridden winners for more than 30 trainers and has bookings in excess of 100.

    “Horses run for Lisa,” says Musson. “She is confident and brave. The next year is going to be hard, but she has a good chance.”

    Jones’s own view is that she has to keep her head down and work hard. Happy, rather than proud, is how she describes her feelings on losing her claim, which proved beyond even Gaye Kelleway, a winner at Royal Ascot but unable to hit 95 winners before reaching 25, even with backing from her late father, Paul.

    A female rider in a class of her own is Julie Krone, who partnered more than 3,700 winners in the US, including a US Classic — the Belmont Stakes on Colonial Affair in 1993 — and a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies win, Halfbridled last year, plus five winners in a day at Saratoga, and more than $80 million in purses.

    She earned her nickname, the Comeback Kid, for returning to race riding in 1993 after breaking an ankle and bruising her heart in a horror fall. In 1995, she broke both her wrists in a spill. She retired in 1999 after 18 years, but returned in 2002 for two seasons.
    Lisa Jones will need all of Krone’s determination in the months ahead.

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (12 August)

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