FEMALE jockeys are underestimated by the betting public when they may be more likely to win than men, research has found.
Vanessa Cashmore, a PhD student who has been part of the senior management team at the National Horseracing College, presented the findings of her research on female jockey performance at the Racing Foundation’s horseracing industry conference on 30 September.
“We’ve seen the likes of Rachael Blackmore and Hollie Doyle, and that females can hold their own at the very highest levels of the sport, and might assume male and female jockeys are seen as equal and judged on their merits,” she said. “But do we really believe females can equal males in race riding?”
Ms Cashmore said females held 26% of licences last year, a figure that has stayed fairly static, but that more of these are amateur than professional licences. This could be choice, or trainer or owner bias could also be behind the difference, and she added that females only get 9% of rides.
So she looked into female jockey performance, adding that this is hard as it is difficult to separate horse and rider results. But the researchers looked at 20 years of race data, from 69,000 races, and compared horses’ starting odds, so the probability of their results, to where they finished.
“We found horses ridden by female jockeys had a greater probability of winning that those ridden by males, if they go off at the same odds,” Ms Cashmore said. “This suggests females are underestimated by the betting public.”
The researchers also look at horses who did not win, considering how much a rider improved their performance by finishing higher than the odds would suggest.
“Again, we saw females finishing better than predicted,” Ms Cashmore said.
“Clearly there’s some gender bias here. It’s hard to compare performance when there aren’t many female jockeys and they’re not on the favourites, but it’s possible female performance is improving, and the market isn’t catching up. But the most underestimation is in the last four years, so I’m hedging my bets and saying it’s outright discrimination.”
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