A rider is set to make history today as she becomes the first transgender jockey to race on a British course.
Victoria Smith, formerly known as Vince Smith, rode more than 250 winners during a career as a professional jockey between 1983 and 2000 and also enjoyed success as a trainer between 2003 and 2008.
Victoria, who announced her transition publicly earlier this year, is riding Roy Rocket in the Pertemps Network Jockey Club Challenge charity race.
The race, at Warwick racecourse today (Wednesday, 23 May) starts at 5.45pm and is in aid of Your Local Air Ambulance, which covers Derbyshire, Leicestershire Rutland, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire.
She rides eight-year-old grey Roy Rocket for trainer John Berry.
In a recent interview with Rishi Persad on Racing UK’s Luck On Sunday, Victoria spoke about her journey.
“[Every day for a year] I said to myself: ‘I don’t regret anything I have done in my life, but if I don’t do this and I go to my grave tomorrow, would I die regretting [not doing it]’ and every day I said ‘yes’,” she said, adding that her close friends and family have been very supportive.
She said telling the first person what she was going through was “like being released from prison”.
Journalist Emma Berry, wife of Roy Rocket’s trainer John, said the race today will be a “special reunion”.
“Vince Smith rode John’s first winner as an owner,” she wrote in her blog.
“[This was] Witchway North, trained in this stable by Hugh Collingridge to win a selling hurdle at Fontwell in February 1994 at 50/1, narrowly beating the Martin Pipe-trained 5/4 favourite Nanquidno, ridden by Vince’s good friend Richard Dunwoody).
“Remarkably Vince rode another 50/1 winner three years later: Supreme Illusion, owned and trained by John, in a claiming hurdle at Plumpton.
“Vince Smith is now Victoria Smith, and the old team will be reunited at Warwick.
“When it became clear that Victoria, having previously ridden approximately 250 winners as a man, was keen to get on the scoreboard as a woman, John was keen to help if possible.
“Happily, Roy Rocket’s owner Larry McCarthy is also very supportive of the project, and Roy should give Victoria a good ride on this special occasion.
“The pair of them have got to know each other well over the last few months with Victoria coming in to ride Roy out on a regular basis.”
Warwick racecourse’s general manager Andre Klein told H&H the racecourse is delighted to be supporting the air ambulance.
“The service they provide for those in the region is hugely valuable and I hope that we can raise a substantial amount of money to support them,” he said.
“We wish all the riders, including our clerk of the course, Jane Headley, and the first transgender jockey, Victoria Smith, the very best of luck.”
While the charity race does not come under British Horseracing Authority Rules, the organisation has wished her good luck ahead of her return.
“We would like to congratulate Victoria on her return to the saddle for this charity race, and we are delighted that she has received such support from those involved in the racing industry,” a BHA spokesman told H&H.
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