A history of all the female jockeys to have competed in the Grand National

Tiger Roll eases to National victory

Though the Grand National has been around since 1839, women have only been able to compete in the year’s most famous horse race since 1977, following the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

In many of the years since that point, females have been jumping on the saddle and competing within the male-dominated event. Here, we take a look at all of the female jockeys to have taken part in the Grand National and their individual stories…

Charlotte Brew (1977, 1982)

As the very first woman to compete in the Grand National, Charlotte Brew made history. Her debut in the race saw her horse Barony Fort actually refuse to take part, but when she made a return in 1982 with Martinstown, she reached the fourth-to-last fence before being unseated. Though she never got to finish the Grand National, she paved the way for female jockeys and has cemented a legacy within the sport.

Jenny Hembrow (1979, 1980)

Jenny Hembrow entered the Grand National on her horse Sandwilan twice, but after falling in 1979, the steed refused to finish the race the following year. This was a trend that continued in 1981…

Linda Sheedy (1981)

Linda Sheedy only entered the competition once, and unfortunately her horse Deiopea refused to finish the race. Sheedy passed away aged 57 after suffering from a brain haemorrhage in 2010.

Geraldine Rees (1982, 1983)

Geraldine Rees was likely raising a glass following her first entry into the Grand National on her horse Cheers, as she became the first female jockey to finish the race! Coming in eighth, Rees was welcomed back in 1983 on a different horse, Midday Welcome, but unfortunately they fell and didn’t allow the jockey to repeat history.

Joy Carrier (1983)

Riding King Spruce in her single Grand National entry, Joy Carrier was unfortunately unseated at the very first fence!

Valerie Alder (1984)

Riding Bush Guide, Valerie Alder was doing a great job at the start of the race but her horse unfortunately fell at fence number eight, known as the Canal Turn.

Jacqui Oliver (1987)

Jacqui Oliver rode Eamon’s Owen in the 1987 race, but the infamous Chair fence saw her unseated; a shame, as she would have made a brilliant winner with starting odds of 200/1!

Penny Ffitch-Heyes (1988)

1988 saw a record three women compete all in the same Grand National! Unfortunately for Penny Ffitch-Heyes, she and her horse Hettinger would fall at the very first fence.

Venetia Williams (1988)

Venetia Williams did a little better riding Marcolo, but would fall at Becher’s Brook, fence number six.

Gee Armytage (1988)

Then there’s Gee Armytage, who looked very likely to be the second woman ever to finish the grand National. Unfortunately, she and her horse Gee-A were pulled up at the 26th fence, bringing her hopes of finishing the race to a close.

Tarnya Davis (1989)

Though she’d make it through a huge chunk of the race on her horse Numerate, it wasn’t to be for Tarnya Davis who was pulled up at the 21st fence. Fortunately for the female jockeys of the future however, their bad luck was about to end…

Rosemary Henderson (1994)

Rosemary Henderson has only ever competed once in the Grand National, but she did an amazing job on her horse Fiddlers Pike in 1994, finishing in fifth position overall and setting a standard for all those female jockeys to come in later years.

Carrie Ford (2005)

Fast-forward 11 years, and we got another brilliant performance from Carrie Ford and her horse Forest Gunner. They echoed Henderson’s success, finishing in fifth place overall.

Nina Carberry (2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016)

Forest Gunner would return to the Grand National in 2006, but with a new jockey in Nina Carberry. She took the steed to ninth place, before improving her position and finishing in seventh on Character Building in 2010. The duo would return in 2011 but place 15th, and Carberry’s luck seemed to run out when she was unseated in both 2012 and 2016 with horses Organisedconfusion and Sir Des Champs respectively. Don’t forget her 2015 race though, in which she got past the finish line on First Lieutenant, finishing up in 16th.

Katie Walsh (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)

Carberry’s record of competing in six Grand National races was echoed last year by Katie Walsh. She’s an incredibly talented jockey and somebody who has been fancied as the first female Grand National winner on a number of occasions. Though she’s never got to the finish line first, she set a new record for highest placing in 2012 on Seabass, when the pair came in third. She’s finished every Grand National race she’s been in bar one in 2016, where she was unseated riding Ballycasey.

Bryony Frost (2018)

How? Just how? 😲 Bryony Frost 👏

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Making her Grand National debut in 2018, Bryony Frost rode Milansbar all the way to the finish line and ended in fifth place. There are high hopes she’ll be making a return to the course this year on Present Man following Frost’s win of the Badger Alex Trophy at Wincanton late last year. Could we have our first female Grand National winner in 2019?

Rachael Blackmore (2018)

She may have fallen during her 2018 debut on Alpha Des Obeaux, but Rachael Blackmore is a sensational talent. Whether or not we’ll see her again this time round remains to be decided…


By FemaleFirst


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