Most of us are very familiar with the leading ladies of the Horse Racing world including Hayley Turner, Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh as well as new kid on the block Lucy Alexander. And though these ladies have made phenomenal strides into a very male-dominated sport, their predecessors are often forgotten glass ceiling-breaking heroes of the sport.
Here we take a look at just four other female jockeys who have made their mark and written their names into the history books of the Grand National.
Charlotte Brew – Two Grand National Rides
In 1977 Charlotte made history by becoming the first women to compete in the Grand National. At the age of 21, riding her own 12 year old Barony Fort and starting at 200/1 she had a decent ride, until he refused four fences from the finish. She had previously managed one circuit at Aintree when placed fourth in the 1976 Fox Hunter’s Chase. She rode regularly in point to points and had been given Barony Fort by her parents for her 18th birthday. Her achievement was somewhat overshadowed by Red Rum gaining his record third victory in the race but his trainer ‘Ginger’ McCain, was quick to air his less than complimentary views on women riding in the Grand National. Charlotte entered the race again in 1982 riding Martinstown but was unseated at the third fence.
Jenny Hembrow – Two Grand National Rides
Two years later Jenny rode Sandwilan in the 1979 Grand National but failed to advance the cause of women jockeys. 11 year old Sandwilan, given bottom weight and priced at 100/1, fell at the first fence as many before had done but in doing so gave the ‘no ladies in the Grand National’ brigade plenty of ammunition. Another experienced point to point rider, Jenny rode Sandwilan again in the 1980 Grand National but after a prominent run early on the 100/1 chance was pulled up at the 19th fence.
Linda Sheedy – One Grand National Ride
In 1981, Linda a mother of twins, became the third woman to ride in the Grand National when she rode the 100/1 shot Deiopea, who was never in the running and refused at the 19th fence. It was the year Bob Champion had his memorable victory on Aldaniti. She was the first woman to ride in the Welsh Grand National and also rode in the Scottish Grand National. A great animal lover and another experienced point to pointer, sadly she died in 2010 aged 57, after suffering a brain haemorrhage.
Geraldine Rees – Two Grand National Rides
At 26 years of age Geraldine has the distinction of being the first woman to complete the Grand National course. At the fifth attempt by a woman, she rode the 66/1 priced Cheers to eighth and final place in the 1982 race. The following year she was not so successful and fell at the first riding Midday Welcome, she retired from racing and took up a career in training in Lancashire.