A PhD student at the University of Liverpool Management School named Vanessa Cashmore has conducted some analysis into the betting patterns of punters when it comes to female jockeys in jump racing. She looked at more than 1.6 million rides over an 18 year period and discovered that female jump jockeys are being underestimated by bettors, perhaps because of negative opinions by the public surrounding the abilities of female jockeys.
At the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, for example, female riders took part in 9.2% of all available rides and won 14.3% of the total number of races. The public not giving female jockeys due respect will please bookmakers the more races that they win, given that it means they’ll be paying out less money to bettors.
It will disappoint those behind Women In Racing, who sponsored the bursary to look at the phenomenon but will likely give them hope that the tide will start to turn. This is even in spite of Brony Frost winning the 2019 Ryanair chase, becoming the first woman to ride a winner in a grade one race over jumps.
‘Interesting To Understand’ How The Public Sees Female Jockeys
British Racing’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Rose Grissell, responded to the study by saying that it was ‘interesting’ to be given such insight into how the betting public tends to perceive female jump jockeys. The Diversity in Racing Steering Group has made the progression of female jockeys in both jump and flat racing one if its key priorities, looking at how both ‘conscious and unconscious attitudes’ can be changed in the future.
Grissell pointed out that the number of rides being given to female jockeys was improving all the time, but that there is ‘still a long way to go’ before any sense of parity has been introduced to the industry. She also drew attention to the ‘barriers’ that stand in the way of female jockeys at ‘every stage’ of their careers. She mentioned that female jockeys are currently carrying out an audit of the facilities available to them at the various racecourses around the UK and Ireland, which will help the Diversity and Inclusion team learn how to make improvements.
PhD Will Help ‘Inform Future Decision Making’
The University of Liverpool offers an MBA in Thoroughbred Horseracing Industries, of which Neil Coster is the Director of Studies. He said that the work being done by Cashmore, who has only just started her PhD, will be focussed on ‘a number of key topics’ and will help to deliver what he’s referred to as ‘insightful research’ into those areas. That will in turn ‘better inform future decision making’ within the industry. Coster believes that future students on the Thoroughbred Horseracing Industries MBA will be inspired by the work that Cashmore is currently doing.
The student herself is hopeful that the work she’s doing can ‘move us another step closer to altering attitudes towards female jockeys’. She also hopes that it ‘drives behavioural change’ moving forward, altering the ways in which people treat and talk about female jockeys both within the industry and from the public. Given that the project has been supported by both the Racing Foundation and a bursary from Women In Racing, the Northern Racing College’s Work Based Learning Manager is understandably keen to see her work given due respect.
Betting Public ‘Consistently Underestimating’ The Female Jockeys
Cashmore has looked at the analysis that she’d carried out as part of her work and believes that it suggests a ‘significant difference’ between the perception that the public has of a female jockey’s ability and the ‘material performance’ that she puts in on the track. That lines up with what Grissell said about there being plenty of work to do for female jockeys to break down the ‘barriers’ that currently exist, stopping them from succeeding. One of the things that surely needs changing is the way in which female jockeys are looked upon by the betting public.
The PhD student also wondered why it was that members of the public tended to underestimate female jockeys when sitting down and thinking about their bets. She considered the fact that it might be a sign of the public having a ‘negative opinion’ about their ability. She was also quick to point out that it does mean there’s value to be found in backing a horse ridden by a female jockey, considering that a female rider on a mount valued at 9/1 was as likely to win on a male horse with odds of 8/1. In the constant battle between the bettors and the bookies, that might just give people in the know a slight edge.
The Chair of Women In Racing, Tallulah Lewis, announced that the organisation was ‘delighted’ to be supporting Cashmore in her work via their bursary. She pointed to the fact that the work was likely to be ‘ground-breaking’ as a key part of the reason for their support, which chimes with Coster’s assertion that it will help to deliver ‘insightful’ research.
Lewis was keen to draw attention to the fact that riding a racehorse needs ‘skill and strength’, which both sexes have the ability to develop and that ‘opportunity’ was the main thing separating male and female riders. She feels that Cashmore’s work is proof that women ‘can compete very successfully as jockeys’ as long as they’re given the same opportunities as men in all spheres of the profession.
‘Insight For Future Decision Making’
The project being taken on my Cashmore will provide ‘insight for future decision making’ according to the Chief Executive of the Racing Foundation, Rob Hezel. He was speaking about the fact that the Foundation has funded placements on the MBA in management placements, as well as funding a PhD that is aimed at creating a pathway for training and development in racing.
The hope is that this sort of work will help to ‘support future leaders’ in the sport of horse racing. The fact that the work being done by Cashmore ‘supports work on diversity and inclusion’ makes it of particular interest, according to Hezel. The Racing Foundation has previously supported research and work in that area, which went on to be the catalyst for activity in that area within the racing industry. It was a sign of the numerous projects supported by the Foundation ‘coming together’.
In a further sign that times may be changing at Goodwood in 2019 a female muslim jockey became the first to ride in a race wearing a Hijab.