I don’t think there is anything quite so stressful as looking for a lost item of diamond jewellery – although someone, who knows about these things, has pointed out to me that the larger they are, the easier it is to find them. Silly me…
Not that the jockey who wins the Banks Lyon Jewellers Lady Jockeys Handicap Hurdle Race, on Saturday 18th July, is going to have much to worry about. The diamond pendant necklace that has been provided by the sponsors is beautiful, big and very sparkly. It also has a retail value of £5,000.
The jockey’s prize, which will be theirs to keep, comes on top of the £10,000 prize money for the race – making this race the most valuable opportunity over obstacles to be restricted to female riders in Britain. Curiously, although this will be the fourth year that we have staged the event, there have been comparatively small fields for the previous editions and I’m hoping that the addition of a bit of sparkle will make all the difference. We have 27 coat hooks in the lady-jockeys’ changing room and they are possibly the most under-utilised facilities on the entire racecourse.
Many people have asked why it is that there are so few female jockeys in the sport – and in trying to answer the question, several commentators have been accused of sexism. I don’t know if appealing to lady riders by offering diamonds is sexist - so, I’m walking a fine line here. All I can say is that most of the male jockeys wear tights and that their changing area includes access to a kitchen and a laundry room, whereas the lady jockeys’ area has neither – so perhaps we should put the gender stereotypes aside for a moment.
Being a jockey is not all about riding, if it were there would probably be far more female jockeys than male ones – closer to the ratio of riders in other equestrian sports. Each jockey is a mini-business: they have to keep expenses, pay expensive insurance policies and promote themselves. Many jockeys (of both sexes) struggle to win rides, never mind races. When fashion dictates that male jockeys are more popular than female ones, it can be a tough career path for the most ambitious of girls.
And then there is also the risk factor. Talk to any mother – life changes when you have kids. It changes for fathers too, but something tells me that men with children are less risk averse than women in the same situation. If most of the top lady jockeys retire early (especially over jumps), the number of mature female role-models in the weighing room is bound to be limited.
For this week’s selection, I’m going to suggest that you keep an eye on a 3lb claimer, Samantha Bell, at Hamilton Park where she has five rides. Samantha has ridden 21 winners from 111 rides this season (a strike rate of 19%) and her best chance on Saturday may come with Mfiftythreedotcom.
On the following Saturday, 18th July, we stage Cartmel's most valuable race of the season - the £26,000 Totepool Cumbria Crystal Cup. There'll be prizes for racegoers too: the top BBQ chef (in a Ready Steady Cook style of competition) and an award for the most stylish picnic or barbecue. But the event I'm most looking forward to is the Banks Lyon Jewellers Lady Riders Handicap Hurdle - it's a diamond encrusted showpiece for our sport.
A kiss on the hand
May be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl's best friend.