Whither the women trainers on the Flat?
Whistlejacket asks why are women trainers so under-represented on the Flat
Although women trained horses before 1966, even if their husbands held the licence, it was not until then that the Jockey Club was forced by the Courts to allow women to apply for a licence to train horses. And, even now, women trainers are in a significant minority.
It is interesting that it is far easier to name top women trainers over jumps than over the Flat.
Henrietta Knight, Jenny Pitman, Venetia Williams, Sue Smith come to mind easily enough but on the Flat in England and Ireland only Jessie Harrington (who is a dual-purpose trainer and made her name over jumps) and going back a bit Mary Reveley, really spring to mind.
Why should this be? I think part of the answer is due to the nature of Flat racing as a business like any other large capitalist enterprise. In the wider world there are very few women at the top of businesses so why should that be any different in Flat racing, where at the top level the money to be made from breeding is key.
And maybe owners and breeders are still reluctant to trust women to deliver the return they want.
One day Godolphin and Ballydoyle will have women trainers but not in my lifetime.
Of the most recent Flat trainers at the top level I think Criquette Head-Maarek (pictured) has to be number one. To train the dual Arc winner Treve, who had significant training problems leading up to her second Arc, was an amazing achievement. But it wasn’t just Treve.
She also won the French 1,000 Guineas no less than seven times, had wins in the French 2,000 Guineas and the Prix du Jockey Club, won the Prix de Diane three times and for good measure stormed over the Channel to win the 1000 Guineas four times at Newmarket.
She showed amazing patience with Anabaa who did not win until he was four, but then won the July Cup and the Prix de Maurice de Gheest/ Then she trained Special Duty to win the 1,000 Guineas both in France and in England.
On both occasions Special Duty was second but was then elevated following a Stewards’ Enquiry. It is good to be a lucky trainer too!
I also think that Jessie Harrington deserves a mention. She is better known as a jumps trainer but has had some top wins on the Flat in recent years particularly with the wonderful Alpha Centauri who was a real star!
This horse did not have the opportunity to show how good she was because of injury but her four Group ones including the Irish 1,000 Guineas and a stunning Coronation Stakes victory at Royal Ascot, marked her out as special.
I think she could have gone on to have a career as a filly in a similar way to Frankel had as a colt, had injury not cut short her career. Harrington, unlike Head, who retired last year, is still a trainer to be feared in the top races on the Flat.
I just wish I could think of another English or Irish woman trainer able to get the ammunition to follow in her footsteps.
More from Whistlejacket
Looking back at the 2000 Guineas http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3L8