Aintree Racecourse and Women in Racing (WiR), supported by Women in Sport, are delighted to welcome the return of the Grand Women’s Summit to the venue on Friday 8th April 2016, which is Ladies’ Day. The first event of its kind held in 2015 was hailed a huge success with more than 115 delegates attending the informative, educational and entertaining networking event.
Aintree Racecourse has had its fair share of successful women associated with the Grand National over the years, with trainers, owners and jockeys alike making their mark on the blue-riband event.
Here is a look at some of the names down the years, both past and present.
Jenny Pitman (Retired Trainer)
“Mrs P” or “the cuddly one” as she was affectionately known retired from training racehorses in 1999, but not before she had left some of her training legacy upon the Grand National too.
Jenny Pitman trained Corbiere to a memorable Grand National win in 1983 and then achieved the same feat two years later with Royal Athlete. She was denied a third victory in 1993 with Esha Ness when the race was voided because of two false starts.
It wasn’t just Pitman’s record in the race that made her a household name, but also her very visible prominence in the nation’s perception of the event.
She had at least one runner in the Grand National every year from 1981 up until her retirement, and her on-screen chemistry with the BBC’s sports anchorman, Des Lynam, was a joy to behold for millions of viewers watching at home.
Venetia Williams (Current Trainer)
Venetia Williams is the only female trainer to have saddled a Grand National winner who has also ridden in the race. She fell at Becher’s first time when riding 200/1 chance Marcolo in 1988 and trained 100/1 shot Mon Mome to score in 2009.
Incidentally Williams was knocked unconscious riding Marcolo in the Grand National and her riding career ended when a fortnight later she broke her neck riding at Worcester.
Her strength as a trainer however is her attention to detail and the fact that she never gives up on a horse. When she gained her revenge on the Aintree course in 2009 by training 100–1 shot Mon Mome, it was the longest priced winner of the race for forty-two years.
Williams currently has the following horses entered for the 2016 Grand National on April 9 but several are unlikely to make the cut. Her entries for the race are: Aachen, Summery Justice, Katenko, Emperor’s Choice and Saroque.
Rebecca Curtis (Current Trainer)
Rebecca Curtis would become just the third woman in history to train a Grand National victor should either of her two runners, O’Faolain’s Boy or The Romford Pele, conquer the marathon trip on Merseyside.
Curtis’ popular staying chaser Teaforthree, described as the “horse of a lifetime” by Curtis herself was retired in 2015 after finishing a career best third in the 2013 running Grand National.
Rebecca Curtis is so highly thought of that Irish millionaire JP McManus, one of the most famous owners in racing, has several runners placed with her.
Should her two runners come back to the level of form they have showed in the past then they certainly have an outside chance.
Kerry Lee (Current Trainer)
Just like Rebecca Curtis, Kerry Lee will be hoping she can emulate Pitman and Williams and bring home a Grand National victory.
In her rookie season, Lee has had the midas touch with an absolute plethora of big race Saturday winners coming in.
Lee will be hoping that her Saturday “specials” extend to the biggest Saturday of all on April 9th when she will saddle up Bishops Road should the horse make the cut.
Katie Walsh (Current Jockey)
Katie Walsh is currently the Grand National’s female ambassador, a roll she continued with into 2016 after first being appointed in 2015.
Walsh has recorded the best position by any female rider in the history of the race, riding Seabass, trained by her father Ted, to finish third in 2012. She also won the Irish Grand National 2015 on board Thunder And Roses for trainer Sandra Hughes and owner Gigginstown house Stud.
Nina Carberry (Current Jockey)
Nina Carberry is the most experienced of all the Grand National female riders, having finished the course on four of her five starts, her best result being placed seventh on Character Building in 2010.
Nina and Paul Carberry became the first brother and sister to ride in the same National in 2012 and Katie and Ruby Walsh achieved the same feat in 2013.
Charlotte Brew (Retired Jockey)
In 1977, at the age of 21, Charlotte Brew became a history maker as the first woman to ride in the Grand National.
Brew rode her own 12-year-old chestnut called Barony Fort (200/1), surviving the first circuit before falling at the fourth last, when tailed off.
Geraldine Rees (Retired Jockey)
Geraldine Rees became the first woman to complete the course in 1982 when riding a horse called Cheers. The pairing managed to finish the race in eighth and last place.
Rosemary Henderson (Retired Jockey)
Rosemary Henderson, who was dubbed “the galloping granny”, finished fifth at the age of 51 on her own horse, Fiddlers Pike (100/1) in 1994.
She subsequently wrote a book, ‘”Road To The National”, about her famous exploits.
Tarnya Davis (Current Jockey)
Tarnya Davis rode Numerate in the 1989 as far as the 21st fence before pulling him up in 1989.
Davis subsequently married trainer, Oliver Sherwood, who rode in the race a few times himself, and the pair have now successfully trained a Grand National winner together with Many Clouds taking the honours last year.
Many pundits and former female jockeys believe a female ridden winner of the Grand National is imminent and certainly on the horizon.
With the current crop of female riders we have around at the moment, names such as Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh, Lizzie Kelly, Lucy Alexander, Brodie Hampson, Megan Carberry, Bridget Andrews plus many other of their contemporaries being just as able, the wait for a female winner might not be that far off.