Josephine Gordon was undoubtedly one of the stars of 2016, her breakthrough season taking her all the way to the apprentice jockeys’ title. This year, without her claim, brings her into ‘difficult second album’ territory but with the backing of rising force Hugo Palmer, the future looks immensely promising for the 23-year-old.
With a select band of riders taking more rides than ever before – as discussed in Howard Wright’s column on page 28 – it’s becoming harder for the younger brigade to break in to the elite. It’s a credit to Gordon’s hard work, drive and talent that she is now making such an impact.
Hayley Turner set the benchmark for female jockeys in Britain, proving that women could be just as good as men if given a fair crack of the whip. At her best, Turner was a top-ten rider, and although her form dipped in the latter stages of her career, the woman who partnered three winners at the highest level remains an inspiration to a younger generation. Asked for her biggest influence in the saddle, Gordon is unequivocal.
“Hayley Turner set the bar so high for us girls,” she relates (Talking To, pages 36-40). “We all look up to Hayley because she is the first girl who has competed with so much success. She has been there and done it at all levels.
“I’d love to achieve half of what she has done. She has been a real eye-opener for the rest of us, the standard bearer who has given us all a goal to aim for. Hayley is a proper role model.”
Having booted home 87 winners last year, Gordon now has her sights set on making her mark in the better races – preferably on TV, which would help to boost her profile further.
She has drive and talent and dispels the myth that women lack strength in the saddle
She says: “Last year the aim was to ride 100 winners, but now I am after quality rather than quantity. I want some nice winners, big handicaps and Group races if possible, preferably on ITV.
“Now that I have joined Hugo Palmer’s stable he can take me to the next level. Hugo has got the ammunition, some really nice horses that will give me a good chance of realising my immediate ambitions.”
One of the biggest charges levelled at women jockeys – and a view that is still prevalent – is that they lack the strength in the saddle needed to be competitive at the top level. Anyone who has watched Gordon ride will know that she will not fall short on that score.
With Godolphin also seemingly an admirer of this nascent talent, it must be hoped that Gordon can herself, in time, prove an inspiration to those following behind her, backed up by the likes of Hollie Doyle and the returning Sammy Jo Bell. As Lizzie Kelly proved at Aintree on Tea For Two in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl Chase, all the girls need is a chance.
Aintree’s sparkling three-day fixture saw Colin Tizzard gain ample compensation for a blank Cheltenham Festival. His five winners included three Grade 1s with Fox Norton (The Big Picture, pages 16-23), Pingshou and Finian’s Oscar, all partnered by man-of-the-moment Robbie Power, now first jockey to Ann and Alan Potts.
Power also claimed the Irish Grand National on the Jessica Harrington-trained Our Duke for the Cooper Family Syndicate, defying the might of Gigginstown, which supplied 13 runners.
The Grand National may not have attracted an impressive audience figure on ITV (see news, page 10) but it did see a star performance from Derek Fox and the Lucinda Russell-trained One For Arthur. His hold up ride rightly took the plaudits as Scotland celebrated its first triumph in the big race since 1979.
In this issue we also celebrate the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association turning 100. Tony Morris (pages 42-46) tells the fascinating story of how the TBA was established at a time of great change for Europe, in an era when the Jockey Club very much ruled the roost in the sport.