Inspirational Women in Racing

08th March 2023

On International Women's Day, we are celebrating female trailblazers in Goodwood's horseracing history. 

Enjoying the exploits of female talent past and present, we cast our minds back to inspiring women such as Lillie Langtry and Meriel Tuffnell, who have undeniably shaped proceedings for the present day, pathing the way for jockeys like Hayley Turner and Hollie Doyle. 

Meanwhile, Goodwood Racecourses pioneering work with the Markel Magnolia Cup continues to be recognised for allowing women to overcome prejudice and stereotypes on the world horseracing stage. 

  • Goodwood Racecourse

  • Qatar Goodwood Festival

The Markel Magnolia Cup has moved to Friday of the Qatar Goodwood Festival
Meriel Tufnell

Meriel Tufnell

Meriel Tufnell

Meriel Tufnell has a permanent place in racing history as the first woman to ride a winner under Rules in Britain, achieving her feat on Scorched Earth at Kempton in 1972. In an era when races for women created no memorable impression, it is hard to credit the fuss that accompanied the first all-women's event, the Goya Ladies' Race, 51 years ago.

Despite having a short career that spanned from 1972 to 1975, it was in those three years Meriel rode across Europe and won several races at Goodwood. Dynamic Dan, trained by Bernard van Cutsem was her flag bearer and swiftly became her favourite horse, scoring at Goodwood on two occasions. 

Following retirement, Tufnell helped form, and govern, the Lady Jockeys' Association of Great Britain and continued training point-to-pointers and hunter-chasers. She sadly passed away in 2002, leaving an extraordinary legacy for the sport. 

After her passing, Arena racecourses launched the Silk Series in 2017, for which Goodwood was involved. Named in her honour and dedicated to female apprentice riders, the program existed across the summer, with the winner of the points-based system being awarded The Tufnell Trophy. 

Lillie Langtry

Lillie Langtry

Lillie Langtry

Born on the island of Jersey, Lillie Langtry was a famous actress who became the mistress of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. They remained friends after their relationship ended, and she would advise him on his stables. Under the pseudonym of 'Mr Jersey' (it was not thought feminine to own racehorses), she became a successful racehorse owner herself, scoring a double at Goodwood in 1899 with Merman, winning both the Goodwood Stakes and the Goodwood Cup. 

It was in 2004 that a 14-furlong contest previously known as the Gladness Stakes was renamed the Lillie Langtry Stakes after her. Officially of Group 2 status, it attracts some of the best Fillies and Mares and is contested on the Saturday of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, horses including the likes of Simple Verse, Enbihaar, and Sea La Rosa have all been successful in the £300,000 showpiece. 

Her Majesty The Queen

Her Majesty The Queen

Her Majesty The Queen

Her Majesty The Queen was not only the longest-reigning monarch but also the world's most recognized, respected, and revered supporter of horseracing.

In her lifetime, Her Majesty was twice awarded Britain's champion flat race owner, and over the last seventy years, a multitude of successes on the South Downs included twice winning the Goodwood Cup, one of the foremost tests of stamina in the country.

More recently, her famous purple and scarlet colours have been carried to success by Call To Mind who won the March Stakes in 2017. Seniority was successful in the 2018 running of the Golden Mile, while at last season's flagship Qatar Goodwood Festival, her homebred Wink Of An Eye stormed to victory.

Poignantly, The Queen was a winning owner for the final time at Goodwood during Midweek Racing in 2022. The Clive Cox-trained, Love Affairs landed the fillies' nursery under Adam Kirby – a success that those who were in attendance will look back on and cherish. We remember fondly her enormous passion for racing which endured throughout her reign. 

Hayley Turner

Hayley Turner

Hayley Turner

After being crowned Champion Apprentice Jockey in 2005, Hayley became the first female jockey to ride 100 winners in a calendar year in 2008. 

Longevity in horseracing has undoubtedly set her apart. In 2009, several career highlights included her first Group 1 ride on Barsiba in the Nassau Stakes where she finished fourth to Midday. 

Hayley went on to excel around Goodwood and won one of Britain's most valuable mile handicaps, the Golden Mile on Boom and Bust, in 2011. She said, "There can be no greater thrill than riding at the Qatar Goodwood Festival. It is one of the most unique and beautiful racecourses in the world."

Hayley rode 92 winners in 2015, becoming the first female jockey in history to ride on the Dubai World Cup night and the first UK-based female to ride an International Group One winner.

While she announced her retirement in 2015, she was not on the sidelines for long, and after being appointed OBE at the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to horseracing, she surprised many by returning to the saddle competitively in 2018. 

A driven and passionate sportswoman, to this day, she has ridden 137 winners, and her success is born from pure dedication and hard work. 

Hollie Doyle

Hollie Doyle

Hollie Doyle

With 152 wins in 12 months, Hollie Doyle is the British record holder for the number of wins achieved by a woman in a calendar year. She set a new record for winners ridden in a British season by a female jockey in 2019, and the following year, she came fourth in the Flat Jockeys championship - the best result for a woman to date. To top it all off, in 2020 she was nominated for Sports Personality of the Year where she finished third. 

With a plethora of successes to her name at Goodwood her biggest in a fledgling career came when Trueshan triumphed in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup, the highlight on day one of the Qatar Goodwood Festival. In victory, she commented: "This is one of the best days I've ever had." 

Hollie did not have to wait long for her second Group 1 at the five-day festival when becoming the first female rider to win the Qatar Nassau Stakes in 2022 on the imposing filly Nashwa, a horse on which she had only recently become the first female to win a Classic on at Chantilly in France. 

At some point, Hollie will run out of firsts, but she is widely celebrated as one of the best female riders in horseracing, and for now, the world is her oyster. 

Khadijah Mellah

Khadijah Mellah

Khadijah Mellah

After sitting on a racehorse for the first time just a few months earlier, Khadijah Mellah became a new hero for women in sport, and particularly Muslim women, when generating an unlikely fairytale of winning the Magnolia Cup in 2019 at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.

Riding quietly in mid-division among the 12 runners and coping with the speed generated down Goodwood's five-furlongs, downhill straight, Mellah produced the Charlie Fellowes-trained Haverland with a well-timed run to score narrowly from Land Filly, ridden by Alexis Green, and Clewbrious Company, the mount of Rachael Gowland.

Khadijah was in the midst of her A-levels while learning how to ride a racehorse for the occasion. Her journey from the underprivileged Ebony Horse Club in Brixton to the winner's enclosure at Glorious Goodwood captured the eyes of the world. It served as an inspiring message for women overcoming prejudice. 

Subsequently, The Riding A Dream Academy has been set up to provide a year-long scholarship for young people aged 14 – 18 from diverse and underrepresented communities to increase diversity and inclusion in horseracing. 

Ashleigh Wicheard

Ashleigh Wicheard

Ashleigh Wicheard

As one of the very few black women working in horseracing, Ashleigh has been subverting stereotypes since day one. She took her first full-time job as a groom with jumps trainer Neil Mulholland in 2013 and fell in love with racehorses.

A huge amount of work with young, vulnerable individuals who have turned their lives around with the help of horses has been the focus of her spare time. On several occasions, she had been to prisons such as Wormwood Scrubs to talk to people about positive therapies and equine-facilitated learning, in many cases helping individuals make that jump from the prison cell to working in horse racing.

In 2022, after applying to ride in the Magnolia Cup, Ashleigh took a knee in the Goodwood paddock before the race to promote diversity and boost the profile of black women in the sport. She was the first jockey in British horseracing to signify the gesture, and under half an hour later rode Scott Dixen's Dark Shot to win the race.  

With the pain of institutionalised racism exploding across the world, Ashleigh's work in a predominantly white, wealthy sport is incredibly uplifting. 

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