First female to judge this year’s Oaks

Jane Green FRAS shares an uplifting and fascinating insight into her career journey, judging responsibilities and taking on a prestigious role at this year’s Epsom Derby meeting. Thank you Jane and best wishes from WiR!

It is always a privilege to take the proverbial ‘hot seat’ – the Judge’s chair – in horseracing but on 31 May this year it will be an enormous honour for me to judge the 2024 running of The Oaks, not only because it is the historic Classic for fillies but because it falls to me to be the first female in its 245-year-history to do so. Wow!

I could never have dreamed that one day little old Jane Green would end up in such an important role. When I was aged just five, my mother passed away leaving five children (two sets of twins and a six-month old younger sister). A few years later I was separated from my three brothers and father and with my sister was taken to live in Sussex with our grandparents. I had no confidence, no self-belief and, apparently, was incredibly shy! That is so unimaginable now! But I worked hard at school and college, believing an education would be my ‘ticket’ to a perceived ‘happiness’.

I achieved several international awards for my secretarial skills – which, truly, meant nothing at the time – and thanks to the kindness and encouragement of friends ended up working as a secretary at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London. This was followed by four years as a PA for the Manager of Flight Operations at McAlpine Aviation – an ad hoc business charter airline at Luton Airport – the perks of which were flying in fixed wing and propeller business jets and even taking the controls of a helicopter over Battersea Bridge on the Thames, at night no less! That wouldn’t happen now!

Following that excitement, I then spent sixteen years serving as senior officer on cruise ships travelling the world. It was here that the first of my two major paths in life opened up – astronomy. Sailing beneath the most amazing skies, I developed an interest in this science, studied Degree courses through the Open University and began officially presenting for the passengers. On leaving the sea, I continued with the presenting both on board and ashore and was commissioned to write a book which became a best seller. I was fortunate to participate in the first UK national theatre tour on astronomy, became a regular feature writer for the BBC Sky at Night and presented around the country, most recently for Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic team at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

So where do horses and horseracing fit in?

Horses have always been in my life, from the little girl reading Black Beauty or watching Champion the Wonder Horse, to being chastised for getting home late from school because I had chosen to wander in a field of horses instead! But for some reason the possibility of actually learning to ride was never on my radar. My involvement with horses began with gaited American Saddlebreds. In 1990 my ‘adopted’ mother/mentor – Cheryl Lutring – imported the first five-gaited American Saddlebred into this country from the USA. I thought the high-stepping mare was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. Then I attended the World’s Championships Horse Show in Louisville, Kentucky with Cheryl and just knew I had to have one!

My purchase – a big, bold, boisterous gelding – taught me all I know about riding. Oh boy, did he? There is nothing quite like getting dumped in the sand and eating dirt, several times, for teaching you what needs to be learnt. He had an enormous ground-covering trot. At home he wouldn’t slow down. In the show ring he wouldn’t start! But eventually we sorted it all out and Cheryl invited us to join the UK’s first Display Team and I became the first person in this country to exhibit an American Saddlebred horse harnessed to a show sulky – more ‘pinch me’ moments!

Incredibly, horseracing was never in my field of view. I was a late starter! I answered an advert in the Horse & Hound for the position of Steward’s Secretary. I never sat an interview. I worked two meetings in the Stewards Room at Lingfield racecourse and was told I had the role. Crikey! Racecard? What’s a racecard? But what I did know was that Thoroughbred horses would become a large part of my life.

Fourteen very enjoyable years later they became a much larger part when I transitioned to the role of Judge – the person who watches the horses cross the finishing line, determines the winner, announces the first four horses and places all the other runners before transmitting the official result. If a head or less separates any of the first four then I announce a ‘photo finish’ and work closely with my invaluable Photo Finish Operator (PFO), scrutinising the across-the-line image to identify horses and determine places. Often just one pixel can separate two runners. In rarer cases there are no pixels at all – it’s a dead heat.

It’s a very challenging role, but I am part of a brilliant team. As well as my Photo Finish Operator – also the first female PFO for The Oaks this year – I have the support of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Stewards who have my back.

It can be stressful. I dread making a mistake. But I try to keep focused. Admittedly, the heart pumps faster when judging in poor light in the winter; peering at black and white grainy images to split a heap of horses, or squinting in blinding summer sunshine to distinguish one light-coloured set of jockey silks from another when all appear identical! Or when experiencing a total power failure, losing all camera coverage, recording equipment, televisions and laptops just as the horses are being loaded into the stalls. On such a day, the race finally run but in dire conditions, I remember turning to my Photo Finish Operator, Sarah Stiles, rain-soaked and in semi-darkness, asking what she had recorded. She simply replied, crestfallen, “Nothing”.

The old heart beats faster still when seated in the Judge’s chair at Royal Ascot overlooking that glorious racecourse with its fabulous racehorses and many thousands of spectators. What a view! What an atmosphere! How did that shy girl from Sussex, who would never dare to dream, end up in that chair?

I honestly feel I have been incredibly lucky throughout my life. I have been in the right place at the right time and people have been so kind and supportive. I am part of a great Judges team. I especially owe an enormous debt of thanks to Di Clark, a fellow female judge, whose training ‘got me over the line’. Without her I would not be judging today.

And, finally, without doubt, my heart pounds fastest when I watch our beautiful equine athletes. It is all about the horses for me. Even after twenty years, I still have goose-bumps and my eyes still well up when I watch runners canter down to the start, so beautifully turned out and moving so freely within themselves. What a view! They are simply magnificent. It is ALWAYS an honour and a privilege to watch them. I have never lost sight of that and never will. This year’s fillies in The Oaks will doubtless have the same effect! Will I be nervous? Yes. Will I be excited? Yes. But, afterwards, I hope to be able to turn to my Team Principal, David Hicks, in the Epsom Judges Box with me, and smile, knowing that I have done justice to those beautiful fillies and to the history of this incredible 245-year-old Classic race.

Survey to explore experiences of ethnically diverse communities in British racing

All racing staff, including people from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds working in British racing are being invited to share their views and experiences of the industry through a short feedback survey.

The survey, which can be accessed here and completed anonymously, is now open and will run until Friday 31 May 2024.

It is open to everyone working in British racing, particularly people from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds, as well as those who might have worked with or observed the experiences of their ethnically diverse colleagues.

Commissioned by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and funded by the Racing Foundation, the survey is part of a wider research project to explore the opportunities and barriers that might exist for those from ethnically diverse backgrounds looking to fulfil their potential within racing.

The research is being managed by Plan4Sport and Inside Inclusion – both experts in the diversity and inclusion in sport space – and the feedback provided through the survey will help identify areas for improvement and support ongoing efforts to ensure racing is an enjoyable, safe and supportive environment for all.

The evidence gathered will also inform specific recommendations to help shape the sport’s long-term planning around the recruitment, retention, development and wellbeing of racing’s workforce, which is being led by the Horseracing Industry People Board.

Alongside the survey, racing industry employees are also being invited to discuss their views and experiences with the research team through interviews and focus groups. These will take place in the coming months and provide an opportunity to explore the feedback in greater detail.

Anyone interested in taking part in an interview, joining a focus group or finding out more about the research into the experiences of ethnically diverse communities is encouraged to contact the research team directly via email: horseracingreview@plan4sport.co.uk.

BHA Chief Executive, Julie Harrington, said:

“Racing is a global sport and we are proud that talented individuals from around the world and from numerous diverse backgrounds here in Britain have, for many years, chosen to pursue a career in racing.

“While we have long sought to ensure that racing provides a safe and welcoming space for all, we are aware that we should never be complacent about this issue and so I would encourage people to share their experiences so that we can take steps to give everyone the chance to fulfil their potential.”

Tansy Challis, Chief Executive of the Racing Foundation, said:

“At the Racing Foundation, we recognise the importance of improving our sport’s diversity and inclusion of people and communities from all backgrounds. Only by listening and learning from people’s lived experience can we take appropriate action to create sustainable change in the industry.

“It is crucial that we understand the challenges and barriers being faced and also identify good practice. We are delighted to support the survey and urge anyone working in racing to participate.”

Chair of the Horseracing Industry People Board, Neil Hayward, said:

“The Horseracing Industry People Board is currently engaging with individuals and organisations from across racing and breeding to gather evidence and obtain feedback that will help inform the development of a long-term people strategy.

“This survey is an important part of this process and will help advance our understanding of the opportunities that exist within the sport for people from ethnically diverse backgrounds, but also where they may be barriers to involvement and the need for further support”.

Member Story for Endometriosis Action Month

Our second Member Story as part of Endometriosis Action Month shows the power of awareness and communication in diagnosing the condition. Read on to understand how stage four endometriosis can affect day-to-day life; work, exercise and even sleep.

If you missed our first Member Story you can catch up here.

Member Story

My endometriosis story starts like that of so many others – fainting from pain in school, being put on birth control as a teenager, and being sick from pain in the toilets at work. I had numerous trips to the GP. And numerous times I was told by doctors that I was just unlucky and cursed with heavy and painful periods. As the years went on, I was increasingly having pain outside of my period too. I was unable to lie in bed on my side as it felt like my ovary was going to burst. I was in my 30’s and in my local park running when I realised how bad it had become. I felt as though a burning hot knife was slicing me from ovary to ovary, my last worry being about what would happen to my dog who was with me as I hit the floor and blacked out. I stopped running and exercising. I was filled with fear about how it would affect my physical and mental health and if the pain got so bad that I couldn’t ride my horse any more.
Over a drink one evening, one of my closest friends revealed to me she had been diagnosed with suspected endometriosis. She was convinced I had it too. As she listed off the symptoms, the pieces of the puzzle came together. I went back to the doctors forearmed to push for a diagnosis and was referred to a gynaecologist. The waiting list for an initial consultation was a year. The thought of not being able to exercise and be healthy for 12 months concerned me. And I was worried about being fobbed off by a general gynecologist rather than an endometriosis specialist as I had read was so often the case. I decided I would pay to have a private consultation, which I had within the week.
“From your symptoms, I am almost certain you have endometriosis. It’s not normal, it’s not just ‘bad periods’ and you don’t have to live like this,” I was told. I was in floods of tears hearing these words in the consulting room as it was the first time in over 20 years I felt heard by a medical professional. I finally had an answer for the pain I’d been living with for so long.
Unfortunately, endometriosis often does not appear on scans and therefore it’s a real battle for official diagnosis which can only be done through laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). More often than not, you have a diagnosis and excision (removal of endometriosis) simultaneously. It also means diagnosis alone is expensive for the NHS and this, alongside a lack of specialists and the woeful lack of funding for women’s health issues, makes the waiting list for surgery ridiculously long.
The consultant put me on his NHS list for the operation and I was told that, despite it affecting nearly every area of my life, the waiting list was six years. Endometriosis grows with every period, so that was another six years of the disease growing inside me. If I was already unable to exercise, being sick and fainting with pain, how badly would the disease progress in a further six years? Would I be able to ride my horse? Work? Walk down the road? Even get out of bed?
I was hugely privileged to be able to borrow the £5,000 needed to have surgery privately within weeks with the endometriosis specialist. Despite it not showing up at all on ultrasound scans, my laparoscopy showed I had stage IV endometriosis which is the most severe category. I had scar tissue over both ovaries, sticking one completely flat. My bowel was covered with scar tissue to the extent that one half had been ‘strung up’ and suspended and the other half was stuck to itself. The disease had spread to numerous other organs. My surgeon told me afterwards that if I had left it any longer to have my endometriosis removed, I would have had to have had my bowel re-sectioned and a possible colostomy and a stoma fitted. If I had to wait six years sitting on the NHS waiting list, this would have been the reality and would have changed the trajectory of my life.
I feel an incredible amount of guilt and shame around having my surgery privately. I also have a very supportive employer and a sick pay package which meant I didn’t have to go into debt while taking time off to recover from the surgery. I struggle to read others’ accounts who aren’t in the position to self-fund private surgery without crying tears of frustration at the injustice of it all. Some women are completely debilitated by this disease. Many are unable to work, lose their independence, and can’t get out of bed. And yet because of their personal financial situation and lack of funding in this area, they are forced to wait for years and years for any hope of relief. Endometriosis is suspected to affect one in 10 women and this lack of provision for sufferers is completely unacceptable.
I had to wait 22 years and spend thousands of pounds to be able to live a life not overshadowed by pain. No woman should be in that position. My hope is that an increase in education, such as the brilliant work Women in Racing are doing by raising awareness this month, will give women who suspect they have endometriosis the confidence to advocate for their health with their GP.
Find out more

March is #EndometriosisActionMonth2024 and this year’s theme is ‘Could it be endometriosis?’ Endometriosis UK is raising vital awareness of #endometriosis this month and beyond. 

Find out more at: www.endometriosis-uk.org

Member Stories for Endometriosis Action Month

March is Endometriosis Action Month – find out more below and how you can support friends and colleagues. Read our Member story for an honest insight into living and working with Endometriosis. A big thank you to our members for sharing their experiences with us. The resources at the end show you how you can take action in your workplace to help others.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis impacts 1 in 10 women and those assigned female at birth in the UK, yet so many are still unaware of the condition and its impact.⁠

Getting a diagnosis for endometriosis now takes almost a year longer than before the pandemic, according to new research published in our new diagnosis report for 2024.

For Endometriosis Action Month this year, charity Endometriosis UK is focusing on raising vital awareness of the common symptoms. Improving general public awareness and understanding of the condition ensures that those experiencing symptoms, their friends and family and their healthcare team know to ask ‘could it be endometriosis?’, leading to more prompt diagnosis and access to care.⁠

Read: “Dismissed, ignored and belittled” The long road to endometriosis diagnosis in the UK

Join us and help us demand change for the 1 in 10 women and those assigned female at birth with endometriosis in the UK.

Find out more via Endometriosis Action Month here

Member Story

I fear the diagnostic process for endometriosis.

It’s not a dramatic fear, full of shouting or crying. It’s suddenly finding myself holding the milk carton and having to re-boil the kettle, because I’m not sure how long I was staring into space.

I fear that the nurse I see will make me feel like I’m wasting their time. I know that for them it’s no big deal, they see hundreds of people like me each day complaining about pain. I know I am not an emergency.

As a child I started fainting from heavy periods. They would come out of nowhere and ruin my uniform. I had a covert deal with a dinner lady that she’d throw me a chocolate bar on my way between classes if I looked pale. I was put onto the contraceptive pill.

I went to university and things got worse. I bled every day for over a year while taking daily contraception. I remember being told by a university doctor, as I sat exhausted and depleted in front of him, “Women get periods. It happens”. I was so embarrassed.

Once I started work the pain became the main issue. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours every day was hard and I’d have to move to the floor of the office loos and close my eyes during breaks. I had my first cervical cautery.

I started working from home two days per week. I went to see a GP again and was put on hormone injections. Things went downhill quickly. I couldn’t eat without severe discomfort. I lost weight and ended up 42kg (6 stone 6lbs). I had another cervical cautery.

I saw a female GP. She took me off the injections and put in a coil. The bleeding became manageable and I started to put weight back on, but my abdominal symptoms got worse. I got pain and bloating outside of my monthly cycle that would bend me double and make me look heavily pregnant.

It seemed triggered by anything – stress, going to the toilet, having sex, eating meat.

In early 2023 I was unable to walk properly for 48hrs and was hospitalised with suspected appendicitis. I was released with no treatment after blood tests ruled it out. Two weeks later they decided it was a womb infection and put me on anti-biotics.

In October 2023 I vomited bright red blood and passed out in our bathroom. I was found, hospitalised again, diagnosed off symptoms with stomach ulcers, and sent home with omeprazole.

A month later in November 2023 I started bleeding in my stool, turning the toilet bowl bright red. I was mortified, but eventually admitted what was happening to my partner who took me to A&E. I was referred for a flexible sigmoidoscopy by a doctor at the ambulatory unit. They found no polyps in my lower bowel and I was sent home.

It has been 14 years of symptoms.

I presented this letter to my GP and she referred me to an endometriosis clinic on 9th February 2024. She suspects I have endometriosis in my womb, bowel, and possibly stomach.

The referral letter asks you to chase if you haven’t heard in two weeks. I waited for six. Today I rang them to find out when I might be able to be seen and was told there is a 9 month wait for an appointment, and when I asked what my next step could be I was told “we can’t help you” and they hung up.

You may know people like me without realising it. During the timeline outlined above I passed A-levels, got a law degree, gained four promotions to senior level, and got an MBA. I have a successful career, social life, am physically fit, 30 years old and engaged to be married. I have peace, love, and I am often very happy.

Only my fiancé knows the details of my health. The only work colleague ever to know something wasn’t right was my first ever manager, who let me work from home two days per week so I didn’t have to sit on the bathroom floor in breaks.

I am not here to waste anyone’s time. I know that women can lead successful lives while fighting this battle. I just don’t believe that they should have to.

Resources

To find out more visit Endometriosis UK

Are you an employer?

Find out more about the Endometriosis Friendly Employer Scheme

Read our second Member Story here

BHA announce updated Human Welfare Strategy and Action Plan

about us

This week the BHA announced its updated Human Welfare Strategy and action plan to make racing a safer, more supportive and more respectful environment for all. Women in Racing would like to acknowledge and support the research published by Dr Eleanor Boden PHD, press release from the BHA and the accompanying safeguarding strategy.

We know there are experiences of our members and the women we represent within this research, as well as those outside of our membership, and feel a responsibility to them to ensure that this behaviour is treated with zero tolerance in racing and of course in wider society, and that racing, as a collective is accountable in its needs to drive culture change, to prevent this happening to our current and future workforce.

While we know this is also a wider issue in society, we are determined to support and promote a positive change to the sport’s culture for the current workforce and generations to come.

 

If you need help, support or witness or experience any unacceptable behaviour, please report it to respect@britishhorseracing.com, or call the BHA’s confidential reporting service, RaceWISE on 08000 852 580.

If you need any additional support Racing Welfare’s helpline is available 24/7 on 0800 6300443.

If you are struggling with juggling a career in racing with parenthood Racing Home¹ is a portal that provides information on your rights and entitlements and resources for assistance.

 

 

¹Women in Racing is aware of the struggles of parenthood within the horseracing industry’s workforce. The Racing Home portal launched in July 2022, provides online industry focused information and education around parenthood and parental rights for both the employee and employer. Racing Home is for all parents, working anywhere in the sport and can be accessed at: https://racinghome.org.uk

 

An unprecedented year for international women’s competitions as new audience figures show growth across major sports

Latest figures from the Women’s Sport Trust have revealed that major international women’s sporting events have continued to drive record-breaking audience figures with viewers watching for 9 hours and 58 minutes on average (1st January – 22nd October 2023).  This was driven not only by the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but the popularity of golf’s Solheim Cup and interest in England women’s cricket.

The key highlights from the Women’s Sport Trust report, with data and analysis from Futures Sport & Entertainment, include:

  • The Solheim Cup attracted record audiences in 2023, with 9.5 million hours viewed, in comparison to a previous best of 6.3 million hours in 2021. The event has attracted the highest live average audience for a women’s only sport property on Pay TV this year
  • 33% of Solheim Cup viewers did not watch the Ryder Cup showcasing a unique audience for women’s golf
  • England women’s cricketers achieved the highest audiences on record for an English summer, with 7.4 million viewers watching for 3 minutes or more, in comparison to the previous best of 6.2 million viewers
  • There were almost a quarter of a million online views (234,000) across Facebook and YouTube for the women’s rugby Red Roses series against Canada, despite no broadcaster showing the matches

These figures mirror other successful competitions earlier in the year such as the Netball World Cup which saw the 3 minute+ reach increase from 4.5m in 2019 to 5.6m in 2023 and The TikTok Women’s Six Nations, shown on BBC, which was the most viewed on record with 10.4m viewing hours on UK television in 2023, compared to the previous best of 7.7m in 2022.

Tammy Parlour, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of the Women’s Sport Trust, said: “It’s pleasing to see the growth trajectory in audience figures across a breadth of women’s sport.  Each sport is working hard to build and understand its audience and this work is paying off on an international level.”

The report also highlights a fall in domestic women’s sport audiences across football and cricket proving there is still more to be done in translating the international success into week in week out viewing.

  • The Women’s Hundred has seen average audiences in 2023 fall 15.5% since the inaugural season, although viewing hours did increase by 14.2% year-on-year
  • The opening 10 matches broadcast of the Barclays Women’s Super League across BBC and Sky Sports have seen early season viewing hours fall 25.8% in comparison to the opening 10 games last season, although there has been a decline in coverage hours and one fewer BBC match so far
  • Sky’s average audiences for the Barclays Women’s Super League have declined 20.5% year-on-year, although the BBC have seen a slight increase helped by the second most watched WSL game on record between Arsenal and Aston Villa (average audience of 746,000)

Tammy Parlour said, “We have entered a new phase of visibility, the industry is moving past looking at top line figures and is starting to delve deeper.  This will lead to more understanding of what is going to work on a domestic level to drive further viewership.  Women’s sport could be compared to a start-up and like any new industry needs to be allowed the space to test and learn, to know what is going to work best for this new and exciting audience opportunity.”

Blaithin Murphy appointed General Manager of Wincanton Racecourse

Blaithin Murphy has been appointed as the new General Manager of Wincanton Racecourse, The Jockey Club has announced today.

Murphy, 25, joined The Jockey Club in 2021 and recently completed the trainee General Manager programme.

She will succeed Jack Parkinson who will continue as General Manager of Exeter Racecourse, a post he has held since 2017. Parkinson will focus on operational delivery of Exeter’s rapidly growing conference and events business following a handover process at Wincanton.

Blaithin Murphy said: “”I am delighted to be appointed general manager at Wincanton Racecourse. Racecourse management has always been a career ambition of mine and racing is a lifelong passion. I would like to thank everyone at The Jockey Club who has supported me so far with a special thanks to Jack Parkinson for the time and guidance he has given me.”

Nadia Powell, Small Courses Director at The Jockey Club, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Blaithin as the new General Manager of Wincanton. Her passion for racing and racecourse management is clear and I look forward to working with her to continue Wincanton’s progress in the years to come.

I’d like to thank Jack for his dedication to Wincanton and know he will continue to maximise Exeter’s encouraging growth as a conference and events venue.”

Lucy Gurney, Chair of Women in Racing, added: “Congratulations to Blaithin on this fantastic new appointment. Blaithin is also a key part of the Women in Racing committee, volunteering her time to support the membership of the organisation and drive growth. The committee all wish Blaithin the best of luck as she commences her role at Wincanton.”

New WiR membership system now live!

Women in Racing is delighted to re-launch its membership system using Memberful, with a new website to improve overall user experience.

This much-improved system makes it easier for our members to manage and adjust their membership, improves how we communicate with members and the new website supports easier event booking and simple applications for both the bursary and mentoring programmes.

If your membership has lapsed and you wish to re-join WiR you can join here.

If you have questions, issues or feedback please get in touch with lucy.gurney@womeninracing.co.uk

We need you! WiR Committee Members

wir 10 years

Following the end of term for some of our fantastic voluntary committee members, Women in Racing (WiR) is seeking to recruit new people to join our team:

  • Do you want to support a network of brilliant women working across British horseracing?
  • Do you want to play your part in helping others to succeed, through mentoring programmes, bursaries and the Racing Home programme for example?

Our committee aims to:

  • Bring together a network that represents the broadest areas of the sport, with a commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Combine a range of skillsets to support and grow Women in Racing as the network recovers post-Covid19 and looks ahead to benefitting its members and the sport in future
  • Support, where possible, the career development of our committee members through the varied opportunities presented by our activity.

We need members who are proactive, willing and able to juggle WiR commitments voluntarily alongside their current roles and responsibilities, and excellent team players. Specifically, we need help to look after our mentoring and bursary programmes, support and develop our membership and help us to deliver fun and engaging events for our members.

To apply, simply email lucy.gurney@womeninracing.co.uk

All applications will be responded to and considered carefully by the committee to determine the skillsets most needed by the organisation. Each term lasts three years – up to two terms maximum.

Trailblazing female trainer honoured in Newmarket on International Women’s Day

A forgotten racehorse trainer who was the first woman in the UK to be issued with a training licence in 1886 is to have a race at The QIPCO Guineas Festival renamed in her honour, The Jockey Club announces today – International Women’s Day.

Ellen Chaloner has laid in an unmarked grave in Newmarket Cemetery since her death in 1944, with much of her extraordinary life story unrecorded and forgotten with the passage of time.

But now, thanks to a campaign launched by her descendants and supported by The Jockey Club, the ‘First Lady of the Turf’ will have her name deservedly etched into the history books.

At an event hosted at The Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket on March 6th to commemorate Ellen ahead of International Women’s Day, it was announced that the trailblazing trainer’s contribution to the sport would be marked with the permanent renaming of a race on 2000 Guineas Day, Saturday 6th May.

The campaign has also enabled the purchase of two new headstones to mark where Ellen and other members of the Chaloner family are buried in Newmarket Cemetery, and will make a contribution to Women In Racing’s Bursary Fund to support the professional development of women working in racing today.

Ellen’s family travelled from all corners of the United Kingdom and Ireland to attend the occasion, where a special episode of Stephen Wallis’ podcast, The Paddock and the Pavillion, was recorded in front of a live audience.

Among those in attendance was retired Irish Champion Jump Jockey Charlie Swan, Ellen’s great-great grandson, who said: “When I started riding my mum kept telling me that my great-great grandmother and father used to ride and train horses, but it sort of went over my head a little bit when I was that age. I didn’t really think about it.

“It’s only in the last few years that I suddenly realised where my riding talents probably came from.”

Swan added: “It’s fantastic that Ellen is getting some recognition and hopefully we’ll make it there on the day.”

During the event to honour Ellen’s place in the history of British Racing, a portrait was unveiled which will be on display at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile racecourse.

Osborne House, where Ellen trained, is now home to longstanding trainer Sir Mark Prescott who attended the event and commented: “She was a remarkable woman and she lived in some style. Osborne House, which is there and named after the family, has 10 bedrooms and the cellars are massive.”

He added: “I’m very proud of her. I always tell everybody when they look round at the stables.”

Susie Wilks, Ellen’s great granddaughter was also interviewed during the podcast and said: “She was a very formidable lady but very deaf in her later years – my mother used to say it was always quite embarrassing having conversations with her because most of the racecourse could hear!

“I believe when she was in her later years and in a wheelchair, the racecourse built a plinth for her so she could watch the racing from there.

“We are all very grateful to The Jockey Club and everyone who has made all this possible. It is very humbling and an honour to have a race named after her, especially on 2000 Guineas Day.”

Gay Kelleway, the Newmarket trainer who was the first female jockey to ever win a race at Royal Ascot in 1987, said: “It is fantastic and it’s not just an ordinary race, It’s on Guineas Day and it’s a race for fillies, so it is very appropriate.

“To name a race after her is a great privilege and we mustn’t lose our heritage in horse racing, particularly in Newmarket.”

 

Background on Ellen Chaloner:

Ellen Chaloner (nee Osborne), who died aged 98, made history by being the first woman to be granted a training permit following the death of her Derby-winning jockey and trainer husband Tom in 1886, some 80 years before the High Court gave female racehorse trainers legal recognition.

Ellen applied for permission to train the family’s string of horses herself, at which time she also had seven young children to look after. When the request was granted by The Jockey Club, then the regulator and governing body for racing, it marked a significant point in the history of the sport.

The pioneering trainer went on to have a number of successes, including at Royal Ascot when her filly Jersey Lily won the Triennial Stakes in 1887.

Though there are gaps in Ellen’s history, her family, along with historians Dr Esther Harper and Tim Cox, have pieced together much of what her life looked like. Daughter of racehorse trainer Johnny Osborne Sr, Ellen’s brother Johnny Jnr was a 12-time Classic-winning jockey who had won the Derby in 1869.

She passed away in 1944 having outlived all seven of her children.

The Ellen Chaloner Stakes:

Previously The Kilvington Stakes held at Nottingham, the race over six furlongs race for fillies aged three years and older was transferred to Newmarket in 2022. Its “handle” has now been permanently changed to The Ellen Chaloner Stakes with the permission of British Horseracing Authority’s Flat Pattern Committee and will remain in perpetuity.

Members of the Chaloner family will be present at The Rowley Mile on QIPCO 2000 Guineas Day, Saturday 6th May 2023, for the inaugural running of The Ellen Chaloner Stakes.

Headstones:

The headstones are currently being constructed and will be unveiled later this year in a private event attended by the Chaloner family.