Progress is in the air in the 21st century, but that doesn’t mean that bettors should get swept up in the movement just yet. The sport of horse racing has increasingly seen females in the saddle on race day, and more mares entered in races for that matter. But when it comes to betting on races like the upcoming 2014 Grand National at Aintree, it isn’t quite time to jump on board and mark down the ladies for a victory.
Women and History at Aintree
Since the first official running of the Grand National in 1839, just 15 women have competed in the race along with only 13 mares winning the race. When it comes to female jockeys and mares competing in the race, the history of the two sides has followed separate tracks. During the early decades of the race, mares would have been a safe pick for many bettors.
Of the 13 mares to ever win the Grand National, 10 of those victories came between 1841 and 1889 including four wins in five years between 1860 and 1864. However, victories for mares following the race’s early history have dwindled. Just three mares have won at Aintree since the start of the 20th century, with the last mare winner coming in 1951.
Female jockeys on the other hand have followed a different track. Women were not allowed to ride in the Grand National prior to 1975. The first of the 15 women to compete at Aintree was Charlotte Brew in 1977. Many of the early female jockeys may have succeeded in breaking into a male dominated sport, but bettors didn’t race to put money on them.
During the first ten appearances by female jockeys, seven of the jockeys were on horses with odds worse than 100/1. During that same time period, only one female jockey even completed a race.
Improving Odds for Female Jockeys
As more and more females break into horse racing, the chances of a woman jockey winning at Grand National have improved immensely. Following Rosemary Henderson’s fifth place finish in 1994 astride Fiddlers Pike, female jockeys have appeared in a total of eight races at Aintree and completed the race in all but one year.
As of 2012, Nina Carberry has appeared in the Grand National on four occasions (2006, 2010, 2011, 2012) and earned not only the most appearances of any woman, but also became the first to complete the race on three different occasions. Female jockeys are increasingly appearing astride horses with much more favorable odds in the minds of bettors too.
Katie Walsh became the first female rider to earn a placed finish when she completed the 2012 Grand National in third place astride the 8/1 favorite Seabass. Walsh returned to the Grand National last season at Aintree astride Seabass again, but finished 13th despite favorable 11/2 odds.
Will a Female Jockey Emerge Victorious in 2014?
If recent history is an indication, the trend at recent Grand National races has been to expect the unexpected. Of the past five winners, only one favorite has managed to win when Don’t Push It emerged victorious in 2010 as a 10/1 favorite in the race. The chances of a female jockey becoming the first to win the Grand National in 2014 took a big hit earlier this week.
On 21 March it was announced that Seabass, a favorite in two of the last three Grand National races, was an official scratch in the 2014 race. Seabass, ridden to a third place finish by Katie Walsh in 2013, is trained by Walsh’s father Ted Walsh. With Seabass out, Walsh will have to find a new mount if she is to become the first female victor at Aintree.
Bettors looking to make a splash at the 2014 Grand National may have to find a different jockey to back unless Walsh can find another mount. Remember though, long shots have been big performers at Grand National in recent history with three of the last five winners boasting odds worse than 33/1.
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