We’re not going to stray into the debate about whether female jockeys are capable of competing with the men on equal terms, but it’s clear from the TRC Global Rankings that there’s an overpowering perception from the people who dish out the rides that they’re not.
The table below tells you all you need to know about the status of women jockeys in racing the world over. It’s low. They fare even worse than their compatriots do in the world trainers’ rankings, as reported here last week.
In the top 500 jockeys in the world based on their achievements in Group and Graded races over the past three years, there are just 18 females. And the highest ranked of those is at #159.
That’s Katelyn Mallyon, the 22-year-old Aussie highlighted here in February as a TRC Emerging Talent. She’s the only female in the table with more than 900 points, her 905 coming from 47 runs. Compared with most of the other women in the list, many of whom have barely had a handful of qualifying rides, that’s a mighty total indeed.
It doesn’t stand comparison with the top men, though. There are 11 male jockeys with more than 1,000 points, and most of them have had around six times as many rides as Mallyon.
FEMALE JOCKEYS IN THE TRC GLOBAL RANKINGS
The level of female representation in the rankings is a reflection of the opportunities they are accorded. They just don’t get put on many good horses. Even Mallyon, who has one G1 to her credit, is generally on outsiders when she does get the call. Clearly many owners and trainers don’t believe women riders are good enough.
That may not be the case with the third highest name on this list, however.
The fact that Rosie Napravnik is still on it at all more than two and a half years after she retired to have a baby says a lot about not only her talent and accomplishments, but also about the regard in which the current crop of female riders appear to be held.
Less than four months of Napravnik’s riding career still fall within the rolling time-frame of the TRC rankings, yet in that period she had 42 rides in Group and Graded races - nearly the same as Mallyon in the entire three years. Napravnik won three G1s, five G2s and one G3 in those few weeks.
Napravnik, who is still only 29, is much the most successful female rider in the history of the TRC rankings. In the updated standings after the 2014 Breeders’ Cup, after which she retired, she was world #17 (yes, including the men) with 1,000 points. She had six rides in that Breeders’ Cup, and won the Distaff on Untapable. She was regularly employed by America’s leading trainers, including Steve Asmussen (trainer of Untapable), Bill Mott, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Mike Maker, Kiaran McLaughlin and Graham Motion.
So why is Napravnik, like Julie Krone before her, such an outlier? While her talent was extensive, it’s hardly likely she was quite so vastly superior to all the others. She did something right that they didn’t though, even if it was no more than establishing the belief that she was a quality rider.
In all probability, of course, even the people who employed her to ride their horses didn’t fully buy into her being quite as good as the men at the very highest level. She rode Untapable and other top-class runners, but would she have been given the ride on an American Pharoah, an Arrogate or a California Chrome?
Maybe even Rose Napravnik, even Julie Krone, didn't get quite the credit they deserved.