Apprentice jockey Siobhan Rutledge joined Friday Night Racing on Off The Ball where she spoke about some of the obstacles she has overcome to have such a successful season so far.
"There are few successful Irish female flat jockeys," notes Rutledge, who has now ridden ten winners to date. She had five during the flat season proper, more than any other female rider, Rachael Blackmore, a jumps jockey, is next on the list with four flat winners.
"I'm only seven and a half stone and five feet tall, I can't hold a horse that's 500 kilos. I just have to rely on technique"
Jockey Siobhan Rutledge on how physics are against her when riding horses!@HRIRacing | #EveryRacingMoment pic.twitter.com/lE57nNq6An
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) November 20, 2020
There are very few female riders making the breakthrough on the flat in Ireland as Blackmore has done over jumps where she finished second in the title race in 2019. Or in the UK like Hollie Doyle who has had over 100 winners in each of the last two seasons.
It's a situation Siobhan Rutledge is acutely aware of but feels there are other factors impeding female jockeys in Ireland.
"There are more opportunities in England where there is more racing on. In Ireland, there is only ever really one flat race meeting per day, even in the height of the season in the summer months," observed the jockey.
"So the opportunities are not there. Sometimes there is this kind of prejudice against female riders, that they are not strong enough, I don't know what it is. It's just more difficult here in Ireland.
"As [fellow jockey] Aine O'Connor said 'it's not going to be long before it's a thing of the past,' with the upcoming riders we have coming through at the moment."
Prejudice in racing
While there is undoubted riding talent emerging alongside Rutledge, there are still dated attitudes among trainers who do not give female jockeys opportunities.
"I'd like to think that it's not but I know for a fact that it's there," Rutledge said.
"No one will ever admit that that's the reason [being female] they won't let someone ride their horse, but I rang enough trainers to know a few of them write you off straight away.
"You'll never get that as an answer from a trainer that 'I don't want a female to ride my horse' but I'm sure it is there."
When such attitudes exist in racing, how does Rutledge deal with it, given she is clearly ambitious?
"How I deal with it is I try to remain positive," she said. "I see myself as an apprentice competing for the rides on the same horses as the lads.
"It's very easy to get bogged down but I try to stay positive to try to prove people wrong and keep going the way I am going.
"There are a lot of male apprentices that are as good as I am, that work as hard as I do that are not getting the opportunities I am, so it swings both ways.
"It has its advantages too, being female," noted the apprentice jockey.