Experts from the University of Nottingham have found that the sex of a jockey doesn’t influence any aspect of racehorse physiology and performance.
The findings of the study, published at Research Square, offer a new perspective on the possible balance of elite male and female jockeys on the start line of races.
Studies assessing the effect of the sex of a rider on racehorse performance and physiology during training have not been reported, mostly due to the lack of available data for female participants within the sport.
In the present day, more than 90% of jockeys, in most racing nations, are men. This is likely an unconscious bias toward male jockeys being, on average, physically ‘stronger’, able to push horses harder, and thus performing better in races than female jockeys.
This decade has seen a marked increase in participation of female jockeys at an elite level in the racing industry. In 2021, the Irish jockey – Rachael Blackmore – made history by winning several high-profile races. Success stories, like this, are shaping global betting behaviours on the racetrack and challenging the public’s confidence in the ability of male or female jockeys to win big races.
In the UK and Ireland, previous research had suggested an underestimation of the ability of female jockeys to win races, as recorded in betting behaviour. In racing, a competitive advantage may lie in the ability of a jockey to control the horse, and/or less weight carried by the horse (i.e. weight of jockey plus saddle). Hence, jockeys are weighed in before, and weighed out after, races. Certain races are ‘handicapped’ by weight carried and according to predicted ability. All being equal, would a racehorse during race-pace work-outs perform any differently when ridden by either a female or male jockey? Would that racehorse be more or less likely to win a race?
Researchers from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham, worked with Guillaume Dubois PhD Scientific Director at Arioneo Ltd– a company that developed a bespoke exercise tracking device for horses; and an Equine Sports Medicine specialist (Dr Emmanuelle van Erck-Westergren PhD; Equine Sports Medicine Practice, Belgium) to answer some of these questions.
READ the full press release about the University of Nottingham’s research here – Male jockeys have no more influence over the performance of a racehorse than female jockeys
The full study can be found here – Does sex of the jockey influence racehorse physiology and performance