The result of an English study released this week that concluded female jockeys rode as well as their male counterparts should not have caused any surprise in New Zealand.
The New Zealand racing industry has long been a world leader in providing opportunities for female riders, as is illustrated by the current jockeys' premiership standings.
Samantha (Sam) Collett leads the New Zealand premiership for the 2016-17 season, which began Aug. 1, and four of the top six on the premiership are females. Females make up 43% of New Zealand's licensed jockeys.
The Liverpool University study into the respective merits of male and female jockeys examined more than 1.2 million rides over the past 14 racing seasons in the UK. It found that female riders got similar results to males when given the same quality of mounts, though that rarely happened.
Women make up 11% of the professional riders in the UK, including apprentices, but took just 6.5% of the rides on the flat and 2.9% over fences. There was also a stark difference between the opportunities for male and female riders in the top level races, with females taking just 1.1% of the rides in class 1 races on the flat, compared with 10% in class 6 and 7 races.
In contrast, cousins Sam and Alysha Collett have been the two busiest riders in New Zealand this seaso—in terms of mounts—and between them have won eight black-type stakes races.
Trudy Thornton, who is Sam Collett's mother, won the group 1 Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie at Christmas. Sam Spratt's group 1 wins this term include the New Zealand One Thousand Guineas (Hasahalo) and the Harcourts Thorndon Mile (Stolen Dance). Rosie Myers rode Scott Base to win the $1 million Karaka Million 3YO Classic at Ellerslie last weekend.
New Zealand's female jockeys began riding against males in 1978. Since then, female riders have won five NZ premierships, with Lisa Cropp recording the first of her three successive premierships in 2005. Lisa Allpress, the first woman to ride 1,000 winners in New Zealand, topped the premiership in 2012 and 2016.
Linda Jones was the first female jockey to win a totalisator race against male riders in Australia, in 1979, and in 1987 Maree Lyndon, another Kiwi rider, became the first female to ride in a Melbourne Cup.
Kim Clapperton won the Malaysia-Singapore premiership in 1993 and in 1995 became the first female jockey to ride in Hong Kong.
"Racing is one of the few sports where males and females can compete on an equal footing and that adds another dimension to the industry," said New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing CEO, Bernard Saundry. "We are also finding that an increasing number of females are showing interest in becoming apprentice riders."