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By Larry Cassidy | Friday, April 20, 2012

Larry Cassidy currently has forty-two Group 1 successes behind his name. He is a multiple Premiership winning jockey having taken out three titles in Sydney and one in Brisbane. Larry’s View, the personal blog of this top class rider will appear on horseracingonly.com.au every Friday, workload permitting.

The emerging success of female apprentice riders in recent times has been a common factor in results in Brisbane for several months.

Priscilla Schmidt was attracting attention before being sidelined in a multiple fall at Doomben (which, unfortunately, I was part of). Tegan Harrison picked up the baton and has been reeling in a constant supply of winners while the newly arrived, but fairly experienced, Maija Vance has wasted little time in underlining her capability.

All three of these riders have certainly made the most of their opportunities with a big factor in their rapid progress being the fact that they have not only brought home horses with obvious chances, but they have also triumphed at various times on long-shots while showing a good knowledge of different riding tactics.

There are others beyond these three of course, but they perhaps best represent the percentage formula of success that I believe applies to riders.

A very good female rider will always be very competitive. I think in general that probably translates into about one in twenty. In Queensland right now it might be about one in ten, because we have all three of these riders coming through together but, like I said, it generally comes down to a percentage formula where only the top few percent are going to make it into the big time … and that applies in all sports and right across the gender base.

For all of the improvements in facilities and training, female riders … and obviously I have to generalize here without putting the girls down or anything… are still up against it on a couple of fronts.

A lot of them obviously lack the strength, at least early in their careers, which can be a worry when you are riding against them. Because they don’t have the strength, their options of where they can position a horse are compromised and they will often let horses stride along on a loose rein and run up onto heels and that sort of thing.

That can take away their confidence, put pressure on them which can take its toll on their motivation to stick with their career.

The girls do get stronger and more knowledgeable as they go along and gather more experience and education … and they learn the tricks of the trade as well as any male rider, but the strength factor, because of the natural build of men and woman, will still often count against them.

That’s why, for example, some trainers will use the girl riders as long as they have a claim, and then drop them when they become fully fledged jockeys.

It’s not fair really, but it is a hard fact of life for a lot of female riders.

Even for those who break through that barrier, the longevity of their careers are at risk given the fact that relationships and starting families … and, at very least, the interruption that will bring to their career … for most will probably become a factor some time in their lives.

Some of those riders will have kids and come back to race-riding. Many won’t come back … and therin possibly lies a very real problem to the state of future riding ranks.

If riders who do make it through the tough test early in their careers then don’t last the distance from there, there is going to be drop-off in riding numbers which could affect the future balance of racing.

In the last apprentice course undertaken by Queensland Racing I believe there were eight girls in something like a ten horse field.

To understand why that ratio is occurring you have to understand that there is obviously a correlation between that and the way kids are these days and particularly the way kids eat.

My son should have been born to be a jockey. He just turned fifteen and he is taller than me and heavier than me … and, you know what, he is one of the smallest in his class. It just shows you, as I mentioned in a previous blog, kids these days, and maybe boys in particular, generally are of a bigger build than they were in the past.

Then I look at my daughter. She’s nine this year and she weighs 21kg. She’s already said to me, don’t worry dad … if you don’t win a Melbourne Cup I’ll win one for you.

Both of them have been having riding lessons at Trevor Lanskey’s place … Cherbon Waters. They both ride well and my daughter has got a great seat on a horse.

I don’t want her to be a jockey, but will obviously support her in whatever she wants to do. In my day it was probably a lot tougher for girls than it is now. The set-up … jockeys rooms etc …obviously now cater for the girls a lot better.

Females in racing twenty years ago had a lot tougher time of it and I think they probably had a tougher time of it here in Australia than they did in New Zealand. They were probably accepted a lot quicker in New Zealand.

I think the ratio of males to females in New Zealand is probably not far from being even and I can see that ratio getting a lot closer here as well in years to come … as the makeup of that recent apprentice class alludes to.

And, as discussed, they are competing well.

For the rest though, in simple terms, we are all jockeys out there … regardless of sex or age. We are all trying to win the race.

It’s every one for yourself and do your best … and the best of some of the girls right now is very, very good!

Good luck to them.

Till next week,

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Larry Cassidy
Larry Cassidy
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