Girl jockey has grand ambition to win the National
By: Paolo Camera
As Tony McCoy, one of racing's legendary jockeys, announces his retirement, there's a teenager champing at the bit to fill his boots.
Sixteen-year-old trainee jockey Emma Chaston has a long way to go to match McCoy's record-breaking 4,000-plus wins, but she has grand ambitions to someday take home one of racing's most coveted titles.
The schoolgirl from Kirkham, near Blackpool, wants to "win all the big races" but her ultimate goal is to be the first female jockey to enter the Grand National winner's enclosure at Aintree.
Emma is already competing in amateur events and has worked with top trainers like Nigel Twiston-Davies and Donald McCain.
Like McCoy, who has won it 19 years on the trot, Emma wants to be named champion jockey and be the first girl to do so.
There are other similarities that the self-confessed adrenaline junkie shares with the Irish champion. She has an insatiable appetite for competition, she thrives on the pressure and she is unafraid of injury.
Emma has been competing since she was nine. She first took part in pony races but was soon saddling up smaller thoroughbreds under the tutelage of trainer Richard Ford.
At the moment, she's riding in point-to-point races and training every day. She hopes she'll get the chance to ride in America and she made her Irish debut last year. She got her first taste of triumph in December when she and her horse Syrian took second place at an amateur race in Wolverhampton, beating the 50/1 odds.
Her immediate plan is to go to France this summer and return as a conditional rider before one day taking a step up in form and turning professional.
Emma's aspiration to be the first woman to take the Grand National title is laudable. But is it realistic? Jump racing is a notoriously tough sport for women to make their mark. Many trainers think women simply lack the strength and stamina to excel in such a physically demanding sport.
The National, in particular, is the daddy of all steeplechases. Run over four-and-a-half miles over 30 of the most gruelling fences, it's a race that has got the better of many a jockey. While the odds may be stacked against them, female jockeys are giving the blokes a run for their money.
It all started in 1977 when, thanks to the previous year's equal opportunity laws, Charlotte Brew became the first woman to compete in a Grand National.
To be fair, her horse never had a chance of beating the ultimate winner Red Rum, but Brew had high hopes of at least finishing. Sadly her mount, Barony Fort, fell at the fourth last but that didn't stop her galloping into the history books. Geraldine Rees was the first woman to complete the greatest of all steeplechases when she rode Cheers in 1982. He came eighth and last.
But young Emma really needs to keep an eye on Katie Walsh, who may just pip her to the Grand National winning post. Daughter of National-winning trainer Ted and the sister of jockey Ruby, Miss Walsh is the most successful woman to have ridden in the National and one of the top female riders in the business. In the 2012 race she rode Seabass, the 8-1 joint market leader in the Grand National betting, and came third to the Paul Nicholls-trained Neptune Collonges.
Her contemporaries Nina Carberry and Lizzie Kelly are also coming up strongly on the inside and share similar ambitions to win one of racing's top prizes. It is only a matter of time before a woman wins the National, but young Emma better get a move on if she wants to make sure that's her.
Thoroughbred Greats hosts a few websites dedicated to famous racehorses with complete biography, race record, and information on owner, jockey, trainer. Check them out:
NEW SITE! Ghostzapper - 2004 Horse of the Year and record breaker!
Man o' War - Arguably the greatest racehorse of all time!
Seabiscuit - The American Legend who defeated the odds!
Cigar - America's Horse who went on a 16 race win streak!
Regret - The first filly to win the Kentucky Derby!
Ruffian - The big filly who ran against the boys, but who had a terrible tragedy.
I have also written a few blog posts on some racehorses. These blogs don't contain as much information as the websites above:
Gander - A look back at Gander's smashing riderless "win" in the 2002 Saratoga Breeders Cup Handicap!
Behrens - Behrens memorable run in the 1999 MassCap @ Suffolk Downs.
Captain Bodgit - The formidable closer who came close in 2 legs of the 1997 Triple Crown!
Real Quiet - My personal favorite, one horse who came within a nose of a Triple Crown victory in 1997!
123bet Horse race betting - The home of live horse race betting in America
Twitter: Follow @TBGreats