Woman Jockey Rides Into Record Books

A young Gay Kelleway in the saddle. Photo: dailymail.co.uk
A young Gay Kelleway in the saddle. Photo: dailymail.co.uk

by Ray Setterfield

September 6, 1992 — Gay Kelleway took part in a horse race in England on this day with a TV camera fixed to her helmet. She was the first jockey to carry such equipment and though it gave a terrific view of the other riders, it did not bring Gay any luck – she finished last.

Now a successful trainer, Gay spoke some years later of the difficulties facing female jockeys in the early days.

“The racing world’s a bit prehistoric,” she said. “When I started the men had showers and saunas and comfy chairs whereas I was lucky to get a tiny wash-basin in a public loo.

“Once I had to change in the Queen ­Mother’s loo in the Royal Box and it was a good 300 yards to the course with blokes giving me comments like, ‘Ooh look, it’s a girl. Get back in the kitchen, love.’

“In the Eighties, my horse fell at Nottingham race course when another jockey rode straight across my path. I knew it was ­deliberate so I got up and went into the weighing room and said to all of them, ‘You won’t get rid of me that easily’.”

And they didn’t. Gay is still the first and only woman to have ridden a winner at Royal Ascot. She was the youngest-ever amateur champion at 18, the first woman to ride in the Royal Ascot Gold Cup and the first jockey of either gender to wear that camera in her helmet.

“Today,” she says, “women are accepted by jockeys and trainers generally and although girls still have to try twice as hard to succeed, things are a thousand times better than they were.

“But I am a bit surprised that I’m still the only woman to have won at Royal Ascot.”

Published: August 3, 2016

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