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Gordon insulted by French allowance for female riders

Josephine Gordon: not in favour of claim for females
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Champion apprentice Josephine Gordon on Friday came out against female jockeys getting an allowance, describing France-Galop's announcement as offensive.

Gordon became only the third rider of her sex to claim the apprentice title in Britain last year and turned professional after riding out her claim in November.

She admitted she would have to accept a claim were it introduced but hoped the BHA would not follow the French lead by bringing in a 2kg (4lb) allowance.

"I can see pros and cons but personally I'm a little offended by it," she said. "I've been riding against males as an apprentice and now without a claim on level terms. I don't really want it over here, but if it came in I would have to make the most of it.

"Equestrian sports are probably the only ones in which women compete on level terms and the good girls can compete. It's a tough job, you have to stick at it and a lot more girls are proving themselves now than were ten years ago."

An established view

Gordon reflected an established view among female jockeys in Britain against the need for a weight allowance to increase opportunities for women, an idea previously floated by retired 20-times champion jump jockey Sir Anthony McCoy in 2015.

That followed Michelle Payne's historic victory on Prince Of Penzance in the Melbourne Cup, after which she described racing as "such a chauvinistic sport" and revealed some of the gelding's owners had wanted to take her off.

But France-Galop's move took both the BHA and the weighing room by surprise.

Britain's most successful female rider, Hayley Turner, described it as "unreal" and said she would come out of retirement if it was extended to Pattern races as well. "The girls in France will be rubbing their hands together," she said.

Hayley Turner: 'The girls in France will be rubbing their hands together'
Cathy Gannon said: "I thought it would never happen because it could be construed as sexual discrimination against a male. We always want to be classed as good as the men, but the 4lb would definitely help women who are riding. But I don't think the men would be happy."

Jump jockey Lucy Alexander, the first female to become champion conditional in 2012-13, said: "I would welcome it over here. Riding out my claim felt like an achievement, but it was a while ago now and certainly it wouldn't do any harm to have 4lb back. I think the BHA should look at it." 

Firmly not in favour was Adam Kirby who described the plans as "ridiculous". "Four pounds is two lengths," he said on ATR. "I appreciate women might not be as strong as boys, but riding in races is not about strength, it's about positioning and rhythm and that all comes with experience."

Adam Kirby: condemned the move as ridiculous
The BHA had not been given notice France-Galop was introducing a change and said there were no plans to follow suit.

Head of media Robin Mounsey said: "It's a source of pride that British racing is one of the few sports in which females compete against males on equal terms.

"While there are currently no plans to look at a female jockeys’ weight allowance, we have noted France-Galop’s announcement with great interest.

"We aim to speak with our partners in France to understand why they have taken these steps at this particular time, as well as to discuss the matter with the Professional Jockeys Association as part of our ongoing dialogue with them."

Additional opportunities for women are in place this year through the introduction of the £100,000 Silk Series, the Arena Racing Company-backed initiative of races restricted to female riders that will be staged from May to September.

The PJA, of which McCoy is a director and former president, said an allowance would probably bring significant advantages and increased opportunities.  

However, chief executive Paul Struthers added: "Whether it's the right thing to do or necessary is another matter, but it's important we canvass the views of our members.

"We will also liaise with the BHA, in particular with a view to analysing performance data to establish whether there is any evidence of an allowance being required."

Equestrian sports are probably the only ones where women compete on level terms and the good girls can compete
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