New era starts at Deauville as 2kg allowance for women kicks in
Apprentice Massin booked for seven rides on card
Wednesday's meeting at Deauville marks the first day of what France Galop hope will be a new era for women in racing with the introduction of a 2kg (4.4lb) allowance for female jockeys.
And one apprentice who is bound to be watched closely is Alison Massin, who has been jocked up in seven of the eight races on the card, eclipsing both Christophe Soumillon and Pierre-Charles Boudot, who each have six booked mounts on the day.
Only four women have been booked to ride at Chantilly's Meydan Trials meeting on Thursday, but on a day laden with symbolism, officials in France and further afield will be watching with interest.
Massin will be joined by former Cravache d'Or Delphine Santiago and Pauline Dominois – winner of the first Quinte handicap reserved for women at Saint-Cloud last October – in riding three of the seven runners in the opening race at the meeting.
Massin will ride for five different trainers across the card including her boss Stephane Wattel, who will put her up on Goderville in the Classic-winning silks of Gerard Augustin-Normand.
In all, 13 of the 96 runners at Deauville will be ridden by women, a considerable increase on the usual numbers at what is admittedly a fairly run-of-the-mill fixture.
Both Josephine Gordon and leading French jockey Pauline Prod'homme have labelled the move as demeaning and, speaking on Tuesday, France Galop vice president Jean-Pierre Colombu admitted he had been surprised by the level of controversy the new measure has caused.
"Debate is always a good thing and perhaps we will be proved wrong, although I don't think so," said Colombu. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion."
The allowance only applies to races below Class 1, which means that as well as excluding Listed and Group races on the Flat and over jumps, it does not extend to a number of conditions races for two and three-year-olds under a wider reorganisation of the programme this season.
Colombu said: "I notice that three of the seven horses in the first race at Deauville will be ridden by women, and that Alison Massin will be riding in all but one race. We will see how that plays out as time goes on, but I hope trainers might think more about putting a woman up.
"What we want is for the best women to emerge and to get more of a chance. In France when you are young and you apply for a job you are often told you don’t have sufficient experience – we are trying to remove that barrier for women in racing."