Rides for women double and wins nearly treble in first year of French allowance
March 1 marked the first anniversary of the female jockeys' weight allowance in France; Scott Burton examines the state of play and highlights the big winners . . .
Mickaelle Michel continues to lead the jockeys' standings after the first two months of the season, looking down on Maxime Guyon and Christophe Soumillon. Statistics covering the first year of the 2kg (4.4lb) allowance for female jockeys in France underline that opportunities have knocked in the past 12 months, at least on the Flat.
And while France Galop's figures are complete only for the first ten months to December 31, the high-profile success of apprentice Michel – the first woman to top the standings at the Cagnes-sur-Mer winter meeting through January and February – show trainers are taking notice of the new reality.
As of March 1 the allowance has come down for all women by 0.5kg to 1.5kg, leaving a maximum total that can be claimed by a female apprentice at 4kg, instead of 4.5kg.
|2016 Total||2017 Total||Increase|
The stated aims of officials when the allowance was announced were to encourage owners and trainers to use women more frequently and to give them not just more but better opportunities outside of the races in the programme reserved for them.
That second objective has been addressed with the most important increases in both rides and wins coming at meetings designated as premium – that is those run at the major tracks and carrying PMU betting, rather than smaller provincial venues.
The number of winners ridden by female jockeys since March 2017 at premium meetings on the Flat rose from 59 to 279, an increase of 373 per cent.
The changes have been less pronounced over jumps, with a 14 per cent rise in the number of rides, though that did produce 48 winners in contrast to 23 in 2016.
Michel and Eon enjoy personal breakthroughs
The main action on the Flat during the first two months of the year has been at Cagnes-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, where Michel has taken the meeting by storm, emerging as leading rider in front of Guyon and Soumillon in second and third.
Michel's 26 wins to date puts her at the head of the table for the year, while an impressive 193 rides make her not only the most successful jockey in France but also the most in-demand.
Fellow apprentice Coralie Pacaut also enjoyed a fine meeting, while the more experienced Delphine Santiago is in the top ten in the race for the Cravache d'Or.
It should be remembered that the allowance does not apply in Group or Listed races, as well as in the valuable Quinte Handicaps and Class 1 conditions races.
Maryline Eon became the first woman to take part in a French Classic when steering Yellow Storm to a close-up eighth in the Prix de Diane, though, against that, the total number of rides in Quintes rose only modestly, from 45 to 58 in the ten months to December.
Apprentice changes and murmurs of dissent
Male apprentices seemed likely to lose out in the fight for rides, though France Galop's latest statement claimed there had been no substantial decrease in either rides or wins.
The governing body is due to debate a change to the thresholds for claims at the beginning of April that would extend the number of winners apprentices of either sex are allowed to ride before a reduction and then elimination of their claim.
But the anniversary of the measure has not gone unmarked by its opponents, with an editorial by jockeys' agent Bruno Barbereau in Jour De Galop describing the position of male apprentices as "untenable in the case of an unjust rule".
And an open call for a rethink was published on the front page of Paris-Turf from a group representing the parents of male apprentices.
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