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Friday, 19 October, 2018

'You must understand France is a much more macho country'

French champion tells Scott Burton the concession has 'helped a lot'

Maryline Eon weighing out at Le Lion-d'Angers in May
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If there really is a change of attitudes towards women at least beginning to emerge in France then there is not, as yet, a huge amount of evidence of it in Paris.

You need to get out to the provinces, where almost every race run is below the bar of 'Class 1 and above' that marks the limits of the two kilogram allowance.

The western region of France hosts a huge concentration of the country's 250-plus racecourses and is the base for rising star Maryline Eon, the reigning women's Cravache d'Or and one of only two female jockeys in the country's top 50 on the Flat. 

With 12 winners so far this season, Eon is on course to at least match her tally of 24 in 2016, although she actually trails slightly in the number of rides for the year. 

'I've been used by a few more trainers'

"In the time since the allowance came in I wouldn’t say I've gained many extra rides but I've been used by a few more trainers who hadn’t done so previously," says 22-year-old Eon, whose main employer is Senonnes-based Alain Couetil, a former assistant to Andre Fabre.

"The allowance came in at the beginning of March and the first three months of the year were really hard. I didn’t ride a winner, and even during the first month of the change things didn’t really improve.

"I asked my agent [Patrick Andorin] to really go out there and find some more rides for me. Things have improved since then and I have started to gain the confidence of more professionals and to begin to make a bit more impact in Paris."

A precious winner at Saint-Cloud aboard Vatican Hill for the father-and-son training combination Patrick and Francois Monfort last week is evidence of that progress.

'Leaving things to chance'

While the race was only a claimer, Eon was aboard the topweight, a horse who connections went beyond the minimum reserve to keep hold of. 

"The allowance has really helped me a lot," says Eon. "I saw a few of the articles in Britain where some of the girls were critical of the change here, if not outright disgusted. But it seems to me that in England you are leaving things more to chance.

"There are some good riders in Britain, but what you need to understand is that France is a much more 'macho' country and that many trainers here are much more reluctant to give women a chance.

"It's very hard for women in France to get on the right horses and to prove themselves, with the right trainers and for the best owners."

Amelie Foulon has ridden winners for Godolphin, Edouard de Rothschild and Andre Fabre's wife Elisabeth

Eon has no background in racing and owes her start as an apprentice over jumps with Serge 'Kauto Star' Foucher to a love of riding and a friend with some knowledge of the sport.

"You don’t see a great many women riding in what you would call the 'Classic' silks," says Eon.

"A couple have been able to separate themselves from the rest thanks to working for the right trainer but after that, for a woman who doesn’t have that kind of boss, it's virtually impossible. 

"I earn a good living and have never thought about stopping, but there are some women who must have an enormous amount of determination because I see them only ever riding the biggest outsider in a race, or else never outside of races restricted to female jockeys."

There are some women who must have an enormous amount of determination because I see them only ever riding the biggest outsider in a race
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