They sniggered when a schoolgirl called Lizzie Kelly announced her ambition to be a professional jockey. Yesterday those doubters came joyfully to mind for the 26-year-old as she held aloft her trophy in the winners’ enclosure on an historic day for women in racing.
Her success on Siruh Du Lac in the G3 £110,000 Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase came less than an hour after Bryony Frost’s heroics in the Ryanair Chase. With Rachael Blackmore set for a record-smashing 17 rides, it has been another Festival of trailblazing for the women on horseback.
Kelly, who is based in Devon, produced a bold, front-running ride on six-year-old Siruh Du Lac, who is trained by her stepfather Nick Williams. “I grew up with people laughing at me when I said I wanted to be a jockey,” said Kelly, who was screaming with joy earlier at her triumph. “That gives you a chip on your shoulder and you’ve got something to prove.”
Cheltenham and racing are way ahead of other sports when it comes to equality between the sexes. Numbers of women winners have risen steadily since the first winner, Caroline Beasley, on Eliogarty in the St James’ Palace Foxhunter Chase in 1983. There were two winners in 1987, both ridden by Gee Armytage, three winners in 2017, and a record four winners in 2018.