Gay Kelleway

At the time of writing, Gay Kelleway has recently been in the news due to her involvement in ‘Racing To Help Ukraine’, a campaign seeking to promote human and equine welfare during the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. In mid-April, 2022, Kelleway made the 2,000-mile round trip from her base in Newmarket, Suffolk to deliver essential supplies to an emergency stabling facility set up on the Ukranian-Polish border for horses rescued from the conflict.

Of course, Gay Kelleway is the daughter of the late Paul Kelleway, a highly successful National Hunt jockey and later a shrewd Flat trainer, who died from pancreatic cancer in 1999 aged 58. Like her father, Gay Kelleway first found fame as a jockey, becoming the first woman to ride a winner at Royal Ascot on Sprowston Boy in the Queen Alexandra Stakes in 1987.

Kelleway began training in 1991 and, nowadays, operates the aptly-titled Queen Alexandra Stables in the village of Exning, on the outskirts of Newmarket, and a small satellite yard in Lamorlaye, near Chantilly in northern France. On the other side of the English Channel, Kelleway rents part of the yard belonging to Myriam Bollack-Badel and her horses are supervised by her former assistant, Anne-Sophie Crombez, who is now an established trainer in France. In Flat racing, the French regulatory authority, France Galop, pays owners’ premiums of up to 64% on prize money won by horses bred in France, so this arrangement allows Kelleway to offer British owners the opportunity to win higher prize money.

On British soil, Kelleway enjoyed her most successful season, numerically, in 2008, when she saddled 48 winners. She has yet to come close to that figure since but, now into the veteran stage of her career, remains a refreshingly outspoken, often controversial, voice in the traditionally male-dominated world of horse racing.

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka was born in Osaka, Japan on October 16, 1997, but moved to the United States with her family at the age of three. She retained dual citizenship until October, 2019 when, as required by Japanese law, she chose one – in her case, Japanese citizenship – before turning 22 years of age. That decision also made her eligible to represent Japan at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

In July, 2014, Osaka made her debut on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour in the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California. Still only 16 and ranked number 406 in the world, Osaka came through the qualifying draw, but beat former US Open Champion Samantha Stosur, ranked 19, 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 in the first round proper, having saved a match point in the second set.

It was not until the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California in March, 2018 that Osaka won her first WTA title, beating Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 in the final. However, in September, 2018, she won her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open in New York City, beating Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 in the final. Thus, she would become the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Thereafter, Osaka won the Australian Open in 2019, the US Open again in 2020 and the Australian Open again in 2021, for a total of four Grand Slam singles titles. She reached the top of the WTA singles rankings on January 28, 2019, making her the first Asian player to do so and has spent a total of 25 weeks in all in the top spot. In 2021, Osaka took two self-imposed mental health breaks, one of which coincided with Wimbledon and, in 2022, announced that she would miss the event for the second year running due to an Achilles injury, which ‘still isn’t right’.

Alexia Putellas

Born on February 4, 1994 in Mollet del Vallès in Catalonia, Northeastern Spain, Alexia Putellas is generally acknowledged as one of the best female footballers in the world. Indeed, in 2021, Putellas had the distinction of becoming the first player to win all three major individual awards, namely UEFA Women’s Player of the Year, Ballon d’Or Féminin and Best FIFA Women’s Player, in the same year.

A left-sided attacking midfielder by trade, but equally at home in a playmaking ‘number 10’ role, Putellas made her senior debut for Espanyol, aged 16, in 2010. However, after just a single season with Los Periquitos and another with Levante, she joined her current club, FC Barcelona Femení, at Johan Cruyff Stadium in 2012. Putellas made her senior international debut for Spain the following year, scoring the winning goal in stoppage-time in a 3-2 victory over England in the UEFA Women’s European Championship in Linköping, Sweden, and has never really looked back.

With Barcelona, whom she captains, Putellas has won the Primera División six times, Copa de la Reina six times and UEFA Women’s Champion League once. In the 2020/21 season, in which she recorded 42 goals and 32 assists, for all teams in all competitions, she led FC Barcelona Femení to an unprecedented continental treble. Los Blaugranes won the Primera División with a perfect 26-26 record, beat Chelsea 4-0 to win the UEFA Women’s Champion League final, in which Putellas scored the second goal from the penalty spot, and defeated Levante 4–2 in the Copa de la Reina final, with Putellas once again on the scoresheet. Ineternationally, Putellas has made less of an impact, but has nonetheless featured for Spain in two World Cups, in 2015 and 2019, and one UEFA European Women’s Championship, in 2017.

Hollie Doyle

Although nearly 14 years younger than fellow jockey Hayley Turner, the fact that Hollie Doyle, 25, has been described as the ‘elder stateswoman’ of the weighing room is a reflection of her meteoric rise to the top of her profession. Regardless of age, Doyle has been, far and away, the more industrious, and successful, of the pair in recent seasons and has made a habit of breaking records along the way.

Doyle was still at school when she rode her first winner, The Mongoose, trained by David Evans, in a lady riders’ handicap at Salisbury on May 5, 2013. She subsequently became apprenticed to the Monmouthshire trainer and, later, to Richard Hannon, eventually riding out her claim in November, 2017. On November 21, 2019, Doyle became the third female jockey, after Hayley Turner and Josephine Gordon, to ride 100 winners in a calendar year and finished the campaign with 116 winners, thereby smashing the previous record, 106, set by Gordon in 2017.

Doyle enjoyed another year to remember in 2020, increasing her annual tally to 151 winners and finishing fourth in the Flat Jockeys’ Championship. On June 19, she rode her first Royal Ascot winner, Scarlet Dragon, trained by Alan King, in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, thereby becoming just the third female jockey, after Gay Kelleway and Hayley Turner, to do so. On August 29, she rode an 899/1 five-timer at Windsor, thereby becoming the first female jockey to ride five winners on the same card in Britain. In 2021, Doyle continued in similar vein, increasing her annual tally to 172 winners, including another 2, 521/1 five-timer at Kempton on March 3. With 74 winners to her name already in 2022, it is surely only a matter of time before the ‘Pocket Rocket’ wins the Flat Jockeys’ Championship.

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