Victoria Pendleton

Most recently, Victoria Pendleton found fame as an amateur jockey, achieving her ambition of riding in the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2016. Indeed, she confounded her critics by partnering Pacha Du Polder, trained by Paul Nicholls, into a fast-finishing fifth, beaten 2¾ lengths. That feat she described as ‘probably the greatest achievement of my life’, which was praise indeed, considering that, in her earlier career as a professional track cyclist, Pendleton was a former Olympic, World and European champion.

At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Pendleton won the gold medal in the women’s sprint, setting a new Olympic record in the preliminary 200-metre time trial and beating Australian Anna Meares 2-0 in the gold medal match. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, she once again faced Meares in the gold medal match in the women’s sprint, but was relegated after winning the first race of the best-of-three series, lost the second and had to settle for a silver medal. However, by that stage, Pendleton had already won her second Olympic gold medal in the women’s keirin.

At the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Track Cycling World Championships, Pendleton won the first of her six gold medals in the women’s sprint in 2005 and repeated the feat in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. She also won gold medals in the team sprint, with Shanaze Reade, in both 2007 and 2008 and another in the women’s keirin in 2008. Not altogether surprisingly, Pendleton was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to cycling in 2009

and ‘promoted’ to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) four years later.

Florence Griffith Joyner

The late Florence Griffith Joyner, popularly known as ‘FloJo’, died at her home in Mission Viejo, California in September, 1998, aged just 38, having suffocated during a severe epileptic seizure. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Griffith Joyner first attracted worldwide attention when winning the silver medal in the women’s 200 metres at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, behind compatriot Valerie Brisco-Hooks. Instantly recognisable by her one-legged jumpsuits, long, bouncy hair and ornate, curved fingernails, she quickly became the darling of the media. However, lacking the financial support to concentrate exclusively on track and field, Griffith Joyner was forced to seek alternative employment.

It was not until 1987 that Griffith Joyner started training seriously again. In October that year she married triple jumper Al Joyner who, alongside her official coach, Bob Kersee, oversaw her preparation for the 1988 US Olympic Trials. Together, Joyner and Kersee incorporated more weight training into her routine, giving her a more muscular physique, and improved her starting technique.

The result was nothing short of miraculous. On July 16, 1988, at the US Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, Griffith Joyner ran the 100 metres in 10.49 seconds. In so doing, she not only improved her personal best by over half a second, but set a new world record, beating the previous mark, set by Evelyn Ashford four years earlier, by 0.27 seconds. That September, at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Griffith Joyner set a new world record, 21.56 seconds, in the semi-final of the women’s 200 metres and lowered her own mark, to 21.34 seconds, when winning the gold medal in the final. At the time of writing, both world records still stand.

Bryony Frost

Bryony Frost, 27, is the daughter of Grand National winning jockey Jimmy Frost, but first rose to prominence in her own right when winning the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on Pacha Du Polder, trained by Paul Nicholls, in March, 2017. The following July she turned professional and, on Boxing Day, won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Black Corton, also trained by Nicholls. In so doing, she became just the second woman – after Lizzie Kelly, who won the same race on Tea For Two two years previously – to win a Grade One jumps race in Britain.

Indeed, 2017/18 proved to be a breakthrough season for Frost. All told, she rode 38 winners, including Milansbar, trained by Neil King, in the Grade Three Classic Chase at Warwick. She also had her first ride in the Grand National, on the same horse, finishing a staying-on fifth, beaten 32½ lengths, behind Tiger Roll. The following November, Frost rode Marienstar, trained by King, to victory at Kempton Park, taking her career total to 75 winners and becoming just the fifth British-based National Hunt jockey to ride out her claim.

In March, 2019, Frost won the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Frodon, trained by Nicholls, thereby becoming the first woman to win a Grade One race at the showpiece fixture. The following month, she won the conditional jockeys’ title, finishing the season with 49 winners – 11 more than second-placed James Bowen – making her just the second woman, after Lucy Alexander in 2012/13, to do so. In December, 2020, Frost also won the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Frodon. In so doing, she not only became the first female jockey to do so, but also took her career tally to 175 winners, making her the most successful jockey in British National Hunt history.

Hayley Turner

Nottingham-born Hayley Turner, 39, has the distinction of being the most successful British female jockey in history. She officially retired at the end of the 2015 season, but returned to race riding, full-time, in 2018 and passed the landmark of 900 career winners when steering Master Milliner, trained by Emma Lavelle, to a comfortable, 7-length victory at York in September, 2021.

A graduate of the Northern Racing College in Doncaster, Turner rode her first winner, Generate, trained by Mark Polglase, in an apprentice handicap at Pontefract in June, 2000. However, she enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2005, riding 53 winners in the year as a whole, 44 of which counted towards the apprentice jockeys’ title. Eventually, she shared that title with Saleem Golam, but nonetheless became the first female jockey to do so and just the fourth, after Alex Greaves, Emma O’Gorman and Lisa Jones, to ride out her claim.

In 2008, Turner rode exactly 100 winners, becoming the first female jockey to reach three figures in a calendar year. Three years later, in 2011, she became just the second female jockey, after Alex Greaves, who dead-heated for first place in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in 1997, to win a Group One race and the first one to do so outright. In fact, Turner steered Dream Ahead, trained by David Simcock. to victory in the July Cup at Newmarket on July 9 and, on August 19, won the Nunthorpe Stakes herself, on Margot Did, trained by Michael Bell. Reflecting on her success, she said, ‘I can’t believe it – it’s the best season ever.’

Much later in her career, in 2019, Turner won the Sandringham Stakes at Royal Ascot on Thanks Be, trained by Charlie Fellowes, to become the first female jockey since Gay Kelleway in 1987, and just the second ever, to ride a winner at the Royal meeting. Just for good measure, she won the same race again on Onassis, also trained by Fellowes, in 2020.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8