Record-breaking Jump jockey, Lizzie Kelly has announced her retirement from horseracing after a phenomenal 11 years in the saddle, following the news that she and her husband are expecting their first child later this year.
Kelly, made her mark on sporting history when she became the first woman to win a Grade 1 race (the highest level of race) in Britain over Jumps with Tea For Two in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day in 2015.
The 27 year-old continued to make a name for herself becoming the first female in 33 years to compete in the Gold Cup at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival on Tea For Two in 2017. In 2018 Kelly went on to claim her first Cheltenham Festival winner onboard Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima Handicap Chase in 2018 and enjoyed another Cheltenham Festival winner in 2019 with Siruh Du Lac in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase.
Speaking on her retirement the Devon-based jockey said: “I am announcing my retirement today with the news that my husband and I are expecting our first child. I will miss riding in races, the weighing room and everyone in it. Having two Cheltenham Festival winners is definitely something I will remember forever.”
Kelly continued: “The big winners are an important part of a jockey’s career; it’s what you put all your hard work and efforts into getting. The part of the job I enjoyed the most was riding young horses on their first time on the racetrack and looking after them – I got a real kick out of that. I will remain heavily involved in racing and pre-training. The long-term goal is to train but I am sure there is nothing that will replace riding in races.”
Kelly thanked the racing industry for her experience in the sport: “I want to take the opportunity to thank the huge amount of people who have helped along the way; my husband Ed, Mum and Chester, the team and all of the owners at Culverhill Farm, Rodi Green, Neil King, Ginge and the hordes of other people who taught me, helped me and encouraged me over the past 11 years.”
She continued: “The girls in the weighing room who made it feel like home and the lads on the other side who were so good to me. I really have had a career that I could never have imagined and I’ve been blessed to be associated with the horses that I have ridden.”
Speaking on women in racing Kelly said: “In the time that I have been a jockey the number of female jockeys has grown enormously and I think that there are a huge amount of opportunities for women coming into the sport. I think everyone gets good opportunities now.”
Kelly is one of an increasing number of women to win at the highest level in British horseracing. Following on from her landmark Grade 1 win and Cheltenham Festival triumphs, other women have also hit the headlines including Bryony Frost who, in 2019, became the first woman to win a Grade 1 race at Cheltenham Festival with Frodon in the RyanAir Chase. In the same year on the Flat, Hollie Doyle, who is currently 4th in the 2020 Flat Jockeys’ Championship, broke the record for the most wins achieved in year by a woman with 116 victories. Last year Hayley Turner became the first woman to win at Royal Ascot in 32 years onboard Thanks Be in the Sandringham Stakes and both she and Doyle enjoyed further Royal Ascot wins this year too.
From 2015-2019 there has been a 76% increase in the number of winners achieved by women across Jump and Flat racing, with a 79% rise from 316 to 567 winners on the Flat during the period and a 68% rise in Jump racing, from 139 winners in 2015 to 234 winners achieved last year.
As well as a significant increase in the number of winners, there has been a 26% rise in women holding a professional (rather than amateur) jockey license since 2015, indicating more opportunities existing in the sport.
Stats provided by the BHA.
Earlier this year Lizzie Kelly took part in Great British Racing’s Just Jockeys campaign:
She is not ruling out the possibility of taking up her professional licence again in the future and she will continue to ride out, though will now be focussing on her family.
Article and images courtesy of Great British Racing.