Lucy Alexander yesterday claimed a unique double by becoming the first woman to win the Conditional Jockeys’ Championship, as well as the first Scot.
Alexander, 22, who is already the most successful female National Hunt jockey of all time, finished the season with 38 winners, three ahead of her nearest rival Brendan Powell, with last year’s champion conditional jockey Henry Brook back in third and Michael Nolan in fourth. She won almost exactly 10 per cent of her 381 races this year, and won prize money approaching £250,000.
The feat is all the more remarkable given that Alexander had five weeks out with a broken collarbone and a week out with concussion. Coming into the final week of the season, she was level with Powell, but three wins at Perth, where she had her first ride under rules back in 2007, saw her ease ahead, with Powell and Nolan failing yesterday to secure the wins needed for either to pip her to the title.
“I led pretty much throughout the season until this last week and then I thought I was going to get done on the line so I’m incredibly pleased and relieved,” she said. “I had three more winners than Brendan in the end, which sounds comfortable but it certainly didn’t feel like it.
“The double at Perth on Wednesday [on 12-1 Stanintheband in the opening Aberdeen Asset Management Maiden Hurdle, and then Tim Easterby-trained 7-2 Deepsand in the Crabbie’s Curiously Crisp Scottish Raspberry Handicap Hurdle] was a big, big help and then the last one on Friday just topped it off.”
Like all female jockeys, Alexander initially faced some resistance, but, after being named Lady Jump Jockey of the Year in 2012, she has now added a title which was won fair and square against male jockeys. With an increasing number of young female jockeys entering the sport, she hopes that it will help to alter perceptions.
“It feels good to be the first female champion conditional jockey,” she said. “I watch all the top National Hunt jockeys and try to learn from their riding. I hope that because I’m now the champion conditional jockey that people now perceive me as just a jockey rather than a female jockey. Even if there will always be some people who would rather use a male rather than a female jockey, hopefully this will help to get people to judge me for who I am. There are a few more girls who have turned professional over jumps as well as a lot of girls riding on the flat.”
A conditional jockey is jump racing’s equivalent of an apprentice in flat racing. A conditional jockey can “claim” a weight allowance of 7lbs until they have 20 wins, 5lbs until 40 wins and 3lbs until 75 wins (conditional jockeys with fewer than five wins can also claim an extra 3lbs when riding for their own stable).
Alexander maintains she is content to stay at the most northerly yard in Britain in Fife, a decision which means long hours in the car.
Her win caps a remarkable season for her trainer father Nick’s Kinneston yard near Leslie. His 28 winners and seven point-to-point winners so far is comfortably the highest in the yard’s existence. Although helped by the retirement of fellow Fife trainer Sue Bradburne, whose horses are now at Kinneston, the majority of Alexander’s winners have been home-grown.
The Perth Festival was particularly good to the yard, with Kinneston horses winning the first and last race through Frankie’s Promise and Standintheband respectively.