Scots Jockey Nicola Currie will become the first female to ride in Europe’s richest mile race.
The 24-year-old from Arran is booked to ride 33-1 shot Raising Sand, trained by Jamie Osbourne, in the race which has been won previously by Minding, Roaring Lion and the mighty Frankel.
As she prepared for the Ascot, Currie told The Scotsman about the building anticipation for the big day and her career to date. She said: “It’s very exciting. I actually wasn’t aware until this morning that I would be the first female to ride in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
“It’s great to achieve a goal that other people haven’t done. To be the first female to ride in this race is quite a big thing.”
It does seem surprising that in the year 2019 such an anomaly existed but Currie does not believe it is a result of lingering male dominance in racing.
“I honestly don’t think we do get treated differently. It’s still probably slightly tougher as a female coming in because you have more to prove. But once you’ve proved yourself to trainers and fellow male jockeys that you are mentally and physically as tough, then we’re all on a level playing field,” she added.
“I know there is a lot of talk about changing things for us women in the weighing room but I wouldn’t be one to scream out for that because I think the industry we’ve come into is adapting.
“We can’t argue the fact that we’re not getting rides, because we are.
“You have to expect it to be a little tougher at first but, at the end of the day, if you expect to be treated the same on the track then you have to expect to be treated the same in the weighing room.”
Steering a half-ton thoroughbred around a racetrack is a massive test of horsemanship and one that Currie didn’t envisage when she started showjumping as a youngster but a combination of becoming disillusioned and the prospect of a new challenge changed that.
She revealed: “I got into racing because I was good friends with the head girl at Lucinda Russell’s yard.
“I just got a bit sick of the showjumping world and she said, ‘why don’t you see if you like racing?’
“I didn’t even know the difference between a Flat race and a jumps race then. It was very difficult because it was like learning to ride again. I was starting from the bottom and working my way up and I fell in love with the industry.”
She’s now based in Lambourn with Osbourne and Richard Hughes but Currie recalled a quiet and laid-back atmosphere growing up on Arran, where she first clambered on the back of a pony at the age of three.
And it didn’t take long for riding to become more than just childhood fun.
She said: “My weekends were spent riding horses and we would often travel over to Ayr or various places to compete. I had a couple of horses so that was it really. Horses were what you did at the weekend and I realised quite quickly that it was something I wanted to make my career, so that’s how it started.”
It has gone pretty well so far with Currie the reigning All-Weather Champion Apprentice after 30 wins last winter and she has ambitious goals.
Currie added: “I want to have a long and successful career.
“I don’t want to ride just to make a living, I want to achieve things as a female jockey that haven’t been done yet.
“I want to keep getting better and keep riding in better quality races and for better trainers.”
Away from racing, her other great sporting love is football – former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder Steve Nicol is her uncle.
l QIPCO British Champions Day takes place tomorrow at Ascot Racecourse and will be broadcast live on ITV. For tickets go to britishchampionsday.com