Skip to main content


Picture: Rachel Venniker, who has ridden 68 winners in her first full season of race riding (Candiese Lenferna Photography).

Rachel Venniker Reserves Comment For The Time Being

Nadine Low Ah Kee (nee Rapson) Condemns It 

The new weight change rule that will allow female jockeys to receive 1,5kg for the entirety of their careers has proved to be generally unpopular according to the comments section in the Sporting Post.
The general thread of opinion among the comments which poured in included bewilderment at the timing of the decision.
Rachel Venniker is about to be crowned champion apprentice.
Her 68 winners in her first year of race-riding have come at a strike rate of 12.57%.
She is 13 winners clear of her nearest rival and has done all of this on a level playing field. 
There are plenty of overseas examples to draw from too.
Hollie Doyle, Rachel Blackmore and Hayley Turner need no introduction.
In the past American Julie Krone  rode over 3,700 winners, including the Triple Crown event, the Belmont Stakes.
Chantal Sutherland, Emma-Jayne Wilson and Francine Villeneuve have all ridden over 1000 winners in North America.
The thread of opinion among the Sporting Post comments generally does not seek to condemn women for having an unfair advantage.
Rather it condemns the decision as patriarchal and sexist in implying woman are inferior to men in race-riding.
If Venniker were to win the national championship, for example, the achievement would be lessened by the weight rule.
Women have proved to be the equal of men in most equine sport disciplines over the years.
South African equine athlete legend Gonda Betrix provides a fine example.
Hollie Doyle, Rachel Blackmore and Rachel Venniker have recently proved that this equality in potential performance extends to race-riding too. 
There was the odd comment in the Sporting Post that supported the decision, saying it would attract more female riders to the sport.
However, Venniker herself said this morning she was going to “reserve comment” until she knew exactly how the rule would be implemented.
Her guv’nor Michael Roberts said he did not want to get involved in a debate about the rights and the wrongs of the decision, which he pointed out had followed the example of France, where a similar weight rule has seen female-ridden winners apparently increasing threefold and thus attracting more female riders to the sport.
Roberts had nothing but praise for Venniker’s riding skills and ability to learn so quickly and carry out tactics seamlessly.
He pointed out what a huge positive she had been for his owners.
He concluded by saying his job was to win races for his owners.
Doing that included sometimes putting on weight-claiming apprentices, so if another such weight-claiming advantage arose he would take it with both arms.  
Venniker would have become the first ever female to ride in the Hollywoodbets Durban July this year had a late injury not forced her on to the sidelines.
Her entrance into the sport was not met by great fanfare as South African racing has had few examples of female riders lasting long after attaining their fully-fledged jockeys licenses.
The trio who bucked that trend were Genevieve Michel, who was the first female allowed into the Academy and the first female to ride in the Met, Lisa Prestwood, who is the only female to ride a Grade 1 winner in SA, and Nadine Low Ah Kee (nee Rapson), who rode regular winners in the Eastern Cape.  
Venniker was soon proving the detractors wrong, but her meteoric rise was accompanied by the usual sideline comments of “wait until she loses her claim.”
However, losing her claim has not stopped her and she has already ridden three doubles since losing that claim.
The irony is that the initial detractors are probably now among those who are condemning the new weight ruling.
However, whilst Venniker has probably wisely reserved comment on a decision that took everybody by surprise and did not appear to include much consultation, Nadine Low Ah Kee was very outspoken.
Nadine Low Ah Kee, respected jockey and TV presenter (Sporting Post). 
Nadine said, “It is an absolute insult to everything Rachel has achieved and undermines everything she has done for the sport.”
She added, “What triggered the decision and how it was passed is very worrying.”
Nadine admitted she had never been as good as Rachel, but pointed out every female jockey wanted to be seen as equal.
She believed sexism among the jockey ranks was a thing of the past and that all males accepted their female colleagues as equals.
One of the aspects of the debate she stressed had in her opinion always been nonsensical was the emphasis on physicality.
She said, “Race-riding can never be brought down to brute strength. It is about finesse and timing, being at one with your horse, reading a race, pace judgement and having a feel for what is underneath you. Too much is made of physicality. In fact I was known as a rider who was given the quirkiest horses to work with. How could that have been if it is all about strength?”