Only a handful of women have distinguished themselves in horse racing as professional jockeys. One of the most successful of the modern era is Emma-Jayne Wilson. This Canadian-born jockey has won over 1,500 races in her career. She has made many headlines, but the one for which she may be remembered most is becoming the first female jockey to be licensed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The Beginnings of Hong Kong’s First Female Jockey
Emma-Jayne Wilson was born in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Wilson showed an interest in horses from a very young age. She was taking her very first riding lessons at the tender age of nine. Her passion for horses continued through high school, and upon graduation Wilson decided to study equine management in college. Her college experience gives her an understanding of horses and horse racing that many other jockeys do not possess.
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Wilson would begin her racing career riding horses in Canada and the United States. She accomplished a significant feat by becoming the first apprentice jockey to win an Eclipse Award and Sovereign Award for Champion Apprentice Jockey in the same year, 2005. Wilson would win her second Sovereign Award for apprentice in 2006.
Racing Highlights of Emma-Jayne Wilson
Emma-Jayne became the first female horse jockey to win the most prestigious race in Canada in 2007. Aboard Mike Fox, Wilson captured the Queen’s Plate. The Queen’s Plate is the oldest race in North America, and it is by far the most important race in Canada.
Only two Canadian female jockeys have managed to win more than 1,000 races in their career. Emma-Jayne Wilson is one of them. She is also the all-time leading money winner among female jockeys in Canada. Her winning horses have earned more than $70,000,000 in purse money.
In Canada an award is given each year to a jockey that exemplifies sportsmanship and ambassadorship for the thoroughbred racing industry. This award is called the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award and Wilson was honored with it in 2018. Wilson was only the second female rider given the prize.
Emma-Jayne describes herself as first and foremost a fan of horse racing. She has been involved in many charitable causes that benefit horses and those who work with them. Her reputation in the horse racing industry is very solid, and Wilson remains on very good terms with her colleagues. She is a good role model for the industry.
Emma-Jayne Wilson Goes to Hong Kong
In 2008, Emma-Jayne Wilson made the decision to go to Hong Kong to ride on the thoroughbred racing circuit. She became the first North American female jockey to be issued a license to ride in Hong Kong. This was a significant achievement given the cultural aspect of Hong Kong’s affinity for horse racing. It would be very fair to say that the racing fans in Hong Kong were not accustomed to seeing female riders in the saddle.
Wilson performed well in Hong Kong, but her stay there was a brief one. She would request the termination of her jockey’s license after just two months, citing commitments in Canada. Wilson wanted to return to work with a trainer with whom she had been successful. Still, there are lingering questions about why Wilson decided to leave the Hong Kong circuit after such a short time in the region.
The challenges that would be faced by a female rider in Hong Kong are probably not that much different from the struggles these athletes face in North America. Female jockeys have long been treated poorly by the racing industry. There are far too many stories of trainers attempting to take advantage of female riders. Sex discrimination is rampant.
The Difficult Path of Female Jockeys in Hong Kong Horse Racing
It would be fair to say that the difficulties encountered by female jockeys are not restricted to the Hong Kong Racing circuit. These impressive athletes are challenged wherever they ride in a sport that is dominated by men. Many people have a misconception that women are weaker than men and therefore unable to control a 1,000-pound horse in a race. Many who deal with the women that ride will tell you this is not the case.
Female jockeys can be every bit as tough and tenacious as the men. Just ask male riders who competed against Julie Krone in her racing days. Krone once even traded blows with male jockey Joe Bravo following a race. She was known to be a fierce competitor that did not take kindly to the rough riding tactics of the male jockeys she competed against.
Emma-Jayne Wilson has likely encountered the same types of trouble in her own racing career, although she seems reluctant to talk about it. Her way seems to be to show respect to her fellow riders, regardless of their gender.
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