Silk Series: Horse racing's women-only series to increase prize money

Race 2 - Chepstow - Sophie Ralston - Oeil De Tigre
Sophie Ralston secured her first win at Chepstow on Oeil De Tigre

Horse racing's Silk Series - open exclusively to women jockeys - is expanding to four more racecourses with prize money increased by 50%.

The series began in 2017 as a way for female riders - who have frequently complained of barriers to opportunities - to display their ability.

Recent research by the University of Liverpool suggested performances by women were at least as good as men.

There will be 13 races in the Silk Series between June and September.

Earlier this year jockey Gemma Tutty told BBC Sport that some trainers "point blank do not use females".

The 2017 series took in nine courses and offered £100,000 prize money.

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'There are trainers who, point blank, do not use females' - Tutty

Goodwood, Hamilton Park, Musselburgh and York Racecourses have been added to the schedule. The total prize money will be £150,000. Jockeys accrue points over the course of the season which build towards an overall winner.

Jockey Hollie Doyle, who is an ambassador for the series, said: "Last summer, the Silk Series offered a number of the female jockeys the opportunity to ride that they might not have had before, and the chance to ride for new trainers as well, which is key to helping progress your career."

Susannah Gill, director at Arena Racing Company, which runs 16 racecourses in Britain, helped to create the Silk Series.

She told BBC Sport: "The Silk Series has been designed to allow female jockeys to showcase their talents to the widest possible audience, specifically in a reaction to the stark realisation that women are not getting opportunities they deserve in racing.

"The Silk Series, along with academic research from Oxford Brookes and Liverpool University, is helping progress the debate and change mind sets. In the future we hope this will change behaviours to ensure female jockeys get the opportunities they deserve."

Silk Series jockeys
Jockeys in the Parade Ring before The Silk Series race at Doncaster Racecourse

Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, backs the expanded Silk Series and insists the sport is committed to improving equality.

''Racing is proud that it is one of the few sports where men and women compete on equal terms, but we must do more to ensure that female jockeys receive the same opportunities as the men," he said.

"The Silk Series is just one part of a much wider industry focus on diversity. British racing has come together under the BHA's leadership to launch its first Diversity in Racing Steering Group.

"It has the remit of delivering an action plan for the sport to ensure that it is providing fair opportunities across all aspects of the industry. Our vision is for a sport based entirely on the values of fairness, respect and equality."

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