Georgia Dobie is just another in a long line of women making a name for themselves in horse racing.
With the achievements in recent years of jockeys such as Hollie Doyle, who is set to be nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and Rachel Blackmore who was second in the Irish National Hunt Jockeys Championship in 2019, the 21-year old believes its only a matter of time before one wins a champion jockey title or a classic.
However, Dobie still feels the media’s portrayal of female jockeys is particularly negative: “We all want to be seen as just a jockey, and don’t want people to say she’s strong ‘for a girl’.”
Speaking of strength, Dobie recalls an incident when she was riding a horse named Kimifive at Ascot in September.
“The trainer Joseph Tuite was happy with my ride as I finished fourth in a competitive 11 runner handicap, but the owner remarked after that I was too weak.”
She also needs to be mentally strong. As with many other jockeys, social media has also proven difficult for Dobie. She has been on the receiving end of abuse, and has been forced to call out death threats.
This has only made her more determined, and she has her eyes firmly set on the Champion Apprentice title next season.
How it Began
Dobie hails from Lambourn, one of the major centres of racehorse training in the UK. But she doesn’t hail from a traditional racing background; her father is a builder and her mother is in healthcare.
Even so, Dobie’s love for riding blossomed at a young age: “My mum wouldn’t have a clue about horse racing, but bought me this little Welsh pony called Goldie. I also went to a local riding school aged five and my passion developed from there.”
As a youngster, Dobie began riding for trainer Stan Moore in Lambourn, and at 16 she joined trainer Mark Tompkins in Newmarket.
Here, Dobie acquired her first job away from home: “He let me take out my licence very young because I’d worked so hard. He was seen as quite a traditional trainer as well and I must have been one of the first female jockeys he ever put up.”
In terms of idols, young Dobie identifies two former jockeys: her former jockey coach Cathy Gannon, who rode 331 winners in Britain between 2008 and 2016; and Josephine Gordon, winner of the 2016 Champion Apprentice title.
Dobie describes Gordon as “a proper grafter and a jockey who deserved every success she got.”
A lack of opportunities in England led Dobie to Australia, but this move only propelled her career working with trainer Matthew C. Smith:
“It was the most important six months of my life, a time where I learned the most about jockeyship. There were a lot of girls over there too including English jockey Rachel Kane.”
Eve Johnson Houghton And The Future
In mid-2018, following her Australian adventure, she came to realise that trainer Eve Johnson Houghton was without a regular apprentice jockey. Johnson Houghton was impressed by Dobie’s dogged persistence, and eventually awarded her an opportunity.
Johnson Houghton’s Woodway stable’s exudes a real family atmosphere: “We have a great team up there. I live on the yard which is high above the village of Blewbury and where the head lad ‘Uncle Will’ has worked for 50 years.”
While Dobie has progressed a long way very quickly, her success was certainly not immediate; It wasn’t until her 45th ride that she claimed her first winner on her beloved Kirkland Forever trained by Johnson Houghton.
Dobie’s breakthrough season came this year with 15 winners. It would not have been possible without the support of coach John Reid, whom she went to every night for two months to get fit on his jockey simulator, and her new agent, Phil Shea, who has excelled at sourcing rides outside Georgia’s norm.
“One of the highlights of this season was last month when I won on the talented mare Lady of Aran in a valuable handicap for trainer Charlie Fellowes. I also ride out now for the likes of Tom Clover in Newmarket and William Muir based in Hungerford.”
Even with her 42 career winners since 2018, Dobie still admits it’s tough for girls with no background in racing to get involved. Tough – but achievable: “With years of hard graft and a boss that will support you, anything is possible for anyone in this game.”