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Gender no issue for Shergar Cup star Emma-Jayne Wilson

Canada's Emma-Jayne WilsonEmma-Jayne Wilson is one of the best female jockeys in the world, and it's probably the case that she gets some of the best rides available in her native Canada because she does not regard gender as any kind of issue in the sport of horse racing. The 33-year-old has flown into England for another tilt at the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup. She teams up with Britain's highest-achieving female rider, Hayley Turner, and Sammy Jo Bell, a contender to be champion apprentice this year, in the Girls' Team.
Last year, Wilson came within a whisker of winning the Silver Saddle given to the top individual rider across the six races. She won two races and injected the kind of charisma and energy into the event that in this country we see too rarely from jockeys of either sex, with Frankie Dettori the obvious exception.
What is most fascinating about Wilson is her clear belief that women riders do not need special favours to get to the top. When I ask her whether an average male jockey can go further than a good female one she finds it hard to compute an answer. She replies: "It's not really something I can speak to. I don't really look at it that way. It's not something I focus on. I don't look on myself as a female jockey working hard against the male jockeys. I just look on myself as another jockey in the game of horse racing. I have my strengths and my weaknesses and the gender thing - it's up to individuals whether they want to focus on it or not."
At a time when public consciousness of women in sport is taking an increased grip, it is also relevant to remember that equestrian sport in general (not just racing) has always blazed a trail by putting the two sexes on an equal footing. Wilson feels the success of her and other female riders has raised the bar, and she insists she she should not be viewed as possessing a rare gift. "I wouldn't consider my ability as unusual. Times are changing and women in sport, not just in horse racing, are doing a better job in terms of opportunities so you start to see the cream rise to the top. The competition from female jockeys is going up and we need to respect that. It's something to be proud of and embrace."


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