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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 07:16 GMT 08:16 UK
Can a woman ride National winner?
Clare BaldingGinger McCain Red Rum's trainer Ginger McCain sparked a battle of the sexes when he claimed a woman could not ride the winner of the Grand National at Aintree.

Carrie Ford will attempt to do just that on Saturday when she rides one of the big-race favourites, Forest Gunner.

The pair won the Fox Hunters' Chase over the National fences in 2004.

But can she become the first female rider to prevail in the most gruelling and famous race of all?

McCain still says not: "Women do not have the physical strength of men."

But BBC TV racing presenter Clare Balding hits back: "Carrie has as much chance as champion jockey Tony McCoy."

Check out both sides of the great debate...


YES
Carrie can win
Says Clare Balding

There are plenty of things that women haven't yet done but it does not mean they are incapable or should not be given the opportunity to try.

I am sure there were plenty of men of Ginger's frame of mind who did not believe a woman could break the record for single-handed circumnavigation of the world, but Ellen MacArthur proved them wrong.

There were plenty who thought that no woman could run a Marathon as fast as Paula Radcliffe or hit a golf ball as far as Annika Sorenstam.

The evolution of the sportswoman is still a few generations behind the sportsman because women were not encouraged to spend hours playing golf, tennis, football or rugby.

She is mature enough to rise above Ginger's ridiculous goading

Nor were they welcomed in the more dangerous sports of skiing, motor racing, sailing and horse racing.

But if a woman is capable of childbirth, which is both painful and dangerous, then the chances are she is able to make a decision about whether or not she wants to risk a fall or a crash.

The situation in three-day-eventing is rather more advanced than in racing because women do not have to rely on chauvinistic dinosaurs like Ginger to give them the chance to ride decent horses.

Eventing is a tough, dangerous and exhausting sport and yet Lucinda Green, Ginny Leng, Pippa Funnell and Mary King (two of whom were 'broodmares' as Ginger would call them) are just a few of those who have succeeded at the very highest level.

BALDING'S FAMILY TIES
Position: Racing Broadcaster of the Year
Father: Ian - trained the great Mill Reef
Uncle: Toby - trained winners of National and Gold Cup
Brother: Andrew - trained 2003 Oaks winner Casual Look and placed in Grand National (Gunner Welburn, 4th)
Carrie Ford has a professional and dedicated approach to race riding.

She has won around the National fences, knows Forest Gunner better than any other jockey and has as much chance of winning on him as the champion jockey AP McCoy.

In fact, McCoy has been given better chances of winning the Grand National in the last nine years than any of the 12 women who have attempted the feat - does the fact he has failed to do so mean he should be over-looked this year? Does it hell.

Winning the Grand National is difficult enough without being put under the sort of pressure that Carrie Ford is currently suffering.

I wish her all the best and am glad that she is mature enough to rise above Ginger's ridiculous and unhelpful goading.

Ginger McCain
NO
Carrie can't win
Says Ginger McCain

Women don't win Grand Nationals. I have said it before, and I will say it again.

Women don't play in Cup Finals, women do not drive Grand Prix cars, they do not have the sheer physical strength of men.

It is the same with keeping a big steeplechaser together over 4 miles.

If it happens I will bare my backside for everyone to kick it
And what is more, she has had a nipper, and has had only, what, three or four rides since?

And she might have another one or two rides this week, but that does not get you fit to ride in Grand Nationals, no way.

Just ask Richard Pitman after his ride on Crisp (second behind McCain's Red Rum in 1973).

He said the horse was "drunk" at the end, but he said that he was even more tired, and that's what it takes over those big fences. And Carrie is only a little slip of a girl, remember.

The other point in this game is that when everything is going fine, it's grand, and then you see a pile-up, with half a dozen jockeys involved.

MCCAIN'S NATIONAL RECORD
Wins: Four (Red Rum - 1973, 74, 77; Amberleigh House 2004)
Second: Twice
(Red Rum 1975, 76)
Third: Once
(Amberleigh House 2003)
If men come back with broken shoulders, broken legs, whatever, it is hard luck.

But if you see a woman hurt, I was not brought up to see that, I really, really wasn't, and it bothers me, and will always bother me. That's why I believe that this is a man's sport.

However, if she did it, I would be there to say 'Carrie, absolutely stone-cold bloody magic, my love, and I take back everything I have said'.

I said to somebody that if it happened, I would bare my backside for everyone to kick it, but I think I'll be okay.


  • Compiled by Frank Keogh and Cornelius Lysaght


  • SEE ALSO
    Ford tipped for Aintree triumph
    04 Apr 05 |  Horse Racing
    Ford and Forest Gunner chasing first
    21 Feb 05 |  Horse Racing



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