We recently caught up with Victoria Haigh, who is one of only two English women to hold a French trainers licence.
We exclusively have her thoughts on discrimination in the sport primarily dominated by men and her ambitions for the future.
“Time wasters drive me insane, it’s like do you want a horse in training or a woman to chat up? So yes, it’s very frustrating but I have built my name up successfully before as a woman and I can do the same again. But saying that in my next life I am coming back a man”,
Is there any discrimination in the horse racing industry for women whether it be a trainer or jockey? “Yes, absolutely there is massive discrimination for women throughout the horse racing industry” replied Haigh.
“I will always remember when a well-known English trainer once remarked that I would make a great trainer’s wife. At the time he was a small-time trainer and due to problem with my own gallops I ran some of my horses in his name and his career in flat racing subsequently took off. I gave him 9 winners on the flat in a few weeks and everyone thought he was God”.
“I got no credit even though I was doing all the race planning, for example a horse ran twice in three days, where she was 2nd at Doncaster then won a 20k race at Pontefract on the Monday. He didn’t want to run both races, but I convinced him otherwise”.
Haigh is a capable trainer in her own rights and we asked her what is her most memorable moment in her time training in English racing? “Listen, I love to punt without cheating or stopping horses, like when I knew Paraguay would win at 40-1 at Beverley, then when he won at Goodwood, when I managed to book Paul Hannagan off one for Easterby at Doncaster to ride mine because I knew mine would win, which he duly did”.
“The local bookies would only take £20 bets on my horses at the time because they were fed up with losing as I was placing them so well. When I backed Musical Beat at Catterick at nines and as he politely asked, I told him (the bookie) that mine would win, so he backed mine with others and pushed out the favourite to draw in the punters, he thanked me after”.
“Bella Fiorella won at Goodwood, I knew she would win, Ooh Aah Camara winning the Lily Agnes at Chester, Happy Anniversary at Ayr, Honey Monster at Wolverhampton, Rosabee at Leicester completing her three timer in nine days beating all the favourites, there was money on and it was my money”.
“I could match any man in placing, reading races and punting. Maybe that’s why a mainstream bookmaker had me as his Horse Racing Ambassador as I was useful to him at certain times”.
We put the question to this ambitious trainer how she is getting on since relocating to France to which she responded, “Here in France it hasn’t kicked off for me properly yet. I have had very moderate results with moderate horses. I can’t trust the jockeys, they are too inconsistent and think they are better than the judge of a trainer. They think they are above a trainer and it is not for for me, watching these guys ride like a poor amateur when I know my horse is spot on. It breaks your heart to see your hard work go down the drain. Some of them don’t care if they make your business go bust. In England it was never like that, jockeys would follow your instructions and bring home the money”.
“I don’t know whether it’s because I am English, or whether it’s because I am a woman, but some of the rides for me here would get jockeys in England a lifetime non-trier ban, but here they get away with it. It’s appalling”.
“I competed against the best in the UK, and I think that I gained respect from my peers with cheap horses. The number of races won here by English and Irish trainers is almost embarrassing for the French. The difference is a chasm in training methods, I could write a book”.
“It’s tough being a woman in racing but I love being a mother and if I was a man I could never fill this role. My two daughters, Romany and Sapphire are my world and I will protect them like a lioness until the day that I die. Giving birth to these two girls changed my whole perception on life”.
“My horses are like my babies too and I always believe happy horses, win races. Class is fantastic as you don’t have to be as good a trainer with a yard full of group horses, but we are not all that fortunate”.
“Investment is all I am lacking right now to get the ball rolling. Good horses make good trainers and I already have a track record”.
“Being a woman in racing is probably like being a woman in any other industry that is dominated by men, we must work smarter, harder and take enough shit to sink the Titanic. And don’t be too pretty, it’s not good for business to be pretty”.