In 1979 Wiltshire finished runner-up in a televised race at Epsom, beaten in a photo finish by Walter Swinburn, who was then an apprentice too. Two years later, Swinburn rode Shergar to win the Derby. By then, Wiltshire, already a forgotten name, had departed for California, a place far more welcoming and with greater opportunities to female jockeys.
While Lorna Vincent was a pioneer for female professionals over jumps during the 1980s, there were very few who made an impression on the Flat. A notable exception was Kim Tinkler, who first tasted success under her maiden name of Spink in August 1985 when guiding her future husband Nigel’s Wow Wow Wow to victory at Edinburgh (as Musselburgh was then known). She would go on to ride 250 winners before retiring in 2008.
However, it took a former Leeds Polytechnic student from Northallerton to really pave the way for women riders. Alex Greaves was born on 14 April 1968. Her father, a farming man, rode hunters, while her mother, Valerie, had entered racing straight from school and earned her own place in racing’s history books when, on Silver Gal at Hexham on 4 May 1976, she became the first lady amateur rider to win a race against professionals over jumps.
Furthermore, Alex’s uncle, David Greaves, rode professionally in the 1970s, recording his most important victory on Maurice Camacho’s Clear Cut in the 1973 Mackeson (now Paddy Power) Gold Cup.
It was therefore no surprise that Greaves found herself perched on a horse almost before she could walk. She graduated into racing via the pony club, working hunter ponies and show jumping circuits.