Meet the first Female winner over National Fences

Anthea Leigh is the daughter of the late Gold Cup-winning trainer Peter Beaumont and rode highly successfully as an amateur jockey. She was champion Yorkshire point-to-point rider four times, rode sixty-six winners under Rules including a novice chase on Jodami at Kelso, a Topham Trophy in 1991 (then the John Hughes Memorial Chase) on J-J Henry. Anthea was the first woman to ride a winner over the National fences and, so far, is the only female amateur to beat the professionals over the National fences; she was only bettered by the professional Rachel Blackmore winning theGrand National.

Anthea has been a busy Clerk of many Courses and divides her time between Yorkshire, Cumbria and Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire.

Which tracks are you Clerk of the Course at?

Cartmel and Racing Manager at York.

In a nutshell, what does your job entail?

It has a wide-ranging role, taking in everything from the racing surface (description of maintenance and improvements such as drainage projects, track widening, irrigation, course layout, inspections and abandonments). The job also involves communicating with racing professionals (owners, trainers, jockeys, racing staff, and press), Stable Yard and Hostel. In addition, the role includes engaging with BHA Field Force on race days; input into race planning, which differs for each course; facilities on course for jockeys, racing staff, owners and trainers, etc.

How important is it to get the correct ground reading?

Having ridden as an amateur and been closely involved on the training side of racing before becoming a Clerk, I am very aware of its importance to trainers and their running plans. Knowing your own track, and how it rides, and how it reacts to weather conditions are all essential.

How do you cope with a lack of rainfall during some summer months?

Some summers are a challenge, resulting in very long days for ground staff, who have to factor in watering into their already long lists of daily jobs. York draws water from two boreholes, so there were no issues regarding abstraction. At Cartmel, we work with the Environment Agency to look at the River Eea, from which we principally extract our water, to ensure we were working with permitted levels. When the river drops and flow rate slows, we switch to the lagoon for our irrigation.

Is it true that you once worked at all the Scottish tracks?

Since I started Clerking over twenty years ago, I have been lucky to work, at some point, on all the five Scottish racecourses, starting out at Perth and Musselburgh, where I was Clerk of the Course at each for a decade. The last being Kelso before I left a couple of years ago.

Which is your favourite race meeting?

The Dante Meeting followed by the Ebor, because of the quality of horses running: the best of the best from all over the world.

Which is your favourite racecourse that you do NOT work at?

Aintree – unbeatable for atmosphere, drama and fun.

Who do you admire the most in racing? Jonjo O’Neill for achieving at the highest level as a jockey and trainer. He overcame massive adversity, such as injuries and cancer, to still be a successful and kind person.

My father Peter Beaumont, who started humbly with one point-to-pointer that was fatally injured at their local ‘point; he was left with an empty bridle and stable, but he did not give up and won a Gold Cup. He was a true horseman and a gentleman.

As an ex-jockey yourself, how have the successes of Rachel Blackmore and Hollie Doyle resonated with you?

It has taken thirty years for Rachel Blackmore to take away my record of being the only female to beat professionals over the Grand National fences, which I was delighted to see as it shows the girls have broken through. Rachel and Hollie have done so by sheer talent and hard work. They have such terrific personalities and are inspiring future generations of girls by achieving at the highest level of our sports under both codes.

By Joanna Collinson