Alicia Thornton -The First Female Jockey

Alicia Thornton was the first female jockey to ride in races against men at a recognised race meeting. She rode twice at the city of York racecourse in the August Meetings of 1804 and 1805, winning the second race against legendary jockey Frank Buckle.

Who was Alicia Thornton?

Alicia Thornton is remembered as the first female jockey, and was the only female victor listed by the Jockey Club until 1943. Despite these impressive claims, very little is known about her. Even though we refer to Alicia as Alicia Thornton, there is no evidence that she was married to Colonel Thornton, and after her victory against Frank Buckle in 1805, Alicia vanished from the public eye.

What happened in 1804?

Her first race was a personal affair- Alicia had challenged her neighbour Captain Flint to a race. On Saturday 25th August 1804, Alicia Thornton rode Colonel Thornton’s horse Vinagarella against Flint on his horse Brown Thornville in a four-mile race at York. Alicia’s riding skills were well-known, and she was considered the superior rider. One hundred thousand people came to watch, and Colonel Thornton had placed a bet of 1,000 guineas (around £105,864 in today’s money) on Alicia to win the race.

Alicia took the lead for the first three miles, when suddenly, disaster struck! In the last mile of the race, Vinagarella’s saddle girth (the strap that secures the saddle to the horse’s back) slipped sideways. Alicia had to quickly stop to avoid falling, allowing Captain Flint to go on and win the race in 9 minutes and 59 seconds. Many criticised Flint for not stopping to help Alicia, and later Colonel Thornton refused to pay out his bet, causing a rift between the Thornton’s and Flint.

Did she give up?

Luckily, Alicia was not put off by her defeat, and went on to race against Frank Buckle over two miles in 1805. Buckle was a very famous jockey, who won 27 British Classic races in his career, a record that was not beaten for over 150 years. It was a close race, with Alicia winning by half a neck (37.35cm).

Do you think Flint should have stopped to help Alicia?

Do you think Colonel Thornton should have paid his bet?