Jenny Pitman: Grand National Legend
Jenny Pitman occupies a special space amongst these legends. Not only was she the first female trainer to train a Grand National winner, but her two triumphs at the Grand National were achieved against enormous odds.
Jenny Pitman was born to a large family in rural Leicestershire and grew up amongst horses. She left school at the age of 15 to work as a stable girl and pursue her love of horses. Within a few years she met jockey Richard Pitman, and married when she was 19.
In 1975 Jenny Pitman obtained her trainer’s license, and succeeded in training her first winning horse that year – Biretta. Her involvement in the demanding world of National Hunt racing put her marriage under a great deal of strain, and she separated from her husband in 1977.
Jenny Pitman, Grand National legend, soon began notching an impressive string of victories, and rapidly earned herself the respect of the racing community for her success rate and the care and respect with which she treated her horses.
In one famous incident after witnessing jockey John Francome riding one of her horses too hard she stalked to the unsaddling enclosure and floored him with a right hook before kicking him out of her stable.
In 1983 Pitman entered her horse Corbiere into the Grand National. Corbiere started the race at 13/1 odds, and pulled off a stunning victory to make Jenny Pitman the first ever female Grand National winning trainer.
This was not the end of Pitman’s success at the Grand National. In 1993 her horse Esha Ness won the Grand National only to have the victory annulled when nine riders responded to a false start. She did not have to wait long to make up for this loss and in 1995 Royal Athlete defied 40/1 odds to hand Jenny Pitman her second Grand National title.
Jenny Pitman’s success was not limited to the Grand National. The Grand National legend also achieved two Cheltenham Gold Cup wins, and wins at the Irish and Welsh Grand Nationals amongst a host of prestigious titles. She was subsequently awarded an OBE for her contribution to horseracing.
Jenny Pitman, Grand National legend, retired in 1999, handing her training yard over to her son Mark and having beaten a path for female trainers and jockeys in the uncompromising world of National Hunt racing.