Helen McDonogh - a trailblazing champion

Story by Conall Collier

Wednesday, 13th March, 2019 8:00pm

Helen McDonogh - a trailblazing champion

Monksfield's last win was at Down Royal with Helen McDonogh on board

Moynalty woman Helen McDonogh certainly qualifies for a title of champion jockey on the double with her tally of 116 winners in a era when it was generally accepted that women did not have the ability to ride in races against men. 

However, her achievements have  never been officially recognised in horseracing circles.

And this week horseracing will  grab the imagination of the serious and not so serious racing enthusiasts when women like Rachel Blackmore, Lisa O'Neill, Lizzy Kelly and Bryony Frost will all feature prominently at the four-day Cheltenham Festival.

ON DUTY LAST WEEK 

Add in the contributions of the recently retired duo of Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh, two women who broke new ground, and it is now widely accepted that, as the TV documentary series Jump Girls demonstrated, women can compete on equal terms against the men.

But it wasn't always accepted, and Helen McDonogh, formerly Helen Bryce-Smith, had a major impact on what was the male-dominated Turf Club-controlled horseracing industry of the 1960s and ‘70s. 

The Moynalty woman challenged the norms of the time and broke the mould. 

She rode 10 winners on the track and a record-setting 106 on the point-to-point circuit that still stands.

Each time she passed the post in front it reinforced her stature and displayed her ability to compete on equal terms more than half a century ago.  

There was a win on two-time Champion Hurdler Monksfield at Down Royal in March 1980 that was groundbreaking also as scarcely two months earlier she had given birth to son Declan.

MONKSFIELD AND HELEN MCDONOGH AT DOWN ROYAL

However, it was on the point-to-point circuit from the early-1960s that provided the determined young woman with that  record.

Checking in now at 78 after celebrating her birthday two weeks ago, Helen is the mother of top flat jockey Declan. With her husband Des, they continue training near Moynalty.

"I remember winning on Monksfield at Down Royal, Ted Walsh and the late John Fowler finished second and third in that race," she told the Meath Chronicle last week.

A WINNER AT NAVAN IN THE LADIES SERIES 1972

Check back tomorrow for the full interview with Helen McDonogh 

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