Eddie Ahern is a former Group One-winning jockey, whose career effectively ended in May, 2013, when he was found guilty, by a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) disciplinary panel, of three serious breaches of the Rules of Racing and ‘warned off’ for ten years. Aherne, 35, was supported by the Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA) in his appeal against the decision and the severity of the punishment handed down, but lost.

Born in Co. Tipperary in 1977, Ahern rode his first winner, Ardlea House, at Dundalk in November, 1994, a month or so shy of his seventeenth birthday. Three years later, in 1997, he became Irish Champion Apprentice with 36 winners. Two years later still, in 1999, he rode his first Group One winner, Preseli, trained by Michael Grassick, in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh. The following year he achieved his best seasonal total in Ireland, 46, but in 2002 moved to Newmarket, increasing his tally to 84, 107, 111, 120 and 140 winners in consecutive seasons.In September, 2011, Ahern rode his second Group One winner, Duncan, trained by John Gosden, who dead-heated with Jukebox Jury in the Irish Field St. Leger at the Curragh.

However, the previous January, he had already ridden the horse on which he would be found guilty of not obtaining the best possible placing, Judgethemoment, trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam, in the lowly Class 6 Felbridge Handicap at Lingfield. In the two-mile contest, Ahern set off like the proverbial ‘scalded cat’, spreadeagling the field, but his mount inevitably weakened in the final half-a-mile, dropping out to finish last of the seven runners, beaten 35ΒΌ lengths and fully15 lengths behind the sixth horse home. Ahern claimed that he had simply ‘misjudged’ the pace, but the BHA did not accept that he ‘could have made an error of such an extent’ and banned him accordingly. In his 19-year career, Ahern he had ridden 1,252 winners.

If there’s one race that gets casual fans and die hards alike tuning in, it just has to be the Grand National. Taking place this year on Saturday April 10th, it will provide welcome relief from the struggles of the past year and although there won’t be crowds cheering on the proceedings, we will all no doubt be willing on our selections from our own livings rooms.

It’s of course not just this past year that has seen changes in racing and indeed society though. Above, Katie Walsh in partnership with Betway, guides us through the journey and hard won advancements that female jockeys have made over recent decades. From the first female jockey in the National, Charlotte Brew, in 1977 to recent years where (in the 2000s) their presence is a much more common sight. We’ve come a long way since the days of Ginger McCain saying that the event was ‘no place for a woman’. 2021 will see three female jockeys riding in the Aintree Grand National (Rachael Blackmore, Bryony Frost and Tabitha Worsley). Progress.