Success is sweeter when it's earned and nobody can doubt Jenny Pitman's achievements. As Pitman herself attests: "I haven't got a lot of money but I am the richest person here. I have had experiences that, if you were the richest person on Earth, you couldn't buy."
Jenny's life to date has been a mixed bag of trial and accolade. Although life events have sometimes marred the success, Pitman's strong character and humble beginnings have served her well.
Born in Leicestershire, Jenny was raised in a large family on a farm without gas, water or electricity. Leaving school at fifteen for a job as a stable girl, she met jockey Richard Pitman and the age of nineteen, married him. The couple moved to Wiltshire where they purchased a plot of land on which to build stables and in 1975 Jenny gained her first horse training licence.
Pitman had her first win that very same year and but as success came calling her marriage was in tatters. In 1977 Jenny and Richard divorced and Jenny left Wiltshire for Lambourn, Berkshire.
The winners soon began to accrue and Jenny herself gained the respect of the racing world. Nobody believed however, that she could train a horse that would bring her home the most coveted racing title of all – The Grand National After all, no female trainer had ever done so!
The Grand National is not a race for the faint hearted! Often criticised for it's dangerous aspects, the National tests not only the nerve of owners and trainers but the skill of both jockey and horse. With treacherous fences and a course which stretches over four and a half miles, there's more than an element of danger and yet a difficult to ignore sense of excitement.
Only the well trained and sound horse can survive, and with the race attracting the elite of world trainers, who would believe that a woman stood a chance? Jenny Pitman did! She took the title not once, but twice, first with 'Corbiere' in 1983 and then with 'Royal Athlete' in 1995.
Jenny almost gained the title a third time too when in 1993, her horse 'Esha Ness' won the 'National that never was.' 'Esha Ness' crossed the post in 1st place but the race was declared void after two false starts left half of the horses at the starting line. Believe me, there was a LOT of controversy over that one!
Jenny Pitman's National success will always be viewed as her most notable, but it is by no means her only success. She has accumulated several victories including the prestigious, 'Cheltenham Gold Cup' which she has also taken twice beginning with 'Burrough Hill Lad' in 1984 and ending with 'Garrison Savannah' in 1991.
Jenny's largest challenge however lay ahead and it had nothing to do with with horses or training.
In 1997, Jenny was diagnosed with cancerous cells in her thyroid. Although still not completely in the clear, radiotherapy and several operations have aided a recovery. It is perhaps this recovery that caused Jenny to announce her retirement on 16 March 1999 at the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. She was stepping down from the horse training business at the end of the season and handing the reins over to her son Mark.
At 52 years of age and after 24 years as a trainer, Jenny's retirement will be spent with husband David Stait, a man she met in 1979 and married in 1997.