When law firms talk about hiring winners, it is rare for them to be speaking quite as literally as Yorkshire outfit Langleys does when describing the new head of its equine law practice.
But then Serena Brotherton’s legal career is only one of her passions. Brotherton is the four-time national lady amateur champion jockey – no mean feat for someone who has a legal day job. And it is even more impressive when you consider that Brotherton did not take up riding in a serious way until after her 21st birthday.
But then again, there are three generations of racing pedigree in Brotherton’s family.
Her grandmother owned 1950 Grand National winner Free Booter, while her mother rode out for a local trainer and had a successful career as a point-to-point rider. Her grandfather, meanwhile, was Master of Foxhounds for the Holderness Hunt.
However, the racing bug took a while to bite the youngest horsewoman in the Brotherton clan.
“I first rode out for a local trainer,” she says of her formative experiences. “I wasn’t much good but enjoyed it. I didn’t ride in my first race until I was 21.”
Although that is relatively late for a jockey to start making her mark, what the self-effacing Brotherton neglects to say is that the local trainer in question was none other than Mick Easterby, the training legend who remains the only man to have saddled 1,000 winners on both the flat and over jumps.
With that kind of education in place, all that was required for Brotherton’s love of horses to translate into a love of racing was a suitable equine partner. He eventually arrived in the shape of Across The Lake.
“He changed the course of my life,” Brotherton says, with obvious affection for the horse her mother bought her on her return from university. “My mother was hopeful that if I rode him well he might be placed in point-to-points, but in the end he won 12 races, which was remarkable. He was a brilliant horse and is totally responsible for my love of racing.”
Although those first winners came over the timbers, Brotherton found her real form on the flat. She won the first of her titles in 2005 and last season put in her best performance, finishing with eight winners to claim her fourth amateur crown.
“It comes as a surprise to get that many winners in any year,” Brotherton admits. “When I started out all I wanted to do was ride a winner, but as soon as I got one I wanted more. I thought I’d be lucky to ride out my claim [the minimum number of wins a jockey must achieve before they can ride without a weight advantage].”
When she started female jockeys were few and far between, but the successes of the likes of Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh and Hayley Turner have helped Brotherton secure an increasing number of top-quality rides.
“It certainly helps,” she says of the burgeoning ranks of female jockeys. “When you see girls riding and riding well it helps to change perceptions.”
Furthermore, the recent triumphs of Gold Cup-winning jockey Sam Whaley-Cohen have meant that amateur jockeys are now being taken more seriously by their professional peers.
However, working three days a week as a lawyer might be thought to be a strain on a sporting career. Not so for Brotherton.
“They’ve been fantastic with me,” she says of her firm. “The prospect of working for three full days and not riding on those days was a little daunting but they allow me a lot of flexibility and even sponsor me as a jockey, so it couldn’t be better.”
But she insists that her role as head of equine law rarely extends to offering tips.
”If I’ve got a fancy I share it,” she adds. “But they always ask me if I’m going to win; I just say, ‘I hope so’.”