03/30/2005 1:00AM

Top U.K. female rider retires

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Alex Greaves, the winningest female jockey in British racing history, has announced her surprise retirement from the saddle at the age of 36. The first woman to ride a Group 1 winner in England when she partnered Ya Malak to a dead-heat victory with Coastal Bluff in the 1997 Nunthorpe Stakes at York, Greaves was also the first woman to ride in the Epsom Derby and the 1000 Guineas.

She scored Group 3 victories in the Ballyogan Stakes at Leopardstown in Ireland and in the Taby Open Sprint Championship in Sweden, both times aboard Proud Native. The measure of her contribution to racing in Britain, however, is illustrated by the fact that in 1991 she became the first female jockey to ride out her apprentice claim and become a journeyman.

During her 15-year career, Greaves rode in the neighborhood of 300 winners in Britain. She cited continued problems with weight as the reason for her retirement.