4 Famous Women In Thoroughbred Racing

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4 Famous Women In Thoroughbred Racing

Equality has started to even things out, but as of 2024, Thoroughbred racing is still primarily dominated by men.

As of this writing, all Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys and trainers on record have been made. Indeed, save only for Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988, all Kentucky Derby-winning horses have also been male.

However, that is not to say that women have failed to make a mark on the Sport of Kings. As feminism took hold and women were permitted to have career dreams and be homemakers and mothers, more ladies began to rise to prominence in Thoroughbred racing.

Some American women have entered the history books for their contributions to Thoroughbred racing.

1. Mary L. Hirsch

Mary Hirsch came by her love and talent for training Thoroughbreds honestly: she was the daughter of Hall of Fame trainer Max Hirsch. Max Hirsch held his daughter in high regard and was said to consult with her on horse issues when she was a teenager.

Mary Hirsch first applied for her own trainers’ license in 1933. The men in charge of issuing licenses essentially hemmed and hawed for a year. Still, she was granted the right to train in Illinois and Michigan in 1934, a right extended nationally and internationally the following year.

She became the first woman to train a winner at the historic Saratoga Race Course in 1936 when No Sir won the Diana Stakes. The following year, she made history with No Sir again by becoming the first woman to enter a horse in the Kentucky Derby, where he ran 13th. If you know the best way to bet on the Kentucky Derby, you know the importance of this race for American horse racing.

4 Famous Women In Thoroughbred Racing

Mary Hirsch’s most memorable victory came in 1938 with a colt named Thanksgiving. The colt was initially trained by her father but was transferred to Mary’s services before beginning his three-year-old year. Mary Hirsch entered the talented colt in Saratoga’s most prestigious race, the Travers Stakes, where he won easily. Unfortunately, sexism prevailed, and although Mary Hirsch was known to be Thanksgiving’s sole conditioner, Max Hirsch was listed as the trainer of record.

2. Diane Crump

Women began to be issued jockeys licenses in the late 1960s, and Diane Crump was the first to compete professionally in a Thoroughbred race. Her debut race, on February 7th, 1969, at FFlorida’snow-defunct Hialeah Park, required a police escort so that Crump could safely reach her mount, BBridle’ Bit. Two weeks later, she wound up in the winner’s circle, where she would visit approximately 300 more times throughout her three-decade career in the saddle.

Her most memorable races, however, did not result in wins. After retirement, Crump recalled how her popularity grew with female spectators after a race in Puerto Rico in the early 1970s. Realizing mid-race that a male competitor was physically trying to impede her horse, Crump began using her crop to fight off the other jockey. The male jockey crossed the finish line first, but he was greeted with booing and a launch of projectiles from the women in the crowd. Crump, however, was met with cheers.

Her other most notable race occurred on the first Saturday in May 1970. Crump became the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby that day. She and her mount, Fathom, finished tenth.

3. Julie Krone

Julie Krone, the most successful American woman jockey, was inspired to become a jockey when, at the age of fourteen, she watched the eighteen-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen pilot Affirmed to a Triple Crown victory in 1978. Four years later, she earned a jockey’s license and rose to success quickly. She became the first woman to earn a riding title at several tracks, including Monmouth Park, The Meadowlands, Atlantic City Racecourse, Belmont Park, and Gulfstream Park. She rose to national prominence by the ddecade’send, finishing second in the 1988 BBreeders’Cup Juvenile Fillies aboard Darby Shuffle.

4 Famous Women In Thoroughbred Racing

Although Krone never won the Kentucky Derby, she set an important milestone for female jockeys in 1993. That year, she piloted Colonial Affair to victory in the Belmont Stakes, making Krone the first woman to ride the winner of a Triple Crown race, a feat no female jockey has been able to replicate since.

Krone returned to riding after a short break from 1999-2002. The following year, 2003, was KKrone’s most successful year. She became the first woman to ride the winner of a million-dollar race in that year’s Pacific Classic aboard Candy Ride and the first woman to ride a BBreeders’Cup winner when she piloted Halfbridled to victory in the BBreeders’Cup Juvenile Fillies. Unfortunately, a few weeks after that historic victory, Krone suffered injuries that eventually forced her into an official retirement.

4. Jena Antonucci

Thirty years after Krone and Colonial Affair made Belmont Stakes history, a trainer named Jena Antonucci gave her colt, Arcangelo, a chance in the same race. Arcangelo, already a winner of the Grade III Peter Pan Stakes, rewarded Antonucci with a win and made her the first woman to train the winner of a Triple Crown race. Arcangelo later added to their laurels with a win in the Travers Stakes- the first time a woman had taught the rrace’swinner since the Mary above Hirsch- and went on to be named the 2023 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Male.

Jena Antonucci is still an active trainer at the time of this writing. She has 173 wins from 2018 career starts and over $8.4 million in earnings.

4 Famous Women In Thoroughbred Racing

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