While it may no longer be a man’s world, this phrase certainly still rings true at the live horse racing track. But remember, a horse race would be nothing without female jockeys. Besides, winning is that much more fun when you defy the odds. To celebrate National Women’s History Month in March, we’re trotting you through the history of ladies in thoroughbred horseracing.

History of Female Jockeys

Why don’t we see more ladies on the track?

Looking back at the last few races you bet on, you probably don’t remember a female rider. You may find yourself asking, how many female jockeys are there? If there was a woman in the race, the odds were probably stacked against her. This has less to do with sexism in racing and more to do with strict physical guidelines.

Thoroughbred horse racing competitions usually have weight limits for jockeys. Horses should be able to carry their mount and jockey without too much wasted energy. The Kentucky Derby says jockeys can’t weigh more than 126 pounds. What a professional rider lacks in weight, they need to make up for in physical strength and muscle mass. Men usually have more upper body strength than female jockeys, thus an easier time controlling stallions.

Even with these odds, there are still many amazing female athletes who have trotted their way through live horse racing track history.

Female Jockeys throughout Racetrack History

Kathy Kusner sued the Maryland Racing Commission for women’s right to compete in pari-mutuel races in 1969 and won. She injured herself and was unable to make the first competition, but she still laid the foundation for some of the following well-known female jockeys.

1960s-70s

  • Diane Crump: At only 19 years old, she became the first of any female jockeys to ride in a U.S. thoroughbred race. Later, in 1970, she would become the first female to compete at the Kentucky Derby.
  • Barbara Jo Rubin: Competing at Charles Town in 1969, she was the first woman to win a horse race. Male jockeys warned they wouldn’t race against her at Tropical Park that same year in June.

1980s-90s

  • Cheryl White: Not only was she the first black female jockey, but she also won five live horse racing competitions at Fresno Fair in 1983.
  • Julie Krone: She made her mark during the late 80s to mid-90s. Krone was the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown race during the Belmont Stakes competition. Later, she would be known as the first woman to compete in Kentucky Derby multiple times.

2000s

  • Chantal Sutherland: After female jockeys started to make headlines, Animal Planet created a reality show called Jockeys, in which Sutherland starred.
  • Rosie Napravnik: This amazing lady broke Krone’s record of the highest finish in female jockey standings after earning over $12 million and placing eighth for the year. In 2013, she placed fifth at the Kentucky Derby, the highest ranking of any female jockey ever.

This list of strong female jockeys goes to show that as tough as a spooked racehorse is, a woman with a dream is tougher still.

Come Celebrate History

The live horse racing track has some unique history. Book your room online and visit us to celebrate this triumphant sport at Ellis Park Racing!