Horse racing for the better part of the 19th and 20th centuries was considered a man’s sport. It was an unsaid rule that women should not participate in any horse race; well, that is until Diane Crump opened the way for other women to shine in this sport that was considered “men only.” Diane Crump not only paved the way for other women to be part of horse racing as a whole but also her courage and determination to participate in horse racing. It opened many people’s eyes to the fact that horse racing wasn’t for men only, but anyone could be part of it. This awareness led to the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 that allowed female jockeys into the Grand National horse race held annually at Aintree, England. Since then, over six female jockeys have participated in the Grand National horse, including Charlotte Brew in 1977, Geraldine Rees, Venetia Williams, and many more.
The American horse trainer and jockey was the first woman to ride in a professional horse race, the Kentucky Derby in the United States. Her participation in the Kentucky Derby was considered an abomination. So many people were so against it that she needed a Presidential like police escort through the crowds at Hialeah Park Race track. After all the controversy and insults against her participation in the Kentucky Derby, she managed a 9th position in a 12 horse race, and the atmosphere at the end of the race was quite the opposite with lots of cheers of support.
The Kentucky Derby opened up a lot of opportunities for Diane. Two weeks after coming 9th in the pari-mutuel race, she claimed her first victory as horse racer, and eventually, many more of them. In 1985 when Diane, briefly retired, she had won over 235 horse races, but she is only credited with 228 by Equibase). One of the worst horse racing experience she ever had was at a Puerto Rican horse race, where a male jockey was joined on her saddle. When she realized this, she started hitting him with a stick, but he couldn’t let go. After fighting for almost all of the race, the male jockey pulled away at the end to win the race.
Meriel Tufnell’s win at the Kempton Park horse race England
Born in 1948, Meriel Patricia Tufnell was the first female jockey in the United Kingdom to win a race while protected by the Jockey Club rules at the Kempton Park racecourse. Riding her mother’s horse Scorched Earth to victory was an unbelievable achievement by Meriel, and what made it sweeter was the fact that Scorched earth had never raced in any race before the Kempton Park in 1972.
Some other notable female Jockey wins
The horse racing world till date has seen a fair share of female jockey wins which include:
- Nina Carberry- coming from a racing family, she has many horse racing accolades to her name, including Cheltenham Festival, 4 Cross country Handicap wins, and Josie’s order at the Punchestown.
- Julie Krone-the American jockey shot to the limelight when she won Belmont Stakes. She had also won the Breeders cup in 2003.
- Katie Walsh- with massive success in her horse racing careers like the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National at the Seabass, she is the first female to win the Irish National on Thunder and Roses.
- Kayla Stra-with her most significant win at the City of Marion stakes Kayla Stra has over 1700 wins in horse racing.
The most embarrassing sexist event in the History of Horse racing
One of the most embarrassing sexist events in the world of horse racing that hindered the prosperity of female jockeys was way back in 1969, where two female jockeys were set to participate at the Kentucky Derby in the United States. The male jockeys forced the female jockeys out of the race by throwing rocks at trailers used by the female jockeys as Locker rooms, and they also threatened to boycott the race if the women participated.
Where are we? And what is it that can be done to Increase Female Jockeys in Horse racing?
Unlike in the 20th century, Female jockeys have received more support in legislations like the Sex discrimination act. There has also been an increase in the awareness against sexual discrimination in the horse racing communities. These environment has made it possible for the likes of Sophie Doyle and Donna Barton Brothers to dominate the 21st century has the racing world.. As much as the number of female jockeys has increased significantly over the years, it is not there yet. The jockeys Guild believe that the female jockeys make up 8% of the total registered jockeys in the United States. Becoming a female jockey and succeeding at it anywhere on earth comes with working a lot of grueling hours, less pay, and some very gruesome injuries. If all the stakeholders came together and made the conditions a little better for the female jockeys as a whole, we will see more female jockeys on those horse tracks.