Greatest Women In The History Of Horse Racing

horse racing 2003 Breeder's Cup Julie Krone wins Juvenile Fillies race aboard Halfbridled Credit: Bill Frakes SetNumber: X69500

Horse racing, like much of the sporting world, has been dominated by men for most of its history. For hundreds of years, every leading jockey, trainer, and owner of record was male. When women went to the races, it was generally accepted that they were there only to dress up and be seen.

However, as the first quarter of the twenty-first century comes to a close, that balance has started to shift. No longer relegated to the society pages, women are making headlines in horse racing in every aspect of the sport.

Unfortunately there are not many women in the Preakness Stakes 2024, but you can check the odds here:

Here are some of the most notable women in the history of Thoroughbred racing.

Mary Hirsch

Mary Hirsch was the daughter of champion trainer Max Hirsch, and from an early age she was sure that she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. Mary Hirsch first petitioned for her own trainers’ license in 1933. The men in charge of issuing licenses essentially hemmed and hawed for a year, but she was granted the right to train in Illinois and Michigan in 1934, a right which was extended nationally and internationally the following year.

She became the first woman to train a winner at historic Saratoga Race Course in 1936 when No Sir won the Diana Stakes; the next 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. Mary Hirsch’s most memorable victory came in 1938 with a colt named Thanksgiving, who had initially been trained by her father but who 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, an amount of sexism prevailed, and although Mary Hirsch was known to be Thanksgiving’s sole conditioner, it was her father, Max Hirsch, who was listed as the trainer of record.

Mary Hirsch retired from training in 1940 after getting married. She died in 1976.

Charlsie Cantey

Born in 1946, Charlsie Cantey was an exercise rider in the 1970s whose charges included the great filly Ruffian. Cantey was chosen to co-host racing programs on WOR-TV (which was, at the time, America’s leading television station for sports coverage). Her segments proved popular, and she could appreciate the sport from several angles; in addition to exercise riding, Cantey owned and trained a handful of Thoroughbreds.

She began to make a name for herself as a sportscaster, and specialized in covering the Triple Crown races in a way that made horse racing accessible to a wide audience. She has worked with nearly every major sports network in the United States. In addition to horse racing, she has provided expert commentary for the NFL, the NBA, America’s Cup, and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Cantey retired from television in 2005, and she and her husband, Douglas Davidson, live in Okatie, South Carolina.

Julie Krone

When eighteen-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen piloted Affirmed to a Triple Crown victory in 1978, fourteen-year-old Julie Krone became firm in her resolve to become a jockey. Four years later, she earned a jockeys’ license of her own and rose to success quickly. She became the first woman to earn a riding title at a number of tracks, including Monmouth Park, The Meadowlands, Atlantic City Racecourse, Belmont Park, and Gulfstream Park. She rose to national prominence by the end of the decade, when she finished second in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies aboard Darby Shuffle.

Perhaps Krone is most famous for one pivotal ride in the summer of 1993. That was when she rode Colonial Affair to victory in the Belmont Stakes, making her the first woman to ride the winner of a Triple Crown race, a feat no female jockey has been able to replicate since, although a handful of women such as Rosie Napravnik have come close.

After a short break from riding from 1999-2002, Krone returned to the sport. The next year, 2003, was Krone’s most financially 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 Breeders’ Cup winner when she piloted Halfbridled to victory in the Breeders’

Cup Juvenile Fillies. Unfortunately, a few weeks after that historic victory, Krone suffered injuries that eventually forced her into an official retirement.

Barbara Livingston

Barbara Livingston was born in 1961 in New York, and has fond memories of summers with her parents at Saratoga Race Course. She was ten years old when she was watching horses in their morning workout, and she was given a camera. She began taking snapshots of the horses as they worked, forever inspiring both a love of horses and of photography. Livingston began to hone her craft, and she graduated from Syracuse University in 1984 with a degree in experimental photography.

Livingston is the chief photographer for the Daily Racing Form and captures the sport from all angles. She has also published photos in GQ, People, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN, as well as written several books.

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