by Lindsay Griffin
Throughout the annals of time, jockeys have been known to be a lot of things.
They are known to be strong athletes, able to control thousands of pounds of horseflesh with only subtle movements. They are known to be excellent judges of pace, being able to tell exactly how fast a field of horses is moving around them. They are known to be small people who often have to sculpt and control their own bodies to maintain weight.
They are also, by and large, known to be male.
This is mostly because females have been barred from obtaining jockey licenses for most of the sport’s history. As with most professions, the world of horse racing remained largely unavailable to women until the 1960s. Then, both in the US and Europe, women began to swing up into the racing saddle, eventually making it into some of the top races in the sport.
The first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby was Diane Crump, who rode Fathom to a fifteenth-place finish in 1970. Crump had also been the person who “broke” Fathom, meaning that she introduced him to the idea of carrying a rider on his back, as well as the tack (equipment) that goes with it.
This wasn’t Crump’s only first, however; in fact, many would say that her most important “first” came a year earlier. On February 7th, 1969, Diane Crump was aboard Bridle’n Bit in a race at Hialeah Park- the first time in the United States that a woman had ever ridden in a parimutuel race as a professional jockey. While she initially required a police presence for safety purposes when accessing the track, racing fans ultimately came to respect and support her.
Crump initially retired from race riding in 1985, but returned in 1992. She retired for good in 1999 and is officially credited with 228 career wins.
Hayley Turner is the most accomplished female rider in Europe. Her career began rather inauspiciously; her very first mount, Markellis, broke down mid-race and had to be euthanized. However, Turner was uninjured, and eight races later, in June of 2000, she scored her first victory. Although she took a hiatus from riding from 2015-2018, she eventually returned to compete and is still an active jockey at Newmarket as of this writing.
Turner has scored several prestigious wins in her career, including two editions of the Group I July Cup at Royal Ascot. She has also traveled to the United States, winning the Grade I Beverly D Handicap with I’m A Dreamer in 2012. Her most notable achievement came in 2008, when she became the first female jockey in Britain to win 100 races in a year.
In 2013, Rosie Napravnik became the first female jockey to ride in all three United States Triple Crown races. Although she did not record a victory in any of them, she has come closer to victory than any so far in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness; riding Mylute in 2013, she finished fifth in the Derby and third in the Preakness. She is also the only female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks, which is the premier race for three-year-old fillies; her victory came in 2012 aboard Believe You Can.
Napravnik has also found success in the Breeders’ Cup races. She captured the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile aboard Shanghai Bobby, and won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Untapable in 2014. She retired from riding in 2015 with 1878 career wins.
Julie Krone is by far the most well-known American female jockey. She had an extraordinarily groundbreaking career and was the first female jockey to reach the top tier of the sport from a national perspective. In 1993, she became the first (and so far the only) female jockey to win a Triple Crown race, riding Colonial Affair to victory in the Belmont Stakes. Ten years later, she was the first female jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Halfbridled.
Krone’s accomplishments have led to a number of honors and awards. In 2000, she was the first woman to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013. She officially retired from riding in 2004 with 3704 career wins.