The Most Influential Women in Horse Racing

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Horse racing is a sport that has been around for many years and has seen several changes and improvements. One cannot ignore the influence of women on this sport, and it is vital to recognize who these women were. The sport of horse racing has been dominated mainly by men; however, women have played an influential role in the sport, whether that is through breeding, training, owning, or racing horses. Below we will go through some of the most influential women in horse racing history. 

Laska Durnell

The first woman on this list made her claim to fame back in 1904. Laska Durnell was the first woman that ever owned a Kentucky Derby starter. She was the first female to win the Kentucky Derby, and the horse she won the race with was called Elwood. Elwood was the first horse bred by women for racing and then raced by women who went on to win the Kentucky Derby. This cemented both Elwood and Laska Durnell into the history of horse racing. The woman that bred Elwood was the famous female trainer, Mrs. J.B. Prather. 

Kathy Kusner

Kathy Kusner played a significant role in allowing women to compete as jockeys during the Olympics. Back in 1968, Kathy Kusner successfully sued the racing commission in Maryland for rejecting her appeal for her license to become a jockey because she was a woman. After this, Kathy Kusner obtained her jockey license and competed in Canada and the East Coast. Her career as a jockey took her worldwide to countries such as Chile, Columbia, Mexico, South Africa, Panama, and Germany.  

During the 1972 Olympics held in Munich, Germany, Kusner came home with a silver medal, making her the very first woman to have ever won an award in a horse competition. She is an inspiring figure that showed many young women how to stand their ground and always chase their dreams. Kathy Kusner is about as good a role model as you could want as a young female looking for a career in sports.  

Diane Crump

Diane Crump paved the way for young aspiring female athletes. She made a name for herself when she became the first-ever woman to compete in a horse race described as pari-mutuel. She did this back in 1969 when she rode at Hialeah Park on the 7th of February. On this day, Diane Crump rode on a horse called Bridle n’ Bit, which now shares Crump’s achievement in the history of horse racing. 

Diane Crump was not, however, the first woman to attempt to compete in a horse race. Just one year prior, in 1968, Penny Ann Early obtained her jockey license, attempted to compete in three different races, and was unsuccessful each time. This was because the other racers decided to boycott her and refused to race because she was of a different gender. In addition to being the first woman to compete in a horse race described as pari-mutuel, Crump was the first female jockey to participate in the Kentucky Derby in 1970. She finished this race in 15th place on her horse called Fathom.

Barbara Jo Rubin

Although Diana Crump was the first woman to compete in a pari-mutuel race, Barabara Jo Rubin was the first woman to win a pari-mutuel race at 19 years old. Rubin achieved this in 1969 at a racetrack in the United States recognized at a national level. During this amazing victory on the 22nd of February, Rubin rode a horse called Cohesion at a venue called Charles Town. Following this victory, she became the first-ever female jockey to win a horse race in New York. 

Cheryl White

In 1971, on the 5th of June, Cheryl White became the first ever African American female to obtain a jockey license in the United States. It took her just a few months to get her first victory on the 2nd of September during a race at Waterford Park, riding Jetoloara. Following this victory, White went on to have a long and successful career in which she competed in various different categories of horse racing. These included Arabian, Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, Appaloosa, and Paint races which she managed to prove that she was a strong rider. 

Cheryl White went on to take the Examination for the California Horse Racing Board’s steward, which she passed with flying colors in 1991. After passing this exam, Cheryl White worked as an official for many races held at many different racetracks around the country. She played many roles as a steward and is widely respected in the history of horse racing. 

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