You may be shocked to discover that the first female jockey to ride the Epsom Derby was Alex Greaves, in 1996 – that is, 216 years after the inaugural race of 1780. Yet, in the male-dominated world of horse racing, Greaves’s story is pretty much the norm.
Horse racing bets are best explained by professionals who know exactly how to read horse racing odds. For those just starting out in the world of horse racing, you maybe be inspired by the many women who have had to endure centuries of discrimination simply to ride competitively in the races that provide us with our online sports betting thrills.
Here are some of the chief pioneers who have made significant contributions to the positive changes in modern horse racing and who secured a better future for female jockeys in all types of horse racing.
Anna Lee Aldred
Credited as the first licensed female jockey in the US, Aldred fought hard for her place in the world of horse racing. At 18 and against the will of US officials, Aldred was awarded her license simply because no one could find a legitimate clause in the rule book which explicitly excluded women from being licensed.
To appease the powers that be, Aldred was awarded her license in Mexico in 1939. She went on to race for the next five years and was eventually inducted into both the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.
Diane Crump is recognized as the leading light of female jockeys in the US. She entered the fray in 1969, inspired by Kathryn Kusner who took the Maryland Racing Commission to court for the right to be granted a jockey license and won. Sadly Kusner was injured before she could compete and the honor fell to Crump to become the first woman to ride competitively at the Hialeah Park Race Track in a pari-mutuel race, which is a race run for the purpose of horse racing betting.
So controversial was her inclusion in the race that she needed a police escort to protect her as she moved through the crowds. She explained, “The crowd was just swarming all over me. They were crazy, up in arms. . .The hecklers were yelling: ‘Go back to the kitchen and cook dinner.’”
Undeterred, Crump went on to become the first woman to participate in the 1970 Kentucky Derby, winning the undercard race and finishing 15th in the Derby. Plagued by injuries after 1985, Crump ended her career with 228 wins.
Barbara Jo Rubin
Barbara Jo Rubin took up the mantle soon after Diane Crump to become the first woman ever to win a pari-mutuel race when, riding Cohesion, she rode to victory in Charles Town. She also became the first woman rider in US history to win a race in New York.
Hot on the heels of her white counterparts, in 1971 Cheryl White became the first licensed African American Jockey in the US. Only three months after getting her license, White won her first race at Waterford Park riding Jetolara. She went on to become a racing official at numerous tracks around the US.
One of the biggest milestones in female jockey history was when Julie Krone won a Triple Crown race in 1993. Atop Colonial Affair, Krone was the first woman to achieve this honor at the Belmont Stakes. After that, she went on to become the first female jockey to win a Breeder’s Cup race in 2003 riding Halfbridled in the Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita park.
With 3,704 wins and $90 million in earnings, Krone is considered the most successful female rider in US history and was the first woman to be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.
Following in Krone’s footsteps, Rosie Napravnik pushed further in 2013 by becoming the first woman to compete in all three Triple Crown Races in one season. Riding Mylute, Napravnik then came in 5th in the Kentucky Derby – the highest placing for a female jockey. Her illustrious career included a number of other firsts.
Winning the leading jockey title four years in a row at Fair Grounds as well as heading up the standings at Keeneland in the same period, Napravnik became the first woman to ride more than one Breeder’s Cup winner. She also went on to win The Breeder’s Cup Distaff.
Rosemary Homeister Jr.
Rosemary Homeister Jr. was the first female jockey to have won an Eclipse Award, the highest honor afforded jockeys in the US. In the same year she was named champion, 1992, she would also be lauded as the outstanding apprentice jockey.
Homeister Jr.’s career spanned over 23 years and included 2,784 wins before she retired in 2015.
Hailing from north of the border, Canadian rider Chantal Sutherland became the first female jockey to compete in the prestigious Dubai World Cup – a major feat, given the cultural and religious objections to women participating in public life in the Middle East. She then became the first woman to win the Santa Anita Handicap.
Sutherland would go on to win over 1,000 races, including the Miami Mile Handicap, The Hollywood Gold Cup and the Eclipse Stakes.
Across the pond in the UK, female jockeys fared just as well as their US counterparts. Meriel Tufnell is touted as the woman who shattered the glass ceiling that kept women from racing competitively in the UK. In 1972, Tufnell rode her mother’s mare, Scorched Earth, at the inaugural Goya Stakes flat race for ladies and won with neither jockey nor horse ever having raced before.
Tufnell raced seven times more in a series of ladies’ races and won three of those, leaving her with a 50% win rate. She continued racing professionally for another two years and went on to start the first-ever Ladies’ Jockey Association of Great Britain and even competed in the first-ever mixed race.
Rachael Blackmore is most famous for becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National in 2021 riding Minella Times. While this will remain her crowning glory, Blackmore’s success goes much further.
The Irish rider was the first female jockey to win the Irish conditional riders’ championship and would go on to become the most successful female jumps jockey at Grade 1 level, recording 10 victories.
She is also the most successful active jockey under National Hunt rules with over 300 wins and has already accrued three Cheltenham Festival wins.
Winning with BetMGM and NYRA bets
You may not know the finer points of horse race betting or understand what pace handicapping is, but there is nothing quite like the thrill of betting on the ponies. Register with BetMGM and NYRA Bets to try your hand at one of the oldest betting games in history.