Who Was The First Woman To Compete In The Kentucky Derby?
Aside from female attendees donning elaborate hats and holding mint juleps, the Kentucky Derby has always been a major boys' club. The first woman to compete in the Kentucky Derby didn't ride in the acclaimed event until 1970, finally breaking the horse racing glass ceiling. Since then, five other women have ridden Kentucky Derby horses — still not anywhere close to the number of men, but it's progress.
As the jockeys competing this year prepared to take off around the track, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tweeted about the first female jockey in the Louisville race — Diane Crump, who came in 15th place on the horse Fathom. Clinton posted a famous quote of Crump's that said, "Don't let anyone tell you that you can't or that you're not good enough. You are."
Crump won more than 230 races throughout her career before retiring in 1985. The Connecticut native was also the first woman to race in a pari-mutuel race (the system of betting used in the Kentucky Derby) in the United States at a Florida race the year before she fought her way onto the Churchill Downs racetrack for the Derby.
Crump wasn't consciously trying to be the first female jockey; she just wanted to race. "I hate to say it, but the women’s movement really wasn’t part of my mental process at the time,” she told Daily Racing Form's Mary Simon in 2013. "I was simply working hard at the track, galloping horses. Yes, it was going on, but was I actually a part of it? Maybe, but it wasn’t something I was consciously trying to do. I was just a horse-loving kid pursuing her dream."
She now works as a trainer and has a horse breeding business based out of Virginia.
To this day, no female trainer or jockey as won the Kentucky Derby, with Rosie Napravnik coming the closest with a fifth place finish in 2013. Female trainers broke into the Derby much sooner than Crump though. Mary Hirsch was the first woman trainer to compete in the "Run for the Roses" in 1937, and the second-place finish of Shelley Riley's horse in 1992 made her the most successful female trainer in the Derby's history.
Women have been involved in the Louisville event since the early 1900s, and by the 1940s, female owners were common. In 1942, seven of the first eight finishers were owned by women, according to the Kentucky Derby's website.
This year's race didn't boast any female jockeys, but maybe 2017 will be the year.