A total of 20 horses are set to compete Saturday at Churchill Downs in the 2017 Kentucky Derby alongside a roster of jockeys that hail from all over the world. But just how many women compete in the Kentucky Derby? The answer may disappoint you. While female trainers and horse owner have been fairly commonplace at the Kentucky Derby since the 1940s, it's a very different story when it comes to jockeys. In the race's 142-year history, only six women have ever ridden in the Kentucky Derby. None of them have ever won.
The first woman to ever ride in the Kentucky Derby was Diane Crump, who in 1970 finished 15th out of a field of 17 with her mount Fathom. But it was over a decade before the race saw another female jockey — Patricia Cooksey finished 11th at the Kentucky Derby with So Vague in 1984. Cooksey then went on to become the first female jockey to compete in the Preakness in 1985.
Seven years later in 1991, Andrea Seefeldt became the third woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Julie Krone rode Ecstatic Ride the following year and although she didn't win the Kentucky Derby, Krone went on to become the first woman to win a Triple Crown race with a victory at the Belmont Stakes in 1993. After her win at the Belmont Stakes, Krone returned to the Kentucky Derby lineup in 1995 atop Suave Prospect. In 2000, Krone became the first woman inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.
The Kentucky Derby jockey roster didn't see another female rider until 2003, when Rosemary Homeister Jr. rode Supah Blitz. But perhaps the most well-known female jockey to compete in the "Run for the Roses" is Rosie Napravnik, the highest-placing female jockey in Kentucky Derby history. Napravnik made headlines in 2011, 2013, and 2014 for finishing 9th, 5th, and 19th, respectively.
But while history may make the lack of women competing in the Kentucky Derby this year hardly unusual, some argue the lack of gender diversity in top-level professional horse racing is a bizarre problem. "Recreational riding is much more popular among women than among men, and professional jockeys must maintain weights that are much more typical for women than for men," data analyst Caroline Rutherford, and associate professors Paul von Hippel and Katherine Keyes wrote in an op-ed for CNN. The three argue that more female jockeys might help address some of the sport's current problems, such as falling winning times and sinking viewership ratings.
Although there won't be any female riders in this year's "Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports," 20 horses will break out of the gate at Churchill Downs for the 2017 Kentucky Derby on Saturday in a thrilling race to the finish.