The Rise of Female Jockeys in the Kentucky Derby

Dubbed the most exciting two-minute horse racing sport in history, the Kentucky Derby is one of the most awaited horse racing activities, with many spectators watching every year. Approximately 150,000 live spectators and millions of viewers worldwide will witness this year’s season, which will take place in the famed Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Throughout the years, the Kentucky Derby has been a sport known for dominant male jockeys. Despite that, women have been breaking records in the race. 

In recent years, a growing portion of female jockeys participated in the Kentucky Derby, and their success became a testament to their skills and strength.

Female Jockeys in Kentucky Derby

Female jockeys have been known for riding horses for generations. However, they were restricted from competing against males. Finding employment and being viewed significantly in a male-dominated field was challenging. 

In 1975, Sex Discrimination Act was passed, and women were allowed to participate in professional races. However, it has been worse even after the restriction was abolished. Female jockeys faced considerable hurdles with participating in the traditionally male-dominated sport of horse racing. 

However, female jockeys have shown to be equally skilled as male competitors in their careers. Who are these outstanding female jockeys who have broken barriers in the Kentucky Derby? 

Let’s get to know them below!

Diane Crump

Diane Crump was the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby in 1970. She suffered a lot of disapproval coupled with death threats for entering the competition. Nevertheless, she persisted and opened opportunities for future generations of female jockeys. 

After that, an increasing number of female jockeys competed in the Kentucky Derby, creating history and encouraging the participation of more women in the competition.

Rosie Napravnik

Rosie Napravnik is a leading female jockey in the  2023 Kentucky Derby. She finished ninth on her first appearance in the Kentucky Derby in 2011. 

In 2013, she made history by being the first female rider to finish in the top five of the Kentucky Derby. She finished fifth with Mylute that year and became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks. 

Napravnik achieved over 1,900 victories with over $71 million in earnings during her career. Rosie resigned from racing in 2014 to have a family, but she keeps inspiring other female riders with her illustrious career. Napravnik cleared the path for other female riders, and her success motivated many young women to pursue careers in horse racing.

Julie Krone

Julie Krone is another well-known female jockey who has built a reputation in the Kentucky Derby.

Krone competed in the event six times and finished third on the horse Lion Heart in 1995. Krone has emerged as one of horse racing’s finest female riders, having won over 3,700 matches in her entire racing career. She became the first female rider to capture any of the Triple Crown events in 1993 when she rode Colonial Affair to victory in Belmont Stakes. 

Patricia Cooksey

Patricia “Patti” Cooksey is another female jockey who has succeeded in the Kentucky Derby. Cooksey rode thrice in the race and finished 11th in 1984 aboard So Vague. Cooksey was the first female jockey to win a stakes race at Churchill Downs and the first to ride in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown

Chantal Sutherland 

Chantal Sutherland is another female jockey who has competed in the Kentucky Derby. Sutherland rode in the race twice, finishing 17th in 2011 with Master of Hounds and 10th in 2012 aboard Union Rags. 

Sutherland is also among the most successful female jockeys in North America. She won about 1,000 races in her horse-racing career. Another fun fact about Chantal is her participation in the reality TV show “Jockeys.”

Andrea Seefeldt

Finally, we have jockey Andrea Seefeldt. Seefeldt rode in the Kentucky Derby twice, finishing 18th in 1991 aboard Lost Mountain and 19th in 1992 aboard Pine Bluff. 

Seefeldt was the first female jockey to win a graded stakes race in the United States when she rode Norquestor to victory in the 1985 General George Handicap at Laurel Park. 

Participating Female Jockeys in the 2023 Kentucky Derby

In Kentucky Derby 2023, female jockeys will make up nearly a quarter of the field for the first time in the race’s 149-year history, with four of the 20 horses being ridden by women. 

Historically, many women have displayed their ability as talented and competitive jockeys. The increasing number of female jockeys in the Kentucky Derby is an excellent example of this feat. 

One of the most high-profile female jackets in the race is Rosie Napravnik, who will be riding the horse Malibu Moonlight. Napravnik is no stranger to the Kentucky Derby, having previously completed the race five times. 

Another female jockey to watch in the 2023 Kentucky Derby is Chantal Sutherland, who will be riding the horse Keep in Mind. Other female jockeys competing in the race include Sophie Doyle, who will be riding Super Stock, and Maria Remedio, who will be riding Known Agenda. 

Final Thoughts

Women continue to confront struggles related to their gender in horse racing, ranging from a lack of chances to blatant discriminatory words.  

Despite these obstacles, female jockeys continue to tear down boundaries and prove their abilities as skilled athletes. As the roster of female jockeys in the Kentucky Derby and other important races grows, it’s apparent that horse racing’s future is swinging to be more inclusive.