Five famous female horse race jockeys

For as much as people talk about young girls being “horse crazy,” the world of the competitive Thoroughbred jockey has been largely dominated by men. 

Almost every important Thoroughbred race has been won solely by male jockeys. Almost.

That’s hardly a slight against female prowess in the saddle, though, when one considers that the Sport of Kings has been going on for centuries and female jockeys have only even been permitted to compete- much less encouraged- since the 1960s. Nowadays, while female jockeys are still a rarity, there are several who have made history in the sport. 

Here are five of the most famous female jockeys the sport of Thoroughbred racing has seen, according to TwinSpires.

1) Diane Crump

The first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby was Diane Crump, who rode Fathom to a fifteenth-place finish in 1970. Crump had also been the person who “broke” Fathom, meaning that she introduced him to the idea of carrying a rider on his back, as well as the tack (equipment) that goes with it. 

This wasn’t Crump’s only first, however; in fact, many would say that her most important “first” came a year earlier. On February 7th, 1969, Diane Crump was aboard Bridle’n Bit in a race at Hialeah Park- the first time in the United States that a woman had ever ridden in a parimutuel race as a professional jockey. While she initially required a police presence for safety purposes when accessing the track, racing fans ultimately came to respect and support her.

Crump initially retired from race riding in 1985, but returned in 1992. She retired for good in 1999 and is officially credited with 228 career wins.

2) Julie Krone

Julie Krone is by far the most well-known American female jockey. She had an extraordinarily groundbreaking career and was the first female jockey to reach the top tier of the sport from a national perspective. In 1993, she became the first (and so far the only) female jockey to win a Triple Crown race, riding Colonial Affair to victory in the Belmont Stakes. Ten years later, she was the first female jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Halfbridled.

Krone’s accomplishments have led to a number of honors and awards. In 2000, she was the first woman to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013. She officially retired from riding in 2004 with 3704 career wins.

3) Chantal Sutherland

Chantal Sutherland is the premier Canadian female jockey. She began her riding career at age 24 in 2000, riding at Woodbine in Toronto; unusual among jockeys, she won her debut race. Her victory proved not to be a fluke, and in 2001, she received the Sovereign Award as Canada’s top apprentice jockey, an award she duplicated the following year.

She rode primarily in her home country until 2005, when she relocated to Southern California. There, she won many historic races such as the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap and the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup (both aboard Game On Dude). As of this writing, she has 1244 career wins.

Sutherland has ridden as recently as May 2023, and her most recent graded stakes win came aboard Lightning Larry in the 2022 Grade III Chick Lang Stakes. Sutherland is also accomplished in other fields: she holds a degree in psychology and communications from York University and played competitive field hockey as a young woman. She also has experience as a model, most famously for Del Mar Racetrack.

4) Rosie Napravnik 

In 2013, Rosie Napravnik became the first female jockey to ride in all three United States Triple Crown races. Although she did not record a victory in any of them, she has come closer to victory than any so far in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness; riding Mylute in 2013, she finished fifth in the Derby and third in the Preakness.

She is also the only female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks, which is the premier race for three-year-old fillies; her victory came in 2012 aboard Believe You Can.

Napravnik has also found success in the Breeders’ Cup races. She captured the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile aboard Shanghai Bobby, and won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Untapable in 2014. She retired from riding in 2015 with 1878 career wins.

5) Hayley Turner

Hayley Turner is the most accomplished female jockey in Europe, having particular success at the prestigious Royal Ascot meet. She has taken a stakes victory at the meet in four out of the last five years, winning the Sandringham Handicap twice (in 2019 on Thanks Be, and in 2020 on Onassis), the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes (in 2022 on Latin Lover), and the Britannia Stakes (in 2023 on Docklands).

Turner also became the first UK-based woman to win internationally when she took America’s Grade I Beverly D Stakes aboard I’m a Dreamer in 2012. 

Photo by Jarett Lopez on Unsplash