Horse racing is one of the oldest performance sports in the history of civilization, if not the oldest. Throughout its long history, it has spread throughout every populated continent on the planet, with some regions growing into billion-dollar hot zones for all things racing.
There are thousands of races run every year, and some venues host events that regularly attract well over 200,000 spectators, all there to watch a small handful of the 870,000 horses worldwide. In all these races and countries, riding all these horses are a few thousand registered and licensed elite athletes known as jockeys.
Best Female Jockeys in Horse Racing History
Picking the top three jockeys from a group this size could easily be considered an exercise in futility. For one thing, what makes an athlete “top” or “best?” The number of first-place wins? Amount of career earnings? Hall of fame inductions? Any of those are respectable standards, but each changes the outcome. Another thing is the type of race. Are we talking about flat racing or harness racing?
Racing is Still a Boys Club
If we’re looking at women only, the pool of jockeys shrinks considerably, inadvertently spotlighting an ongoing global problem within the sport. Male jockeys outnumber female jockeys 7 to 1 and a whopping 50 to 1 in top-tier races. While choosing three colors from an exponentially smaller palette seems easier, one can’t help but notice which colors are underrepresented or not represented at all.
We’re breaking down the top three US female jockeys of all time using one straightforward criterion only: the number of first-place finishes. These women, despite the pervasive “boys club” vibe of their chosen profession, not only got mounts but took them to the winner’s circle time and time again. Here are the top three greatest female jockeys in the history of US horse racing.
Tammi began her racing career in 1985 and, 36 years later, is still racing. In that time, the 54-year-old has started in well over 17,000 races, finishing in the money in over 7,000 of them. She’s had 73 starts so far in 2021, winning nine, which puts her at 2,546 career wins. She’s a fan favorite when it comes to betting, and as she’s still racing, anybody can get in on the action. Next time you’re online playing solitaire free, why not bet a race or two?
Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr.
Rosemary Jr. was born to jockey parents and grew up on the track, winning her first race at Calder, where her mother now trains. In a career that spanned 23 years (1992 -2015), she amassed over 20,000 starts and $51 million in career earnings. She was the first (and so far the only) woman to win the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 1992. Rosemary also finished 2nd in the 2009 Breeder’s Cup Marathon and finished her career with 2,784 wins.
This legend of the sport was the first woman ever to win a riding title at a major track, win five races in the same day at a New York track, and win six races on one card (one of only three jockeys ever to do so). Sexism and bullying were common in the early days of her career, and the male jocks often conspired to keep her from winning.
In proper jockey form, she responded by shoving them off scales during post-race weigh-ins, punching their teeth out as she did to Joe Bravo, and starting full-on brawls. She’s the only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race, winning the Belmont in 1993. She raced for 21 years between 1981 – 2004 (with a couple of years taken off mounts) and started in 21,412 races, of which a staggering 3,704 were wins. That’s almost 1,000 more wins than Rosemary!
The Sport of Kings Needs More Queens
Women jockeys can shine just as bright as men when given a chance. These magnificent ladies have proven that horse racing is indeed a level playing field. While a lot has been done in recent years, opportunities still don’t come as easily as they do for men, and there’s still a lot of work to do.