New York Racing Association (NYRA) To Honor Women In Racing
By James Costanzo , firstname.lastname@example.org, 14/08/14
Saratoga Springs >> For whatever reason, trainer Lisa Lewis’ horses do well in the rain.
She names four off the top of her head, including Capsized, a horse that won the Fourstardave off the turf on a muddy track in 2002, upon retreating into the clubhouse after yet another rain-soaked victory on Wednesday.
“I have a lot of winner’s circle pictures like this at Saratoga,” she said, sopping wet and smiling, watching the replay of her first win at Saratoga this year.
Including Lewis, eight female trainers and two female jockeys have stepped into the winner’s circle at the 2014 Saratoga meet — matching the totals from 2013 and 2012.
On Friday, NYRA will host Fabulous Fillies Day to celebrate those women — and all women — and their contributions to thoroughbred racing along with raising money for the The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Trainer Linda Rice, perhaps the most accomplished woman in horse racing at Saratoga — and the first woman to win the meet’s training title — says things have changed for the better for women in the industry since she started training.
“I think in the last five years or so, you’ve seen more women training horses and making their way successfully as a trainer, than when I came to New York,” said Rice, who, along with Leah Gyarmati, became the first female duo at Saratoga to win back-to-back Grade 1 races in the Vanderbilt and Test on Whitney Day this year.
“I think the race tracks have actually been marketing to women much more so than they used to … that trend has been coming for some time,” she added. “I think it’s a natural progression for more women to look for careers in racing as well.”
Lewis has been training horses since 1991 and knows how taxing the business can be.
“I think everything’s different when you’re comparing men and women. I think it’s such a hard business, man or woman, to get good horses. It’s a lot of work,” said Lewis.
“It’s such a taxing business on your personal life, too. I think, like any women in any sport or business, you might have to make choices to give up more of your personal life than maybe your counterparts. I think most people work hard. The successful people in this business are working very hard.”
Rosie Napravnik has been a professional jockey for nine years and, despite coming off an injury, has the second-highest percentage of top-3 finishes in the colony — a colony whose winners are 94 percent male.
“At this point in my career, I feel like I’m treated as an equal. I’ve ridden with the guys on a level playing field from day one. It may have been a little bit more of a challenge to start off as a female but I think it’s challenging for every jockey starting off,” she said.
Earlier this year, Napravnik became the first female jockey to ride in all three legs of the Triple Crown, an accomplishment, among some others, she holds most dear.
“I think some of the accomplishments that are hyped for women … to me aren’t really necessarily worthy of a big ordeal but I was very proud of winning the Kentucky Oaks, being the first female to do that,” Napravnik said. “I was very proud of being the first female to ride in all three Triple Crown races. I’m very proud of winning a Breeders’ Cup race, only one other female jockey has done that. There are definitely a lot of accomplishments that I really take a lot of pride in.”
Taylor Rice, the niece of Linda Rice, was born into a horse racing family and knew at a young age that she wanted to race competitively.
“I’ve played sports my whole life and been mainly against guys just because that’s who would play,” she said.
“It’s still obviously a business where you have to convince the trainers and/or owners that you’re just as capable as a guy, just as strong. For me, I feel like I’m the same size, I make weight easy, I feel like I’m just as strong as them and I have other talents to offer, too,” Taylor added. “So I don’t think it bothers me as much but I know there’s a lot of women who dealt with way more issues way before me to allow me to get to this point.”
When it comes down to it, though, the common thread in all their stories, at least most of the women at Saratoga, is that they love horses and racing.
“I loves horses. They’re special animals,” said Taylor. “When you can make them happy and get them to run, I mean I’m competitive, and when you get one that’s competitive too it’s awesome to ride.”
“I was born into it. My mom trained, my dad trained and that was it. I never had any other interests besides horses,” said Lewis.
“That’s the part of the business I love the most. The young horses, watching them progress. Maybe you picked them out at a sale or you see them change. They learn, they grow, they keep getting smarter, stronger and you see one start to improve. Or you change one little thing and you see the difference. That’s the most fun for me.”