Women have played an active role in Kentucky Derby history since around the turn of the century. In 1904, Mrs. Laska Durnell nominated Elwood to the Kentucky Derby, unbeknownst to her husband, trainer Charles Durnell. The decision was a shrewd one and Elwood won as the longest price in the field of five. Elwood was the first starter and winner owned by a woman, and also the first winner bred by a woman, Mrs. J.B. Prather.
By the 1940s women owners in the Derby were almost commonplace. In 1942, seven of the first eight finishers in the Kentucky Derby were owned by women. The exception was Valdina Orphan, who finished third.
Besides the role as owner, a total of 12 women trainers have sent 13 starters postward in the Derby, and four women have ridden in the famed "Run for the Roses."
Owners (Kentucky Derby winners)
Laska Durnell; 1904 Elwood: The first woman to start a horse in, and win the Kentucky Derby, she did not tell her trainer/husband, Charles, that she had nominated Elwood to the Derby.
Rosa M. Hoots; 1924 Black Gold: On his deathbed, her husband requested she have his beloved mare Useeit bred to the famed stallion Black Toney. The offspring was named Black Gold for the oil that was found on her land. She was so confident of a Derby win that she supposedly brought a box of cigars to the track to present to track president, Col. Matt Winn.
Mrs. John D. "Fannie" Hertz; 1928 Reigh Count, 1943 Count Fleet:Two starters and two winners, she successfully operated Stoner Creek Farm in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Her husband had tried unsuccessfullyto sell Triple Crown winner Count Fleet as a yearling for $4,500.
Helen Hay Whitney; 1931 Twenty Grand, 1942 Shut Out: Known as the "First Lady of the Turf," she was the first woman to win the Derbytwice.
Isabel Dodge Sloane; 1934 Cavalcade: Raced under the title of Brookmeade Stable, she purchased Cavalcade as a yearling for $1,200.
Ethel V. Mars; 1940 Gallahadion: Widow of the famed candy manufacturer, she campaigned under the name Milky Way Farms andinvested over $500,000 to develop her racing stable over a six-year period. She did not witness the 1940 Derby due to a severe cold andlistened to the race on radio.
Elizabeth Arden Graham; 1947 Jet Pilot: Known as the cosmetics queen due to her business success with a line of Elizabeth Ardenproducts. Her stable was named Maine Chance Farm. The year before her Derby win, she lost 22 two-year-olds in a barn fire at Arlington. JetPilot survived because he had been shipped to Churchill where he won the first race on Derby Day 1946.
Lucille Wright Markey; 1952 Hill Gail, 1957 Iron Liege, 1958 Tim Tam, 1968 Forward Pass: She took over the leadership of Calumet Farmafter the death of her husband, Calumet founder Warren Wright, and accounted for four of the farm's eight Derby victories.
Katherine Price; 1961 Carry Back: After the death of her beloved horse in 1983, which was trained by her husband Jack, she madearrangements to have his ashes be reinterred at the Kentucky Derby Museum in 1985.
Ada L. Rice; 1965 Lucky Debonair: Active in racing since the mid-forties, she and her husband operated Danada Farm, with all thehorses racing in her name.
Penny Chenery; 1972 Riva Ridge, 1973 Secretariat: She was placed in charge of her father's operation, Meadow Stable, in 1972. Followinghis death, January 3, 1973, she was forced to syndicate Secretariat in order to raise enough money to settle the tax debt on her father'sestate.
Karen Taylor; 1977 Seattle Slew: She and her husband entered into racing in 1973 with the purchase of two yearling fillies at Keeneland.Karen had formerly served as an airline stewardess before her marriage to Mickey Taylor.
Diana Firestone; 1980 Genuine Risk: The most recent of four women owners to have won both the Oaks and Derby. In the arrangement withher husband, fillies raced under her name and the colts/geldings raced under the name of her husband Bert. Three fillies have won the Derby,but Genuine Risk was the only one owned by a woman.
Elizabeth Keck; 1986 Ferdinand: She and her former husband, Howard, heir to Superior Oil Company, had an arrangement where horseswould race under her name and he was listed as breeder.
Frances Genter; 1990 Unbridled: As a 92-year-old when she won the Derby, she holds the distinction as the oldest winning Kentucky Derbyowner. She and her husband entered racing in 1940 when they bought their first yearling at Saratoga.
Shelley Riley (1992 Casual Lies, 2nd): She became a trainer in 1976, and purchased Casual Lies for $7,500 from the 1990 Keeneland January winter mixed sale. A regular on the Northern California circuit, she is the only woman trainer to campaign a horse through the entire Triple Crown, Casual Lies, who finished third in the Preakness and fifth in the Belmont.
Carolyn Hine; 1996 Skip Away: Carolyn and her husband Sonny, who trained Skip Away, saw their pride and joy run one of his worst (finished 12th) races in the Derby, but the flashy grey colt would go on to greater things, winning the Breeders' Cup Classic and being named Horse of the Year in his four-year-old campaign.
Jenny Craig and Madeline Paulson; 1998 Rock and Roll: The likable pairing of the Weight Watchers Diet empire and the wife of Gulfstream Air founder Allen Paulson created quite a buzz when they split their respective silks right down the middle to come up with one of the most unusual designs ever worn by a rider in the great race. All to no advantage come race time, as the colt wound up beating just one horse, finishing 14th.
Jeanne Vance; 1999 Lemon Drop Kid: A long time client of trainer Scotty Schulhofer, Jeanne's colt wound up ninth on Derby Day. He got a measure of revenge five weeks later, taking the Belmont while the Derby winner Charismatic would finish third.
Cynthia Phipps; 2002 Saarland: Cynthia is part of the iconic Phipps family who has bred many champions over the years. Despite their successes, they have yet to see one of their own draped in roses. Saarland extended their frustration another year, finishing 10th.
Marylou Whitney; 2004 Birdstone: Like Cynthia Phipps, Marylou is steeped in racing history, and just the year before won the Oaks with Birdstone's half-sister Bird Town. While he couldn't duplicate his sibling's success at Churchill, he would go on to score a big upset in the Belmont Stakes, ending the ultra-popular Smarty Jones' bid for a Triple Crown.
Charlotte C. Weber; 2005 High Fly: Weber is the granddaughter of Campbell's Soup founder John Dorrance. She had one other Derby starter, Laser Light, who was second behind Gato Del Sol in 1982.
Elizabeth Valando; 2007 Nobiz Like Shobiz: Elizabeth Valando is the widow of Tommy Vallando, owner of 1990 2-year-old Champion Fly So Free. Prior to his passing in 1995, Mr. Vallando owned a New York City music publishing company that produced the scores to many successful Broadway shows. In addition to Fly So Free's 5th place finish in the 1991 Derby, Elizabeth also had the filly Take the Cake, 5th in the 2002 Kentucky Oaks. She named homebred Nobiz Like Shobiz in honor of her husband's career.
Mary Hirsch (1937 No Sir, 13th): Owner and trainer, and daughter of famed trainer Max Hirsch, who won the Derby with Bold Venture Assault and Middleground. No Sir was part of the nine-horse mutuel field. In 1932, as a 20-year-old, she applied for a New York trainer's license from the Jockey Club, but was "politely" turned down. On July 7, 1934, she became the first woman licensed in Illinois and also received a license in Michigan that year.
She later received a license in New York. In 1940, she married Charles McLennan, a racing secretary at several tracks in the east. She encouraged her father to get apprentice jockey Ira Hanford to ride Bold Venture in the 1936 Derby.
Mrs. Albert Roth (1949 Senecas Coin, did not finish): Owner, trainer and breeder of Senecas Coin. Although a native of Oklahoma she was the first licensed woman trainer in Louisville. She operated the 96-acre Rothland Farm off Third Street in South Louisville.Senecas Coin was part of a two-horse mutuel field.
Mary Keim (1965 Mr. Pak, 6th): She entered racing in the late 1950s and began training with a stable of six horses valued at $81,000. She received her trainer's license in 1964 and in 1965 became the first and only woman trainer of a Kentucky Oaks winner, Amerivan. As an owner her Indian Maid won Churchill's Falls City three consecutive years, 1959-60-61.
Dianne Carpenter (1984 Biloxi Indian, 12th; 1988 Kingpost, 14th): She is the only woman to have started two horses in the Derby, and was also owner of Biloxi Indian. Sent Kingpost out to a runner-up effort in the 1988 Belmont. A successful owner and trainer, she received hertrainer's license in 1976 and won three stakes at Churchill during the 1980s, the Clark Handicap, Perryville and Kentucky Jockey Club.
Patti Johnson (1985 Fast Account, 4th): Began as an exercise rider for trainer Willard Proctor in 1972, and later served as his assistant before starting her training career in 1978. A native of Pasadena, California, she attended Cal Poly-Pomona for one year studying animal husbandry. She brought No Marker to Churchill in the Fall 1989 and won the Clark Handicap, followed by a win in the Stephen Foster in the Spring '90.
Shelley Riley (1992 Casual Lies, 2nd): She became a trainer in 1976, and purchased Casual Lies for $7,500 from the 1990 Keeneland January winter mixed sale. A regular on the Northern California circuit, she is the only woman trainer to campaign a horse through the entire Triple Crown. Casual Lies finished third in the Preakness and fifth in the Belmont.
Jennifer Pedersen (2004 Song of the Sword, 11th): The 41-year-old Pedersen made history, along with 21-year-old Kristin Mulhall, who became the first females to saddle horses in the same Derby in 130 years. Pedersen also saddles two Preakness horses; Griffinite in 2001 and New York Hero in 2003.
Kristin Mulhall (2004 Imperialism, 3rd): She is a former show rider who failed to make the 2004 Olympic team because of an injury to her horse. Saddled Imperialism at the Derby, a three-year colt that is visualbly impaired. Competed at the highest level of show jumping at age 14 and got her throughbred trainer's license at 19. Steve Taub, owner of Imperialism, has 26 horses, all under the watchful eye of Mulhall.
Jennifer Pedersen (2004 Song of the Sword, 11th): 2004 marked the first time in history that two women trainers had starters in the Derby. A native of Forest Hills in Queens, New York, Pedersen, started on the racetrack when she was 16 and was hired by Ernie Paragallo, owner of Paraneck Stable, to be his private trainer after he took notice of the positive attitude she displayed in running his Center Brook Farm in Climax, New York. She became the second female trainer to win the Lane's End Stakes when New York Hero won the 2003 renewal of the Grade II stakes at Turfway Park. She also also won the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland with Griffinite, who also ran fifth in the Preakness. She is the mother of two children.
Jamie Sanders (2007 Teuflesberg, 17th): Jamie Sanders decided she wanted a career in racing at the age of ten after her first visit to Churchill Downs. Years later she would find herself saddling a horse for the Kentucky Derby under those same Twin Spires by way of Teuflesberg. She started her career in racing as an exercise rider for Jack Van Berg before embarking on a career as a jockey. She rode competitively for five years before becoming an assistant for trainer Nick Zito. She went out on her own as a trainer in 2005, purchasing eleven yearlings at auction; of those eleven would be stakes placed Pro Pink and multiple stakes winner Teuflesberg. It was Teuflesberg that took her to the Kentucky Derby, where he finished 17th after running competitively in the early stages of the race, and who accounts for her greatest stakes victories as a trainer.
Diane Crump (1970 Fathom, 15th): First woman to ride in the Derby, and the first to ride in a pari-mutuel race in North America -Hialeah Park, February 7, 1969 at 19. Crump currently trains on the Kentucky circuit and also rides for her stable.
Patricia Cooksey (1984 So Vague, 11th): She has accomplished several firsts in her career, including: first woman to ride in thePreakness (Tajawa, 6th, 1985); first to win a stakes at Churchill (1986 Pocahontas Stakes, Bestofbothworlds); and the first to win aCalifornia stakes of $100,000 or over (1983 Hollywood Prevue, So (Vague). Began riding at the former Waterford Park as a 21-year-old.
Andrea Seefeldt (1991 Forty Something, 16th): Began riding in 1981, she received her Derby mount due to a prior commitment by thehorse's regular rider. She was the first woman to win the Pennsylvania Derby (1991, Valley Crossing), which paid $158.60.
Julie Krone (1992 Ecstatic Ride, 14th): Racing's all-time leading woman rider in wins (2,873 through 1994). She was the first woman to ride in the Belmont (1991 Subordinated Debt, 9th) and win a Triple Crown event, the 1993 Belmont with Colonial Affair. She was the first woman to ride in the Breeders' Cup, with three mounts in 1988 including a fourth aboard Forty Niner in the Classic.
Rosemary Homeister (2003 Supah Blitz, 13th):The Florida-based Homeister, the winningest female rider in the country in 2000 and 2001, grew up at Calder Race Course. Homeister Jr. rode Supah Blitz in his last three races and finished second in the Fountain of Youth and Aventura Stakes, and fourth in the Florida Derby.