By Noah Joseph
One of the most inspiring parts of horse racing is inclusiveness. Since the beginning of the 20th century, horse racing has had many prominent female owners, trainers, and breeders. In the 1960s, females were allowed to compete as professional riders. Since the early days of racing in Minnesota, female jockeys have played a very important part in Canterbury’s history.
In the Canterbury Downs days, female jockeys were equal, if not superior, to their male counterparts. Top female jockeys included Vicki Warhol, Kathy Craig, and Patrice Finnegan. In 1988, apprentice Donna Barton burst on to the scene in Shakopee, and became an overnight success en route to becoming one of the top jockeys in the country. People know her now as Donna Brothers, an NBC Sports reporter and analyst who conducts interviews with the jockeys on horseback after Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races.
That same year, Canterbury held a jockey’s challenge featuring female vs male riders. The races were held at different distances and surfaces. The male team featured Dean Kutz, Ronnie Allen Jr., Chris Valovich, and Mike Smith, while the female team featured Donna Barton, Vicki Warhol, and national jockeys Vicky Aragon and Julie Krone. Later that season Julie Krone defeated legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker in a match race (pictured above) at Canterbury known as the “Duel at the Downs.” Krone went on to become the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup race.
In recent years, top female jockeys at Canterbury have included Paula Bacon, Shannon Ritter, Laura Paynter, Jo Black, Lori Keith, Anne Von Rosen, Jennifer Schmidt and Helen Vanek. The female jockeys at Canterbury this season are Lori Keith, Jenna Joubert, Katlin Bedford, Kassie Guglielmino, Janine Smith, Betty Williams, and Nakia Ramirez.