by Keith O'Brien
Here is the perception: female jockeys can’t ride. They’re too weak. They don’t have the fight in them. They can’t close — not like men, anyway. Down the stretch, you need a jockey to carry the horse to the end, rally the winded animal and squeeze speed out of weary legs. Female jockeys can’t do that. Or so goes the explanation for why, almost 50 years after women first fought legal battles to become jockeys, there are so few top jockeys who are women.
The sportswriter is here winking to the handful of well-informed readers that he's actually aware of the history of women jockeys, but most readers won't notice what he's doing. My guess is that he's recounting his observations, just labeling them as Stereotypes.
Then there’s Rosie Napravnik.
The 113-pound New Jersey native isn’t just the most successful “girl jockey” on the horse-racing circuit today; she’s one of the best American jockeys, period. Last year, she amassed more than $12.4 million in earnings, eighth-best in North America. Her horses finished in the top three in nearly half the races she entered. So far this year, she ranks fifth in earnings, leads all jockeys in victories and has picked up her third consecutive riding title at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course.
Some of her male competitors are less than charitable about the reasons for Napravnik’s success. “Look at me,” a veteran jockey was saying before a race in New Orleans last month. “I’m 53 years old, brother. I’m going to walk into a paddock, and I’m going to talk to these owners and their wives and stuff. And there’s little Rosie. She’s going to bounce out of there. A pretty little girl, good disposition. And she’s going to be talking all nice to them. Now, which one of them would you rather leg up on your horse?” ...
Now, at 25, she is one of the more provocative figures in racing, heckled at times by critics who don’t think she belongs on the track while being asked for her autograph by fans. ...
By Mary Vespa
In her career as a jockey, Mary Bacon has been kidnapped, knifed and shot at, and in racing accidents has suffered a broken back twice, broken hands and feet, a crushed pelvis and a punctured lung.
Through it all, the 5'4" Mary has triumphed like some kind of charmed soap opera heroine.