Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Turfway card aims at luring women

Track's 9 female jockeys in 1 race

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        It's a Valentine's Day event to set hearts racing.

        Turfway Park's lineup today includes a special “Luv me, luv me not” race featuring all nine of its female jockeys. The objective is to showcase the track's strong stable of women riders and to raise money to combat a disease that strikes women all too frequently: breast cancer.

[photo] Turfway jockey Rhonda Collins playfully coaxes Dead Serious during a walk around the track Tuesday. Ms. Collins will ride in the all-female race today.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        “We're trying to attract women to the track and show how well our female riders are doing,” said Jennifer Haas, spokeswoman for Turfway Park. “Horse racing has traditionally been dominated by males.”

        Today, all women will be admitted free of charge. They'll receive a flower from the park and a pink breast cancer ribbon from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. For every win by a female jockey on the 10-race card, the track will donate $500 to the foundation.

        It's a way of underscoring Turfway Park's support of women's health-care issues, Ms. Haas said. Several female employees have been affected by breast cancer.

        The event is also part of the racetrack's marketing strategy, and its desire to publicize the increasing role female jockeys play in today's racing scene.

        “Racing needs to find a new audience,” jockey Rhonda Collins said. “You see women being more prominent in other sports, and I think that can help racing, too.”

        Turfway has some of the top women in the sport, including Kris Prather, who's ranked No. 1 nationally among men and women, based on 58 wins this season.

    • What: Valentine's Day card.
    • Where: Turfway Park.
    • When: Gates open at 4:45 p.m., first race is 6 p.m.
    • Admission: Men pay $3; free parking.
    • Information: (859) 371-0200.
        Said Ms. Haas: “Normally, this time of year nobody pays attention to Turfway Park. With Kris and our other women riders, we've gained the attention of local and national media.”

Not male vs. female
        But Ms. Prather downplays the male-female aspect of the competition.

        “This is the one sport that doesn't focus on men versus women,” she said. “Each jockey needs to be as strong and fit as they can be for their own body. That, and being able to communicate with the horse, is what's important.”

        Ms. Prather, 22, has been riding professionally about six months and is in her apprenticeship year. She says she relishes the daily challenge of racing.

        “That's what I love about this sport,” she said. “Each time, you get to meet a brand new horse. You get to know them intimately in the last few seconds of the race, when you're both giving 100 percent.”

        Getting to know the horses and how to bring out the best in them is part of a jockey's daily routine, said Ms. Collins, 30. She and other riders spend mornings networking with trainers, checking out the horses and offering to warm them up and train them. They hope those contacts will produce opportunities to race the horses later.

Getting a look
        “You have to have a business relationship with the people who ride you,” she said. “It's never handed to you. You do what you have to do to get people to give you a look.”

        There will be plenty of opportunity to watch the female jockeys in action during today's races.

        Besides the women-only race, the nine will be featured in other races on the card. Besides Ms. Collins and Ms. Prather, the women are Patricia Cooksey, Beth Butler, Jennifer Bramblett, Joddie Fortner, Shelly Moran, Bonnie Casteneda and Tammy Fox.

Kris Prather feature, Feb. 2

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