During an April 13 event called "Ladies of the Turf," there was a historic gathering of nearly 30 retired and active female jockeys at Keeneland, including those who were first allowed to ride in 1969 and some of the most accomplished members of their profession.
The female jocks signed a commemorative poster created by noted cartoonist Peb which fans could purchase for $10. All proceeds benefited the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and Horses and Hope. The latter charity is First Lady Jane Beshear's initiative to raise awareness of breast cancer among women working in Kentucky's horse industry.
One of the most well-known jockeys in attendance was Julie Krone, who was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2000. Krone won a total of 3,704 races during a career that was highlighted by her victory in the 1993 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) aboard Colonial Affair.
Julie Krone - Benoit Photo
"The fact a racetrack like Keeneland can facilitate and organize something as amazing as this is really special," said Krone of the Ladies of the Turf event. "I was so overwhelmed by all of us (female jockeys) being in the same room together. I could get choked up just talking about it."
Krone, who won several graded stakes races throughout her race career at Keeneland, remarked how the racetrack held many special memories.
"Every moment spent at Keeneland was special because of the uniqueness of the length of the meet and the timing it has with the rest of the year....it's a pretty important time when horses are developing and pointing toward the (Kentucky) Derby and the bigger races and designated stakes," she said.
"One time at Keeneland I was 60-1 on a horse and I came in second by just the tiniest bit. Only a handful of times have I had people cheer that much for (a horse I rode). Keeneland has the highest and best of everything--races that you can only ride in by invitation. It's so pure, beautiful, and amazing. Then you also have the crowd on top of it...(the fans) are some of the most beautiful, fun things about racing."
Vicky Baze, the first woman jockey to be inducted into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame, was also on hand at the event. She retired last May after nearly three decades in the saddle on the Pacific Northwest circuit. In addition to her Hall of Fame induction, she is one of only five female jockeys with more than 2,000 victories.
"I have a fused neck and have had ongoing issues with it, otherwise I would have continued to ride," said Baze, 49, who is based in Arizona and Seattle, where her husband, Gary Baze rides at Emerald Downs. "When people ask me if I'm retired, I still say 'No.' My motto is, 'Never sell your tack,' " she added with a laugh.
Vicky Baze married Gary in 1999 in a small ceremony at Lake Wilderness. In spite of her illustrious riding career, Vicky noted that her favorite all-time memory is her wedding day.
"We got married on April 1 and I worked 10 horses that morning, because its spring training time (at Emerald Downs)," she said. "Usually it's rainy at that time in Seattle, but the sun came out for us and it was so romantic. It was just me, Gary, the racetrack chaplain, and my close friend (trainer) Valerie Lund."
Vicky initially retired in 2001, after which Gary convinced her to work as his agent for two seasons.
"We had a very successful season, but it's hard for me to live, eat, and breathe the condition book," said Vicky. "That's what you find yourself doing--there's no down time. When you're not at the track, you're at home on the computer doing your homework for the upcoming entries."
Now, following her second retirement, Vicky is keeping herself busy with her horse shoe gift business, Bon Chance Horse Shoes.
"I do good luck gifts for all kinds of occasions," said Vicky. "I wanted to take it past the dirty horse shoe you find on the ground and make it into a Hallmark-type gift. There are a lot of different choices for different occasions."
Among the other women honored during the Ladies of the Turf event was Diane Crump, the first woman to ride against men and the first to ride in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I); Barbara Jo Rubin, the first to win a recognized race; Patti Barton, the first to win 1,000 races; Kaye Bell, the first to win a race at Keeneland; Patricia "PJ" Cooksey, the first to ride in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I); and Rosie Napravnik, the first to be leading rider at Keeneland.
Ladies of the Turf Poster: