Interesting Facts

Fantastic Women Icons In Horse Racing

Horse racing is one of the most inclusive sports in the world, as it is one of the few that gives women the opportunity to compete against their male counterparts.

There has been no shortage of female superstars to smash through the glass ceiling throughout their careers on track, which has helped create some of the lasting memories in horse racing throughout modern history.

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So, who have been some of the world-class female stars throughout history that have become icons?

Kathy Kusner

It could be argued that there have been few more pioneering figures in the world of horse racing than Kathy Kusner. If it wasn’t for the Americans, female riders might never have been allowed to compete on the track. Kusner played a key role in helping women to get their chance in the sport after successfully taking the racing commission in Maryland to court after rejecting her plea to ride horses professionally.


The change in law meant that she was able to gain a license and begin competing on track across the world.

She was a hugely successful star in the saddle, becoming the first woman from America to ever win an Olympic medal in an equestrian event. After missing much of the 1968 and 1969 seasons, she returned to action at the Munich Olympics to win silver in 1972.

In horse racing, her star would continue to rise, as Kusner would compete across the globe in nations such as Germany, Canada, and Mexico. She also became the first woman to ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup.

Her accomplishments were honours in 1990 when she was inducted into the United States Show Jumping Hall of Fame.  

Cheryl White

Cheryl White is one of the most celebrated female jockeys in the world, as she made history by becoming the first African American women to compete in a professional horse race.


Later in her career, she would make even more history by becoming the first woman to serve as a steward in California horse racing. White gained a license to ride at Thistledown when she was just 17, landing her first victory in September 1971 when riding Jetolara to success at the track now known as Mountaineer Park. White’s success on track saw her make international headlines, appearing on the cover of Jet Magazine in 1971.

On track, she showed that she was more than capable of competing against her male counterparts, winning over 220 races and landing just over $760,000 in prize money. In addition to competing in thoroughbred racing, White also achieved success in Arabian and Quarter Horse races during her career.

After retiring from the spot, she was inducted into the Appaloosa Hall of Fame in 2011. Cherly passed away at 65 in 2019, but her legacy will never be forgotten.

Michelle Payne

There have been few more iconic female jockeys throughout history than Michelle Payne. The Australian star made international headlines in 2015 when she became the first female rider to land successfully in the iconic Melbourne Cup aboard Prince of Penzance.

The success saw her become the first woman to win the race, and she remains the only female rider to have landed success in the iconic race to date. Payne was born into a racing family, and she dreamed of winning the Melbourne Cup when she was as young as seven.

She began competing on track when she was 17, and she landed a first victory aboard Reigning in 2004. A first Group One prize would arrive in the Toorak Handicap in October 2009, before becoming the third woman to take a ride in the Caulfield Cup just weeks later. After winning the Melbourne Cup, Payne was awarded a number of prestigious honours, including the Don Award at the Sports Australia Hall of Fame. Her story has been honored in the film ‘Ride Like A Girl.’

Rachael Blackmore

Rachael Blackmore is largely regarded as one of the finest jumps jockeys on the planet. The 34-year-old has smashed through glass ceilings throughout her career, becoming the first female rider to land victory in the 182-year history of the Grand National when aboard Minella Times in 2021.


Further success would follow for Blackmore as she landed the top jockey title at the Cheltenham Festival. A second big race success would arrive in 2022 when she rode A Plus Tard to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory, becoming the first woman to ride the winner in the biggest race on the National Hunt calendar.

Blackmore has been a pioneering figure for young girls looking to get into the sport, and she has also won the Champion Hurdle on two occasions with the lovable mare Honeysuckle. Her achievements were honoured in 2021 after winning the prestigious RTE Sports Person of the Year, while she was also named the BBC World Sport Star of the Year in the same period.

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