We take for granted that the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is right across the street from Saratoga Race Course, site of the nation’s best thoroughbred meet. The closest any other sport can offer is hockey, and its hall of fame is still five to seven minutes away from where the Maple Leafs play — and that’s not where the best hockey is played.
So people should take advantage of that and go to the museum to enjoy its “Women in Racing” exhibition in the McBean Gallery. It recently opened and will stay through Dec. 31.
Curator Victoria Reisman has put together a thoroughly enjoyable collection of photos, art, memorabilia and multimedia that trace women’s contributions in the highly male-dominated sport since 1885. It will open eyes and, hopefully, minds.
Of course the known accomplishments are there — Julie Krone’s Belmont Stakes win aboard Colonial Affair, Linda Rice’s Saratoga training title, Mary Hirsch becoming the first woman to receive a trainer’s license — but the joy in any museum is finding the pieces that make you say, “oh, I forgot” or “I never knew,” and these are but a few:
- Anne Clare becoming the first woman to serve as track superintendent in 1940, when she took over her late husband’s post for the Saratoga meet;
- Georganne Hale being named the first female racing secretary at a major track in 2000, when she took over the post for the Maryland Jockey Club’s tracks;
- Jockey Wantha Davis defeating Hall of Famer Johnny Longden in an exhibition match race in Mexico in 1949.
Also, I dare anyone to look at the photo of Diane Crump being escorted to the Hialeah paddock on Feb. 7, 1969, when she was the first female jockey to ride in a pari-mutuel race in the United States, and not say “wow.”
Another nice feature in the exhibit is the “What’s Your Racing Story” section with post-its, pencils and a board on which to stick the submissions. Among them, it currently has one from Valerie, who said she was a groom in the 1970s and given the horses who had the most problems and least chance of winning, and another from someone who said as a teenager she fed carrots to Hall of Fame horse Native Dancer. There’s room for more, and hopefully by the time 2020 is nigh, it will be overflowing.
And while women’s contributions are many, there is still no getting around the fact that the Hall of Fame has inducted only one female jockey (Krone) and one female trainer, and that was steeplechase trainer Janet Elliot. The time is overdue for Rice to be nominated and elected. She is the leading female trainer in number of wins with more than 1,900, has $76 million in earnings, has trained an Eclipse-Award winner and won multiple New York Racing Association meet titles while dealing with bias probably most days since she went out on her own in 1987.
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Due to an unexpected hard rainstorm before the fourth race that the main track never recovered adequately from, racing was cancelled Thursday before the delayed fifth race.
The rain was so hard during the fourth, on the turf, that track announcer Larry Collmus had difficulty seeing anything as the horses entered the far turn. The tractors didn’t have the chance to seal the track before the rain. They subsequently made several sealing circuits of the track, but it was determined that the track conditions were unsafe.
There were reports that several barns on the backstretch were experiencing flooding.
NYRA did not immediately say if any of the cancelled races, including the $100,000 John Morrissey Stakes for New York-breds, would be added to future cards.
Youth is served
Winston C, the youngest entrant at age 5 in a field of 12, won the Grade I, $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase on Thursday.
The gelding, making his second North American start after racing in England, won the about-2 1/16-mile race over a firm inner turf course in 3 minutes, 45.99 seconds, the fastest running since 2007. Winston C was 10th after a mile and a half, but finished with a 3 1/2-length win.
“I hoped for it,” Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard said of his horse’s final quarter-mile run. “He’s a little quicker than the average European steeplechase type.”
Albany’s Edward P. Swyer’s Hudson River Farms was the winning owner.