Sunday at the Big A

When I woke up this morning and saw the messy weather (which wasn’t supposed to happen until this afternoon—way to go, weather people), I was a little worried that the B.E.S.T. program on Women in Racing would be cancelled. Not only was it not cancelled, but the turnout was pretty impressive for a snowy Sunday morning.

It was a terrific program. We were served an excellent brunch with possibly the world’s best coffeecake, and as we ate, we watched Women in American Horse Racing, a thirty-minute documentary based mostly at Suffolk Downs. The film takes a historical and current look at the roles that women have played in the industry, the challenges they’ve faced, and the rewards they’ve found. Their characters are vivid: an outrider whose advice to girls aspiring to the industry is: “Get a college degree, so that you have something to fall back on”; an assistant trainer who expresses her surprise that the virtually all-female equine communities in which she grew up give way to virtually all-male equine communities at the racetrack; a groom who describes her job as “the best in the world.” While all the women acknowledge the difficulties of being female in the racing world, it’s clear that none would trade their lives.

Julie Krone’s 2005 induction speech at the National Museum Racing’s Hall of Fame takes a central place in the film, and women from all walks of racing life—jockeys, grooms, trainers, administrators—tell their stories. You can find out more about the film here, and it’s for sale for $14.95 at the Daily Racing Form website.

The screening was followed by a panel, hosted by Jan Rushton, on which sat John and Sandra Ronan, the filmmakers; Jenny Kellner, racing journalist; and Elizabeth Bracken, director of simulcasting for the New York Racing Association. I’ll be back later in the week with a review of the panel discussion, along with a story of the hospitality shown to us by Rich Cristiano, chair of B.E.S.T.’s board of directors and executive vice president of client management at West Point Thoroughbreds.

At the brunch I met up with Railbird and one of her colleagues and her husband, and though it was a cold, wet day to be at the Big A, we were all verging on giddy as we made our way to the parking lot. And not one of us had even placed a bet…

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