Friday, December 28, 2007
Where Few Females Tread
When Tuesdee Testa won a race at Santa Anita in March of 1969, she became the first female jockey to win at a major track. The door at Santa Anita slammed shut on female riders posthaste, and with the exception of the now-retired Julie Krone in recent years, there's never been a distaffer who's made an impact at the track. Hollywood Park is no different. The standings at Hollywood's recently completed meet are typical: Joy Scott rode in 17 races and Chantal Sutherland in two. No other females were represented.
Chantal Sutherland? The Canadian jockey is now at Santa Anita, where her main squeeze, the Hall of Famer Mike Smith, also rides. Her agent, Tommy Ball, says that Sutherland will stay until the meet ends in April. "It's a tough colony, I know," Ball said. "But she's been getting on horses in the mornings for Mike Machowsky, Cliff Sise and Gary Mandella, and the two horses she rode over at Hollywood were for Bob Hess and Brian Koriner, so that's a good sign."
Sutherland has cover-girl good looks and was once featured in Vogue. Smith has been asked what it's like having a girlfriend who's also a jockey. "The best part is that she understands the sport and knows what I go through," he told the New York Times. "The worst part is that I'm always worrying about her getting hurt."
If Sutherland and Smith ever married, they would probably have no trouble riding against one another, but there was a time when stewards looked askance at close relationships. When Johnny Longden rode and his wife Hazel trained, there was a house rule in California that prevented Longden from riding for another trainer if Hazel had a horse in a race. Trainer Dale Romans once told me that the reason he and Tammy Fox, a jockey, waited so long to get married was because she would have problems getting mounts in races in which Romans was running horses.
In the 1970s, many jurisdictions wouldn't allow Mary Bacon, a Playboy model, to ride against her husband. But one day at the old Detroit Race Course, they were on horses running from adjoining stalls, and at the break, Johnny Bacon's mount slammed into his wife's horse. The stewards disqualified Johnny Bacon's horse, and gave his rider a five-day suspension. "That's nothing," Mary Bacon said later. "I gave him five nights."
On closing day at Hollywood Park, Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland rode in the same race. Smith's mount won and Sutherland's finished fifth. Looking at the odds, that's just about where they figured to finish. Racing integrity was safe for another day.