Someone was going to be the first, the first woman jockey. In 1964, a petite 16-year-old dynamo received her license to gallop thoroughbreds at Sunshine Park (now Tampa Bay Downs). It was never her intent to break down sexist’s barriers, she just wanted to race horses.
By 1969 Diane Crump had achieved her dream of being a jockey. At the time race tracks epitomized a males-only chauvinistic environment. Diane was bullied, patronized and condescended as a “jockette” and dismissed by peers as a novelty. Her fellow jockey’s threatened to boycott races where she was entered.
“I hate to say it, but the women’s movement really wasn’t part of my mental process at the time,” she said. “I was simply working hard at the track, galloping horses. Yes, it was going on, but was I actually a part of it? Maybe, but it wasn’t something I was consciously trying to do. I was just a horse-loving kid pursuing her dream.”
Within two years Diane accomplished many firsts at the track.
- 1st woman to compete in a pari-mutuel race
- 1st woman to ride 2 winners in a day
- 1st woman to win a stakes race, Fair Grounds’ 1969 Spring Fiest Cup riding “Easy Lime”
- 1st woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby
In 1970, Diane and her husband, Don Divine, were training horses. One of their clients was an elderly man who had one wish – to run a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Despite knowing “Fathom” was out of his class, Mr. Brown entered him for the Derby provided Diane would ride him. They didn’t win but they didn’t finish last either crossing the line 15th in the field of 17.
“It was a dream you always have if you’re a jockey. Just to go through that experience gave me one of the greatest feelings you could ever imagine. Just the fact that I was there meant so much to me,” she said.
Diane retired from the track in 1985 with 230 wins, 1682 starts and earnings $1,292,000. A grandmother now, the 69-year-old doesn’t ride but is still involved with horses selling sport horses via Diane Crump Equine Sales, Inc.. Diane achieved many “firsts” in the horse racing industry but remains humble about those accomplishments.
“Live your dream. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or that you’re not good enough. You are. I’m a little nobody, yet I’m in a history book. I didn’t plan on that. All I did was follow my passion, the gift that God gave me, and I never let it die.”
Feature Photo: Churchill Downs finish line/Wikimedia Commons