I'm the daughter of one of the first women to earn a New York Racing Association Trainer's License - she paid her dues in sweat and hard labor and keeping her head high when men on the track tried to take advantage of her. She arrived on the track with practically nothing back in 1969 and by 1970 she was galloping horses for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkins. And in 1975 she struck out on her own with a trainer's license and a handful of owners. My mother was a pioneer and it's women like her who have paved the way for Girls on the backstretch and without those efforts jockeys like Chantal Sutherland wouldn't be where they are today.
But it seems that nothing has changed.
Imagine my mother's reaction, not to mention mine, while watching ABC/ESPN's coverage of The Breeder's Cup, when you, Mr. Bailey, said that Sutherland is "known more for her activities off the track than on." Now some might say you were referring to her Vogue coverage or her role in HBO's upcoming series Luck, but to some viewers the implications of this statement are pretty torrid -- you might as well have said Sutherland was just another pretty face who has slept her way to the top of racing. As I listened to you and your fellow commentators discuss Sutherland's career, I had a hard time believing that you were discussing a professional jockey. The next thing I expected you to quip was if Sutherland was lucky enough to pull off a victory in her upcoming race, she might just get a date with Bobby Flay.
Men like you are perpetuating chauvinism in racing -- a sport that dearly needs to examine the successes and contributions of it's woman workforce -- and I'm not talking about the wealthy owners and breeders, but the women who work seven days a week on the backstretch in all kinds of weather with low pay and minimal protection if they get hurt.
I'm sure you and the TV executives have all sorts of excuses for why you blurted out such an irresponsible thing, but it would be just that: excuses and jabs at someone who might be taking all that you say too seriously. And others might say Sutherland is "prostituting' herself through the media, but a Girl's Gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do and bottom line, Bob Baffert wouldn't have put her up on Game On Dude if she couldn't ride. Somewhere out there young women riders are watching your coverage of racing and wondering if it might be the career path for them -- I just hope they got steelier and more determined when they heard you make a mole hill out of the mountain that Sutherland and other women who work on the track have had to climb. And then of course, Chantal's stunning second place finish in the Classic might just have wiped your comment off the their mind's completely.