This week, Monticello Raceway had their Lady Godiva Pace for women drivers. The race had to be rescheduled from earlier in the year because it was hard to get eight women drivers together. Even this time it took some last minute effort to get some lady drivers from afar to complete the field.
If there was a thoroughbred version of the Lady Godiva, there would have been no problem getting enough women jockeys together to compete; you probably could have gotten enough women jocks to fill more than one race without much effort or travel. For some reason, thoroughbred trainers and owners seem to be more willing to give women jockeys a chance, at least with overnight horses.
Unfortunately, for some reason, harness racing has never really embraced women drivers. Yes, at some of the smaller tracks you will see women drivers, especially when they train and own their own horses. But when it comes to your larger tracks, women seldom get the opportunity to be in the sulky during a race. This attitude needs to change in order to attract a more gender-diverse customer base.
I am convinced the only way to get more women in the sulky is to give them more opportunities to compete against their own. What if tracks scheduled one race each day for women drivers? It would certainly increase the demand for women drivers as you would need at least eight to ten of them daily for at least one race. Granted, it isn't the same as driving eight or ten races each day but after a bunch of races a women driver may get enough 'face time' for trainers and owners to be willing to give a woman driver a chance against the men.
True, by carding races exclusive to women drivers you can argue you are giving them special treatment, but let's not kid ourselves, if a woman is not any good as a driver, trainers will stop naming them even in women only events. The opportunity may be given to them, but it will be up to them to take advantage of it and prove themselves.
For the sport to attract more women to the betting windows, we have to get to a point where a Lady Godiva Pace is not be a novelty, but just part of a day at the track.