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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Women Drivers

No, we are talking about female auto drivers on the highway, we are lamenting the lack of women drivers in harness racing. Sure there are some women drivers, but they are far and few between and when they race, they race sporadically; often with horses they train or own.

Yes, harness racing has some female drivers that have made their mark. Jacqueline Ingrassia used to race with some frequency at Freehold and won the Yonkers Trot with Goalfish but these days here appearances are limited. There was Bea Farber years ago. I am sure there are some female drivers that drive with some regularity but how many of them racing on a daily basis at any one track?

At most racetracks you will see a number of women trainers. How come there are so few women driving on a nightly basis with any frequency?

We are missing a marketing opportunity. Look at the Indy Racing League (IRL). Before Danica Patrick, the IRL was loosing fans. With Danica's ascension to being a regular on the circuit, IRL has gained more attention. However, Danica is not the only female driver on the circuit. Driving in virtually every race is Danica, Sandy Fisher and Milka Duno.

Look at the runners. Chantal Sutherland is now racing at Woodbine but has ridden in the states and was in the Animal Planet show Jockeys. Is it just Chantal is an attractive woman that gets her the attention? No, she knows how to ride (she's second in the jockey standings at Woodbine; Emma-Jayne Wilson is 6th). Of course, there was Julie Krone. Inez Karlsson won last year the jockey's title at Hawthorne and there are a slew of others out there racing several times a day.

Why are there no women racing five or six times a night at our raceways? It certainly is not that they lack the ability; women are able to drive horses just as good as a man given the opportunity to drive as often and with live stock. We are not giving them the opportunity.

We need to do something to encourage women to drive with more frequency; allowing them to become regulars at our racetracks. I am not suggesting we automatically add women to our rosters to drive every night at our major tracks; but the industry should create a program to encourage women to become drivers and when the time is right, the drivers can move on to the bigger venues. Of course, we will need to educate and encourage trainers and owners to give female drivers a chance when they need a driver.

There is no reason a woman can't drive a horse in a race. Let's get them driving every night and not only will we be doing the right thing; it will help our marketing efforts and allow us to encourage more women to follow the sport.

Wrong Way Bullwinkle: A moose was discovered yesterday at Saratoga Racecourse. I am certain he meant to go to Saratoga Harness.

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