A relatively few number of women’s names crop up on trainer and jockey rosters in general, but in the 30 years of Breeders’ Cup history the numbers are smaller still.
To date only three women have conditioned Breeders’ Cup-winning horses, and only two female jockeys have crossed the wire first aboard a Breeders’ Cup winner. Like trailblazers in any industry, the first female trainer and first female jockey to win Breeders’ Cup races hold places in racing history.
In 1996, only three years after abandoning a career as a racetrack publicist and taking out her trainer’s license, Jenine Sahadi trained Lit de Justice to a victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) for owners C.N. and Carol Ray. Corey Nakatani was aboard the 6-year-old son of El Gran Senor who captured the six-furlong event in a last-to-first performance to defeat 12 rivals by 1 1/4 lengths.
His time of 1:08 3/5 equaled a 23-year-old record set in 1973 by Canadian Horse of the Year Kennedy Road.
Lit de Justice was a handful, to say the least, with a reputation for being difficult. On one occasion, the Santa Anita gate crew resorted to a blindfold and buggy whip in order to load the horse in the gate.
But Sahadi embraced the challenge and treated Lit de Justice with the kid gloves he needed, eliciting the cooperation and assistance of the Hollywood Park starting crew, the horse’s groom, his exercise rider, and jockey Corey Nakatani, who regularly breezed him. As Sahadi told The Blood-Horse in 1996 after her historic win: "This is just proof in the pudding that if you treat your horses kindly and try to do what you can to make them happy, it will all work out."
Sahadi overcame not only the odds in training her Breeders’ Cup winner, but also fought against rumor and innuendo about whether she was training her horses. She put all suspicion to rest when she returned in 1997 to capture the Breeders’ Cup Sprint a second time with Elmhurst.
On Oct. 25, 2003, jockey Julie Krone had already made history as the first woman jockey to win a classic race, the 1993 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). But the road to the Breeders' Cup had been a more arduous journey for Krone, who overcame serious injury, retirement, a marriage, a divorce, and a miscarriage before finding her way back into the saddle in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Her mount was Halfbridled, a homebred runner for Wertheimer et Frere who was trained by Richard Mandella.
Undaunted by drawing the outside post 14, Mandella had the utmost confidence in Krone and would use the word finesse when later discussing the jockey’s top ride. Halfbridled and Krone moved up early and eventually opened up to win the 1 1/16-mile contest by 2 1/2 lengths.
What was a historic victory for Krone would also be one for Mandella as the first of a record four Breeders’ Cup races the trainer captured that day.
But for Krone it wasn’t about winning as a woman. In an interview after the race, the then 40-year-old rider said: "My feelings personally are that there are no barriers, no doubts of any of my abilities on horses. It's a compliment, just like it would be to any rider."
Sahadi and Krone were persistent and dedicated, and did indeed break barriers for women that would come after them in Thoroughbred racing.