Noll on Roll at Prairie Meadows

Jockey Cindy Noll won the first race ever held at Prairie Meadows, and she's still going strong. Noll became Prairie Meadows' career riding leader when she won Sunday's first three races. That gave her 577 victories, two more than David Essman. She added to her lead with her 578th victory in Monday's ninth race.

She was just a year into her riding career when Prairie Meadows opened in
1989. She's now a fixture in Altoona, where she owns a house and has won or shared three riding titles since 1998. She is fourth in this year's jockey standings with 37 victories.

"I'm going stronger now than I was when I started," Noll said. "I'd rather finish strong than start out strong and tail off. It's like being in a race. I think I just got lucky and started winning races, and it's a snowball effect. When you're winning races, people give you a shot to ride better horses."

Noll and Essman not only have won more races than any other rider, they've ridden more in more Prairie Meadows races than anyone else - more than 4,100 each.

They are among a handful of riders - Kelly Murray and Vicki Warhol being others - that have been at Prairie Meadows since the track opened on March 1, 1989.

That was the 22-degree day with snow flurries when Noll, then known as Cindy Springman, won the track's first race aboard Holmish before a sellout crowd of 7,148.

"That was a cold night," Noll said. "Nobody could feel their fingers. I hadn't had much big happen in my career yet, and that was unbelievable. I was amazed that I won. I didn't really know the horse. I just got on it, got lucky and won. That was exhilarating."

Noll's record includes 19 victories in quarter horse races. Essman is still
first in Thoroughbred victories, with 570.

Noll ran track at Northeast Missouri State and was inducted into that school's hall of fame in 1999. She started as an exercise rider in 1985 and began riding in races while she was in Argentina in 1987.

"I'd just ride anything they led over to me," Noll said. "Like most young riders, I didn't care if they were three-legged. When you get older, you get a little choosier."

Noll won her 1,000th race in 1998 and her 1,500th last year. She now has more than 1,700 career wins. her next goal is to reach 2,000 victories, a mark reached only by three other female riders - Julie Krone, Rosemary Homeister, and Patricia Cooksey.

At 41, she doesn't plan to slow down or retire.

"I haven't gotten to that point, yet," Noll said. "I get up in the morning nd love my job."