Donna Porter -- Traveling Team

The following excerpt is from Women in Racing: In Their Own Words. Published September 2001 from Eclipse Press.

When I first met my husband, women were really not allowed on the backside. I can remember him having to sign me in every morning at the stable gate. And you couldn't be back there after dark. I don't remember any women in the racing secretaries' offices at all in those days. So a lot has changed over the years. Women love horses. Any woman that has grown up around horses, it is a natural thing to carry that interest on to the racetrack. But we don't really do enough to bring women into the racing world. I think women are very dependable -- they have great follow-through habits, organizational skills -- and that is what started to come across to the men who ran racing.

At Hawthorne I run the computer that records where the horses finished in their races. This used to be done with photographs, but now it's computers. The computer captures every horse as it hits the wire, places the horses from first to last, the distances between them, and gives the individual times that they cross the wire. Then that information goes to make up the official chart of each race, and after that it goes into each horse's past performance line. It's a good system and very quick. It's good for the betting public, because it lets you put the finish photo up right away. You can enlarge that photo just by clicking the "plus" button on the computer.

We had a photo finish at Hawthorne a couple of years ago (1999) that I'll never forget. It was one of the big races, the (grade III, $200,000) National Jockey Club Handicap. Baytown and Precocity hit the wire together. Both trainers -- Niall O'Callaghan trained Baytown, and Bobby Barnett trained Precocity -- congratulated each other because neither knew who had won.

It took us (she and the two other placing judges) eight minutes to determine that Baytown had won. That's the longest photo I can remember. You have to be so careful -- there's so much at stake. After we put up the numbers, both trainers wanted to come upstairs to our office and see the photo. We welcome that. Bobby Barnett looked at the photo and said, "Good call. There's a whisker between those two." That's what we love to hear. It's so important that we make the right decision.

That eight-minute photo will probably never happen again. This technology enables us to decide the outcome very fast in most cases. And that's good. People want to know the result and then move on, start handicapping the next race. Speeding things up is important. In horse racing, you've got to start bringing in younger people. Young people want things fast. They don't want to wait.

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