Breeders’ Cup, Like Most American Racing Boards…Comfortably Stuck in the 19th Century.

In this morning’s “Paulick Report,” we received word that two gentlemen have been elected to the 14-person Board of the Breeders’ Cup.  This news indicates that, like most American horse racing Boards (in Thoroughbred racing–certainly not in Arabian!)–the Breeders’ Cup is firmly, comfortably snuggled into 19th Century thinking.  That thinking?  That females don’t have all-that-much to contribute to horse racing, as professionals.

<– Picture me, tearing my hair out,  when I read that two gentlemen (perfectly lovely men, I’m sure) had been elected to the Board of the Breeders’ Cup.  Barbara Banke is the sole female on the 14-member Board of the Breeders’ Cup, and I’m having a hard time believing that there aren’t seven other strong, smart, accomplished owners/breeders/administrators in Thoroughbred racing who happen to be females, who are eligible for membership on that Board.

Not only are females fully the majority of paid admissions at race tracks–we are the majority of the fanbase.  (If you want empirical evidence, I’ll happily provide URLs to other articles I’ve written, citing both Nielsen reports and actual magazine and online articles.   Asterisks, and everything.)

Big hat, bigger brain.

Not only do females in horse racing have pretty hats–we have big brains in the heads that wear those hats.  Females in horse racing are far-more than mere hat racks, or celebrities who are flown in to giggle and say that they’re picking Blah-Blah to win the Kentucky Derby because he wears purple.  OY.

The argument that more females aren’t on the Board can be made–and, I’m sure, will be made–that the majority of the Board members are owners or admins at racing stables or major farms or racing organizations.  But that, of course, leads us to question–once again–why women aren’t Presidents and CEOs of racing organizations?  Why most Vice Presidencies of both racing organizations and farms aren’t filled by females?

Can it be, that the myth prevails, that females really are just pretty as pictures when we wear pink and big hats–but that, that’s where our role in horse racing ends?  Really, now, people–you know, in your brains and your hearts, that there are some pretty powerful females in horse racing.  (N.B., that Helen Alexander previously was on the BC Board, but is not there in 2017.  We’re grateful for her service and presence while she was there, and in the sport.)  🙂

So there are other brilliant, wise women in horse racing, who may be willing to step up now, and serve on the Board–I can name a few, right here:    Laura Barillaro.  Linda Rice.  Suzie O’Cain.  Nancy Kelly.  Maggi Moss.  Meg Levy.  Kathy Ritvo.  Nicole Pieratt.  Penny Chenery.  V.K. Payson. Patti Reeves.   HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein.  HRM Elizabeth II.  Julie Krone.   

Kathy Ritvo and Mucho Macho Man: two hearts, one soul.

Every single one of these women have owned horses/bred horses/ridden horses/administered racing organizations–here in the United States. Why aren’t they on the Board of the Breeders’ Cup?  (Especially, since the Breeders’ Cup claims to be inclusive, inviting the world to race here in the United States.)

And, since women are the majority of the fanbase–we should occupy at least 51% of the seats on the Board.  Eight of the Breeders’ Cup members should be females.  (Actually, if the Board was run the way a 501(c)(3) is run when it’s done right–the number of Board members would be uneven, so that voting ties never happen.  Thirteen or 15 would be great numbers.)

If the thought of eight female Breeders’ Cup Board members terrifies you–then you need to sit down and have a Come to Jesus Meeting with yourself, because your terror indicates that your thinking is all screwed up.  What horrible things would happen if women were the majority of the Breeders’ Cup Board–or of ANY Board, for that matter?

  •  Would horses be treated any worse than they often are, now?  Of course not–women are natural protectors.  We run most of the horse retirement and rescue organizations, we’re insanely vocal about horse abuse and neglect.
  •  Would horse racing become All Fashion Shows, All the Time?  Of course not–because we are so much more than y’all give us credit for being.  We’re not Prada-obsessed:  you just think we are.   (Not that we don’t love loveliness–we’re just more multidimensional than The Myth credits us.)
  •   Would there be more giggling at handicapping tournaments, or into the mics of breathless commentators?  Of course not–we’re educated, intelligent, opinionated–and speak out minds.  Again, we women in horse racing are not the fluffballs that The Myth insists we are.

Any lousy system perpetuates in any culture simply because The Myths about one or more segments of the society are allowed to continue, unchecked and unchallenged.   American Thoroughbred racing continues to allow–to encourage, and bless–The Myth, that women are best suited, still, as part of the décor–abounds.  Females in racing may do Nice Things like, train horses and ride them–but The Myth insists that females are much-better suited to entering bikini contests in the Preakness infield, or handicapping using a dartboard and three pretty feathered darts.

Stop it. Stop it, right now.  American Thoroughbred racing may never move–will never move–fully into the 21st Century, and thereby, grow as a sport–until it brings women fully into the fold.   Until The Myth that bikini contests = “the best women Preakness has to offer” is dashed across the rocks and discarded like all backward, inane thinking.  The Status Quo needs to continue to hold women back–because they’re afraid of losing their jobs?  Or, because they’re afraid that we’ll do their jobs, better than they do?

Whichever the reason–American Thoroughbred racing at this very moment stands centuries behind Arabian racing, internationally and here in the United States.  Women run the show in most segments of Arabian racing–and that sport has been happening for, oh, 5,000+ years.  If the American Thoroughbred community doesn’t step up and emulate Arabian racing’s female-dominant administrative insights–the sport of racing Thoroughbreds in this country has no chance of seeing the 22nd Century.

Breeders’ Cup–and every racing organization in America–ring-ring-ring!  It’s the 19th Century:  they want their misogyny back.

Give it back–give women the chance to help run everything, 51/49 (or even, 50/50)–and see how we’ll grow and flourish, together.