Kentucky Derby Museum's "Right to Ride" Exhibit Opens Oct. 16

Museum staff obtained 20 hours of oral history interviews with female riders.
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Fearless female jockeys and their journey to break down barriers in Thoroughbred racing take center stage in the Kentucky Derby Museum's new exhibit, "Right to Ride" opening Oct. 16. Join the museum as it celebrates Diane Crump making history 50 years ago as the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

"Right to Ride" puts a spotlight on the stories of female jockeys, from trailblazers like Diane Crump to modern-day jockeys like Rosie Napravnik and Donna Barton Brothers.

Sandy Schleiffers (left) & Penny Ann Early (right), Hollywood Parl, 1969

Sandy Schleiffers (left) & Penny Ann Early (right), Hollywood Parl, 1969

Female jockeys of the 60s and 70s had one thing in common: they just wanted to ride horses. But they faced gender discrimination and rules that didn't allow them to do what they loved. This exhibit centers around their stories of fighting for their Right to Ride in Thoroughbred racing. Between October 2019 and March 2020, the Museum's team amassed over 20 hours of oral history interviews with female riders who had an impact on American horse racing. The interviews form the centerpiece of the exhibit.

Accompanying the oral history footage are artifacts, photographs, and print media that provide deeper engagement with the personal careers of women in the saddle and the era which made their breakthroughs possible.

The exhibit features a retro 1960s and 70s-inspired motif that encourages guests to travel back in time to the era when women all over the United States were breaking out of the domestic sphere and into the workforce. The design includes wood paneling, mid-century modern style, and a retro kitchen, complete with an avocado-green refrigerator. This kitchen is a place to discover stories in the exhibit, but also symbolic of what female jockeys went through. A handful of the jockeys recall having phrases yelled at them, like, "Get back in the kitchen!"

"This is a ground-breaking exhibit for the Kentucky Derby Museum with regards to the scope and stylized experience of feeling as if you are stepping back in time to relive these moments," said Patrick Armstrong, Kentucky Derby Museum president and CEO. "These female jockeys fought so hard to not only raise the glass ceiling in their sport but to break through it. We are proud to tell their stories."

"We are excited to honor these trailblazing women riders during the centennial of Women's Suffrage," said Jessica Whitehead, Kentucky Derby Museum collections manager. "Their stories of dedication, perseverance, and remarkable skill reflect the same belief that all powerful women throughout history have had: that women were meant to contribute meaningfully to all facets of American public life. By pursuing their love of riding, these female jockeys defied expectations and proved themselves to be wonderful riders capable of competing against men at the highest level. They can be an inspiration to all of us to follow our hearts and do what we love."

Exhibit highlights include:

  • Oral history theatre screen featuring high definition video selections from over 20 hours of exclusive interviews with trailblazing female jockeys
  • Artifacts tracing the story of the first American female jockeys, such as Diane Crump's riding boots, Sandy Schleiffers' Jockeys' Guild ring, and the Barton family scrapbook
  • Treasures from personal collections, including Patti "P.J." Cooksey's gear from the 1984 Kentucky Derby and Rosie Napravnik's 2012 and 2014 winning Kentucky Oaks trophies
  • Newspaper clippings and cartoons that depict how female jockeys were portrayed in the media

The exhibit runs through August 2021.Guests can experience "Right to Ride" with a general admission ticket. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for age 65+, $8 for children (ages 5-14). Children under five are free.

A ribbon-cutting will be held Oct. 16 at noon ET in front of the exhibit, with legendary female jockeys on hand to help celebrate.

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