Letter to the Editor: Amanda Luby

Jena Antonucci raises Belmont trophy | Sarah Andrew

I didn't realize how badly I wanted Jena Antonucci to win the GI Belmont S. Saturday until Arcangelo slipped up the rail and drove past National Treasure under a perfect ride by Javier Castellano and I started screaming at the TV and feverishly clapping the horse onto the wire. It wasn't until Arcangelo crossed the wire first and Javier pumped his fist in the air that I started jumping up and down, tears streaming down my face, that I realized how much it mattered to me, a nearly 50-year-old woman who's loved Thoroughbred racing since growing up in Oklahoma and reading the Black Stallion books as a child.

I don't even know Jena, but her reputation as a superb horsewoman preceded her win, that reputation spread by the women in the industry devoted to aftercare, quality horsemanship, and always doing right by the horse. You see, there's a network of us in the sport in various segments of participation, from equine attorneys and small breeders like myself, to exercise riders, grooms, hotwalkers, bloodstock agents and pedigree consultants, media, farm staff both in and out of the office, racetrack employees, veterinarians, and trainers, many of us who weren't born into the industry, but who found our way into racing because of the sheer love of the animal. These women represent a large swath of participants in the sport doing their best to make it better, oftentimes unheralded, underpaid, unnoticed, and underappreciated.

We all know how hard it is for small trainers–let alone female trainers–to get support from owners and racetracks. While Jena's win was the second win for a female in a Triple Crown race (jockey Julie Krone being the first by winning the Belmont S. in 1993), the 30 years between such victories reflects the painfully slow growth in opportunities that women continue to experience in racing, a sport with a rich history of hurting itself.

There's no need to regurgitate the depths of those issues here, but I will conclude with this: representation matters. Jena's win matters, for all of us. It gives us hope. It ignites fires in young girls across the nation and it re-sparks old flames that have flickered in the winds of time.

Amanda Luby, Welbourne Stud

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