By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
Charlotte graduated with a degree in petroleum engineering from Oklahoma University. She worked for an oil company for two years before giving in to her horse fetish, which was a result of her father training roping horses. After knocking around Texas tracks for a long while, Charlotte is finally doing well. She earned $50,000 last year, and would have done better this year if she weren't home pregnant with her second child.
Charlotte's agent, Jim Schultz, is the son of the prominent trainer Bob Schultz. "Bob only used to ride girls when there weren't any boys left," Charlotte says. "Now I've ridden five or six winners for him at Houston. I like him a lot now that I know him."
Like many female jocks, Charlotte tempers her comments about how hard it is to get mounts because she doesn't want to anger the people who hold the key to her livelihood. Still, it's hard for her to swallow some of the comments.
"I've heard, 'That gal can't finish.' Well, I'm on a 50-1 shot and finishing a close third. Guys would say, 'The heck with it,' and quit. I think girls try a little harder on the long shots. I got 60 thirds last year at Houston, mostly on long shots. It's not that I don't think [these horses] can win, it's just easier if " Charlotte lets out a long sigh. "I used to think that I wasn't riding well. When I finally got on the track with some good horses, I realized it's not me, it's the horse."
It's not often that C.J. McMann gets a good horse in her hands. "You gotta have stock underneath you," she says. "Half the time you don't have the stock. My first winner paid $55.20." Inferior horses mean you have to "ride twice as smart," she says. "And when you do get a good horse, it's the easiest thing to win. They overcome everything."
Her given name is Cynthia Jean, but she goes by C.J. for a reason. "Cynthia Jean sounds like a little prima donna sitting up in the grandstand with a dress on. It don't sound like no race rider," she says. "With the initials, I can really get by on some owners. They won't say, 'Oh, that's a girl.' 'Cause a lot of owners won't give girl riders a shot."
"It used to be you never had a girls' room. They put us in the corner, treated us like outcasts, like redheaded stepchildren," C.J. says. "We got to work the horses but not race them. If we did get to race, the horse was Looney Tunes. Women have to prove themselves twice as hard as a guy jock. And I'm thankful for the many women who have paved the way for us girls."
Jan Rogers was born 49 years ago in Sulfur Springs, Texas. Her folks put her on a horse before she could walk. They would come to regret it.
In high school, Jan broke horses just for fun. She was messing around on a ranch that had a bunch of two-year-old horses headed to a big brush track in Kaufman. Brush tracks defined Texas horse racing before the sport turned pari-mutuel in 1994. You drove up to a brush track, took a look around, and placed bets with whoever would take them.
The fellas who ran horses in those parts had more mounts than jockeys. They heard Jan could break a horse. They got a gander at her tiny frame and told her to get on out there and race. She loved it. The speed was intoxicating. For a moment.
Jan hadn't started a half-dozen races before her mount went up and over the inside rail midway through a Kaufman race in 1983. Cars and trucks were parked on the other side of the solid, heavy pipe rail. When Jan's horse went over it, she broke her nose, collarbone, wrist and finger. Her knee filled with fluid. Her parents forbade her to race again, ever. Jan waited four years.
With the gender bias she encountered, Jan had to wait a lot longer to ride good stock. "It's getting a little better. Other states, especially up north, it's a lot better. But it's real tough in this state especially. They've got some real chauvinist pigs, that's the only way I can put it to you."
The more resistance Jan faced, though, the more determined she got. There's a reason they call her Miss Firecracker. And the struggle continues, even today. Her people have a lot of injured horses, so they're not sending her much work at Sam Houston.
She's not making enough money to relocate for the season from her home in San Antonio, so she commutes each week. The drive doesn't matter. "I love it It's all I really wanna do," she says. "Winning is a big part, but just being out there on the horse is a great feeling. I don't feel old. As long as I stay healthy, I'll be out here."
As she tells of winning a stakes race atop Frosty Hitter, her sun-weathered face creases into a smile and she clutches her bathrobe tighter in the Sam Houston dressing room. "When he went in the winner's circle, he held his head up," she says. "It made a beautiful picture, and he knew it. He had been there before. He was calm, looking into the distance, posing for the cameras. It was beautiful."
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