It was a horrible way to be marking an anniversary. Almost 20 years to the day that she made racing history by riding in a race in Florida, Diane Crump was crushed by a horse in Northern Virginia and spent 10 days in the hospital with a broken leg, ankle and ribs.
The accident happened on Feb. 1.
On Feb. 7, 1969, Diane Crump had ridden a 48-1 shot to a 10th-place finish in a 12-horse race at Hialeah, becoming the first female jockey to compete at a parimutuel track.
Two decades later, at least three female jockeys--Julie Krone, Patti Cooksey and Patti Barton--have reached the 1,000-victory mark. Krone’s mounts earned almost $8 million last year.
For Diane Crump, though, the breakthroughs by female riders haven’t been enough. Since Crump blazed another trail in 1970 by becoming the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby, only one other woman--Cooksey--has ridden in that Triple Crown race. And it took the Breeders’ Cup five years before a woman--Krone--rode in one of the million-dollar races.
“It’s been 20 years and we really haven’t broken the barrier, have we?” Crump said. “It might take 50 years to break that barrier. When people get something set in their minds, it’s a long time before they change.”
It was never planned that Crump would become the first woman to ride in a race. The legal battle over the licensing of a woman jockey had been fought--and won--in the fall of 1968 by Kathy Kusner, who was a member of the American Olympic equestrian team.
Kusner, who probably would have made the historic first ride in Maryland, broke her leg in a horse show at Madison Square Garden and was recuperating when Crump beat her to the post at Hialeah.
The horse’s name was Bridle ‘n Bit, a 3-year-old colt from the $5,000 claiming ranks who was half of trainer Tom Calumet’s stable. The 20-year-old Crump had never even worked Bridle ‘n Bit and she didn’t know the 63-year-old Calumet, who sold cars in Chicago to finance his racing operation.
“I didn’t know that I was named on the horse,” Crump said. “Somebody saw my name in the entries in the paper and told me.”
It turned out that Catherine Calumet, the trainer’s wife, had talked him into using Crump.
“I felt sorry for her,” Catherine Calumet said. “She was qualified, but nobody ever gave her a chance.”
Crump had been working at Florida horse farms and at the old Florida Downs--now Tampa Bay Downs--since she was 12.
As a teen-ager, Crump galloped horses in both Kentucky and Florida. In the winter of 1969, in the wake of the Kusner decision, she received a jockey’s license at Hialeah after showing the stewards that she could handle a horse out of the gate.
Crump got left-handed compliments from some of the jockeys who were to ride against her.
“You’re OK,” one of them told Crump. “But how about the other girls that try it after you?”
There was no mistaking the position of Nick Jemas, who headed the Jockeys’ Guild then.
“There are 82 good reasons why men and women shouldn’t ride against each other,” Jemas said. “They are the 82 jockeys who have been killed in racing accidents since 1940.”
On that February Friday 20 years ago, no one wanted to admit to nervousness. But Tom Calumet’s horse carried 116 pounds--including 11 pounds of lead--because he had forgotten to claim Crump’s 10-pound apprentice allowance at entry time. Crump went to the paddock still wearing her gold wristwatch. Craig Perret, the jockey next to her in the gate, had to remind Crump to pull down her goggles.
Bridle ‘n Bit ran straight and slow. He and Crump were in tight quarters going into the first turn, they were last going down the backstretch and two horses ran slower than the colt did through the stretch.
“Well, she got back alive,” said one fan as Crump dismounted.
Several days later, Crump rode an apparent winner at Florida Downs, which would have been another first, but the horse was disqualified because he had not been eligible for the race. The first woman to ride a winner became Barbara Jo Rubin, at Charles Town, W. Va., on Feb. 22.
Crump rode her first winner that counted on March 20 at Gulfstream Park. She ended her career in 1985 with 235 wins. At Ellis Park in the late 1970s, she won the feature race six straight days.
“The fans in Florida and Kentucky were great,” she said. “It was in places like New York where the girls had trouble then. They couldn’t take the pressure from the fans. That’s why jockeys like Robyn Smith and Tuesdee Testa left.”
In 1969, Crump began riding Fathom, a chestnut colt that was trained by her husband, Don Divine, and owned by W. L. Lyons Brown, a Louisville bourbon distiller who was critically ill. Fathom won only one race as a 2-year-old, and his record early the following year wasn’t any better, but Brown, who had never started a horse in the Kentucky Derby, was determined to run this one in his hometown race. And because Crump had been riding Fathom all along, Brown wanted her aboard for the Derby.
“The horse was actually a sprinter, but Mr. Brown was not long for the world,” Crump said.
In a 17-horse field, Fathom finished 15th. The next--and only other--woman to ride in a Derby was Cooksey, who finished 11th astride So Vague in 1984.
In 1985, Crump took a job as a farm trainer for Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky. Tom Calumet, the trainer of Bridle ‘n Bit, had no connection. Crump had a young daughter who was about to start school, and that was the reason she quit riding, to settle in one place.
There was no ballyhoo at the time, but other than the office, Crump was the first woman to be hired by Calumet.
The job lasted 3 1/2 years. She and Don Divine, who is 20 years older, have divorced, and Crump, now 40, and her daughter moved to Bentonville, Va.
Crump had been breaking young horses as a free-lancer when she took one of her own, a 2-year-old colt named Proof Positive, out for a run at the Middleburg Training Center about a month ago.
“I had been working him about six weeks, and knew that he still had the habit of rearing up,” Crump said. “We were on a hill this day when he reared up, but then he seemed to be all right and went on.
“But coming back, on the same hill, he reared again in the same spot. He fell backwards and bent my foot back, breaking the ankle. Then he landed on me and I got a compound fracture of the leg. That’s when the bone is sticking out, isn’t it?
“I’ve broken both of my collarbones two times apiece, and I’ve had a slipped disk, but I never felt pain like that.”
A pony boy who was with Crump went for help, Proof Positive went back to the barn on his own and Crump waited 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. The first operation took three hours and the second was four hours, and she has a pin in the ankle and bone grafting and a rod in her leg.
The Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, which is managed by Chris McCarron’s wife, Judy, is helping with Crump’s medical bills. One of the first contributors was Calumet Farm, with $10,000.
The other day, the doctor came to see how the patient was doing and she asked when she’d be able to get on a horse again.
“All he did was give me a dirty look,” Diane Crump said. Two months more might be more like it.