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Top female jockey aims for Triple Crown races
Posted: Monday July 26, 1999 01:14 PM
MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) -- As a girl growing up in Muscatine, Iowa Cindy Springman-Noll saved baby-sitting money to buy her first horse, a palomino mare named Honey.
Now, she thunders down the nation's racetracks atop thoroughbreds with catchy names such as Fun to Run. Springman-Noll of Spencer earned the title of the nation's winningest female jockey in 1994 and 1998.
"Being the leading female rider in the nation is quite an honor for me," Spencer said of a title earned through the number of wins she racked up. "I'm really proud of that."
The 5-foot 5-inch, 105-pounder sits ready to take the honor again this year. At Altoona's Prairie Meadows Racetrack alone, her 1999 purse exceeds $1 million.
"I'm ahead of my old records at this point," she said.
And the season is far from over.
Her mother, Jolene Springman of Muscatine, feels her daughter would have earned the top spot other years, but two pregnancies -- Springman-Noll raced through her fifth month both times -- kept the jockey from completing two seasons.
At Hot Springs, Ark., Springman-Noll blasted the Oak Lawn Racetrack single-season win record of 24 with a mind boggling 47 wins.
And in the male-dominated world of horse racing, she currently ranks 18th among all jockeys nationwide. Springman-Noll doesn't know the ratio of male and female jockeys nationwide, and the Jockey's Guild doesn't keep track of those numbers either. But at Prairie Meadows, she remains the only female out of 20 riders.
Springman said the attitude toward female jockeys has improved during the 11 years her daughter has competed, but women haven't galloped through the glass ceiling at racetracks.
John Ball, who works in the Jockey Guild's communications department, has followed Springman-Noll's career. In fact, he said, the guild's publication recently ran a story on her successes.
"She's a wonderful rider. She can ride with the best of them," Ball said.
Springman-Noll remains a rarity in the world of jockeys, he said, because she is a mother and college grad.
Glenn Corbett, a jockey for 14 years, goes nose-to-nose with Springman-Noll at Prairie Meadows. She's lighthearted, easy to get along with and a real professional, he said.
"We all get along pretty good in the jock's room," Corbett said. "But when you get on the track, you're just another horse and rider."
He's impressed with her win records and believes she may break into the Triple Crown circuit some day.
After graduating from Muscatine High School, Springman-Noll attended Truman State, formerly Northeast Missouri State, with plans to attend veterinary school. But she took a job galloping Arabians in Texas the summer after graduating from college. She's lived atop a horse ever since.
She exercised thoroughbreds in Florida before heading to Argentina, where she entered her first races. Her first time out of the starting gate stalled: Springman-Noll came in last. But things turned around in Argentina, where she won her first race.
After her U.S. apprenticeship ended, Prairie Meadows opened in 1989. Springman-Noll, eager to race in her home state, won the first race ever run at Prairie Meadows. "It was really neat. I was from Iowa; the guy who trained the horse was an Iowan; and the horse I raced was an Iowa horse."
Besides the Iowa racetrack, she rides a circuit including tracks such as Hawthorne Park in Chicago, Hoosier Park near Indianapolis, Ind., and Oak Lawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. "You follow your better horses," Springman-Noll said.
Through the years, she's suffered spills, resulting in broken arms, fingers, ribs, concussions and a fractured vertebrae. The 37-year-old mother of two hopes to ride another 15 years.
Certainly, she'd enjoy a stint as the winningest jockey -- male or female -- nationwide. And, of course, the Triple Crown looms a distant dream. Especially the Kentucky Derby. "I'd really like to ride that some day."
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