Boyett: The Oklahoma highschool lady was the primary to interrupt the glass ceiling on the Ellis Park racetrack – The Gleaner


Paula Herber was a 16-year-old student when she started her professional jockey career at Ellis Park on August 4, 1970 and celebrated her first win 20 days later. She ended her career in 1975 with a total of 395 races. Thirty of these were wins in first place, 31 in second place and 36 in third place. Towards the end of her career, she became known as Paula Herber-Rosier. (Photo from the Vincennes Sun Commercial) (Photo: Furnished)

Girls and horses are a natural pairing. A bit like peas and carrots.

But 50 years ago the idea of ​​a woman who drives a thoroughbred turned many people's teeth upside down. Diane Crump competed in the 1970 Kentucky Derby, but last year she needed a police escort to get to the Hialeah Park circuit. There she made history on February 7, 1969 by becoming the first woman in the USA to compete as a professional jockey in a pari-mutuel race.

Paula Herber is not quite as famous as Crump and has not suffered as much hostility, but she is definitely a pioneer of jockey. And it began at Ellis Park on August 4, 1970 at the age of 16 – 48 years after the track opened. She came in sixth.

It wasn't the hostility she was exposed to, but … I don't know. Underestimate? Much of the press coverage of her early races was "gee, isn't that adorable". Here is a paragraph from Aug. 6, 1970, Vincennes Sun Commercial:

“The handsome and sassy 110-pounder with long blond hair and green eyes will be senior at Fairmont, Oklahoma High School this year. She grew up with thoroughbreds (and had competed quite a bit at racing shows). Her father has been a racing game owner and trainer for 25 years. "

But Paula quickly got respect – even though she had to use the first aid room to get dressed. The track administrators decided after two races that she deserved an apprentice jockey license. On August 6th, she took the lead in the middle of a race – but did not place.

"She stabilizes a horse well and has no loose reins," said Chuck Corolla, Ellis Park patrol judge, in the Star Press on August 12 in Muncie, Indiana. and I've seen Diane Crump and Mary Bacon ride "(Bacon drove at Ellis Park in 1971.)

t all of her fellow jockeys were fans after the Owensboro Messenger Inquirer on August 18, however. "Moon Topper, ridden by Paula Herber, finished second, surviving a stewards investigation and foul claim by Ruben Martinez Jr., who finished fourth on Devil's Red Lady."

Fifty years ago, on August 24th, she became the first woman to win a race at Ellis Park, claiming victory in the second half of a daily brace. The Owensboro M-I took a picture of her with the winners.

"As an aspiring artist, the blonde Oklahoma girl was later accepted into the Ellis winning club when the other (male) jockeys poured buckets of water over her," reads the caption. "They soaked them all over with buckets of water to welcome them into the victorious Brotherhood of Drivers," said the accompanying M-I story. "A security guard noticed the jockeys and the water and started moving them away from the line of fire, but she said, ', I'm taking the initiation. "

The M-I story continued with a description of her graciously accepted victory. "She elegantly suppressed her exuberance as she sat for the winner's circle on Sporty Mon … after scoring her first victory on a recognized circuit. She couldn't prevent a small smile from crawling across her pretty face, however was flanked by golden curls while a crowd of 6,500 people applauded violently. "

She started the race with a plan and a godsend helped him make it a reality. "I stabilized and rescued the horse as much as possible until the head of the stretch it responded to when asked." Then a hole opened. "That was nice," she said with a smile. "He had room to run when I called him."

That first victory on August 24th seemed to open the floodgates. The September 2, Louisville Courier-Journal described what happened in the final days of the meeting. "Until a little over a week ago, no woman had driven a winner in Ellis Park." Herber changed that; "She won two more races last week and doubled her total to three yesterday" on a muddy track.

One unnamed jockey commented, "Man, I'm glad she didn't ride in anything else."

In two of these three races, she won both stages of a daily double. The Sept. 2 M-I noted, "Racing Form authorities said she was the first woman to do a doubles daily."

Her original plan had been to return to her senior year of high school in Oklahoma. But the lure of the route intervened. Her father, Don Herber, moved his 10 horses to what was then Latonia but is now Turfway Park in Florence and she decided to go with him after getting her headmaster's permission and signing up for correspondence courses.

She made history again by becoming the first female jockey on this circuit. The September 19 Cincinnati Enquirer noted that it “brings an enviable record to Latonia. In thirty attempts at Ellis Park, she recorded seven wins and eight seconds. "

A few days later, on September 23rd, the investigator found that she had won the ninth race with 10 lengths and finished second in the first race. She was the first female jockey to win both Ellis Park and Turfway Park races.

But it didn't stop there. Her father canceled his Ellis Park reservations for the 1971 season and initially began racing at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. 17-year-old Herber and 18-year-old Kim Sawyer were the first female jockeys on the route on February 25, 1971, according to the El Dorado Times of El Dorado, Arkansas.

"Paula arrived in Hot Springs last week from New Orleans, where she's spent the past two months with galloping horses."

By the spring of 1971, she had moved east to the Finger Lakes Racetrack near Rochester, New York. A May 6 article in that town's Democrat and Chronicle indicated that she would be back in tiny Fairmont, Oklahoma, in two weeks for her high school graduation.

"They told me when I got around to it that the jockeys were going to give me a bad time," she said, "but it really wasn't that bad. I'd better knock on wood."

From 1974 to 1975 she drove as Paula Herber-Rosier in New Mexico. She currently lives in South Ohio and continues to work in the horse industry.

Paula was the oldest of five children, and her younger sister Dixie also became a jockey in Ellis Park on August 6, 1975, according to Star Press of Muncie, Indiana. Other female jockeys in Ellis Park until 1975 were Mary Bacon, Marlene Wigginton, Mary Ellen Longan, and Lisa Catherine Thompson.

100 years ago

According to The Gleaner on August 27, 1920, the renovation of Henderson's original high school into a junior high school was nearing completion.

About 200 students were expected when the school opened on September 7th, as well as many rural students whose parents paid for tuition.

The Washington and Adams building was constructed as a high school in 1888 and converted into a gym when Barret Manual Training High School opened in 1910. However, it was mostly empty for 10 years before it turned into Central Junior High. It became the central elementary school in 1941, but was closed and destroyed after the opening of today's central academy in 1975.

75 years ago

The US 60 Spottsville Bridge over the Green River was no longer a tollbooth according to The Gleaner of August 26, 1945. During their 14-year activity as a toll bridge, a total of more than 2.9 million vehicles drove over it.

Susan D. Langley and Irma Lee Stanley cut the ribbon with the same scissors that were used to dedicate the bridge on December 17, 1931.

The Kentucky Highway Department is currently in the process of replacing the span that is officially named Richard W. Owen Memorial Bridge.

25 years ago

Heather D. Teague, 23, was abducted at gunpoint from Newburgh Beach on the afternoon of August 26, 1995 and has not been heard since. It is one of the most discussed and researched disappearances in the field.

The Gleaner's first story of the crime appeared on August 29, and it was reported that a witness from across the river had telescoped the area. He described the suspect and the weapon that was used.

The FBI quickly joined in the search, and the police soon released two composite sketches that sparked hundreds of reports.

The Sept. 2 Gleaner reported that 30-year-old prime suspect Marvin Ray Dill committed suicide while law enforcement officers were preparing to issue a search warrant for his rural home in Henderson County about two miles northeast of Poole.

The victim's mother, Sarah Teague, was long excited to keep the investigation active and even filed a lawsuit against Kentucky State Police to clear the file.

Readers of The Gleaner can contact Frank Boyett at or on Twitter at @BoyettFrank.

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