In the world of thoroughbred horse racing, few women have made their mark. It is a male-dominated sport. This makes the accomplishments of jockeys like Donna Barton Brothers all the the more impressive. Winning more than 1,100 races in her distinguished career, Brothers stands beside other notable female jockeys like Julie Krone as a trailblazer in female athletics.
The Career of Donna Barton Brothers
Donna Barton Brothers came by her talent for riding race horses honestly. Her mother, Patti Barton, was also a famous jockey. Donna also saw her brother and sister embark upon professional jockey careers, but her mother never forced the decision on her. Brothers was allowed to choose her own path. She was born on April 20, 1966 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. By the time she was in her teens, Brothers already had considerable riding experience.
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It wasn’t until age 21, however, that Brothers decided to become a professional jockey. She took the advice of a jockey agent who believed she had the potential to succeed. Her first professional mounts came in 1987. At that time it was still very hard for female riders to attract the attention of top thoroughbred trainers. Nevertheless, Brothers persisted in her career and by the 1990’s she had begun riding for some of the top stables in the country. One of the first big name trainers to give her a chance was D. Wayne Lukas. She became the first call rider for the Lukas stable and piloted many of Lukas’ top stakes horses to victory.
At one time, Brothers was the second-leading all-time money earner among female jockeys. She reached a high point in her career when she rode the Lukas-trained Boston Harbor to a win in the 1996 Grade III Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes. In 1995, she also managed to run second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Hennessy.
Her career was to be a short one, however. Donna Barton retired in 1998 to focus on other horse racing ventures. She still ranks third on list of female jockey earnings.
Life After a Jockey Career for Donna Barton
In 1998, Barton followed her retirement by marrying horse trainer Frank Brothers. It was not long after that she found her second calling in the racing world. Brothers became a commentator and racing analyst for the Fair Grounds Racecourse in New Orleans. The track was no stranger to Brothers who had previously won the Risen Star Stakes, one of the premier events hosted by the track.
Her work at Fair Grounds led to a job as an analyst at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. It was in this capacity that Brothers was discovered by NBC. The network hired her to be an on-track analyst for the Triple Crown racing series. Since Brothers had experience as a rider, NBC placed her on horseback and had her report directly from the track. She would interview the winning jockey of the Kentucky Derby moments after the race had concluded from the back of her horse. Brother also performed the same duties for NBC’s Breeders’ Cup coverage.
In addition to her work as a horse racing analyst, Brothers has also covered other equestrian events for NBC, and she also provided coverage for the Professional Bull Riders events on the network.
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