At Parx Racing, female trainers react to one of their own winning a Triple Crown race for the first time.

As Kathleen DeMasi watched the 155th running of the Belmont Stakes from her home in Mullica Hill, N.J., she felt a connection to Jena Antonucci, a trainer from Ocala, Fla., whose horse, Arcangelo, won the final leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

“I texted some of my friends and everything, and I said, ‘It’s about time a woman won one of the Triple Crown races,’” said DeMasi, a trainer with Pewter Stable and the first woman inducted into the Hall of Fame at Parx Racing.

Antonucci made history on June 10, becoming the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race. At 7-1 odds, Arcangelo secured the victory in the Belmont by holding off prerace favorite Forte and third-place finisher Tapit Trice.

Antonucci, the 11th female trainer to have a horse compete in the Belmont Stakes and the first since 2011, has competed at Parx, most recently at a graded stakes event in 2022. She also was hired to train Arcangelo by owner Jon Ebbert, who started his ownership career at Parx in 2009 with a horse named Daydreamin Boy and today is a real estate investor based in Pennsylvania.

But despite Antonucci’s limited ties to the Philadelphia area, her breakthrough moment in the Belmont still signified something special to the women in the city’s horse racing community.

“I was really enthusiastic for her because it’s obviously everybody’s dream to win it, and for a female trainer to finally accomplish it, I was excited for her,” Parx Racing trainer Marya Montoya said. “I was rooting for her completely.”

For DeMasi, who has competed in nearly 12,000 career races and won over 1,700 times, Antonucci’s achievement stood out because women rarely receive opportunities to train horses that can compete in the top events.

“Men have been in [horse racing] a lot longer, and they have a lot of big-money connections,” she said. “You typically see a lot of the big trainers having the access to those very expensive horses, which tend to be the horses that are going to these races.”

DeMasi and Montoya aspired to work in racing from a young age and had to make their way through a male-dominated sport to become trainers at Parx Racing.

DeMasi grew up on a farm and participated in the local Pony Club, where she started learning about training and competition. She recalled being bullied early in her career by a male coworker, an experience she used as motivation.

“He was just belittling me and trying to basically get me to quit,” DeMasi said. “You think, ‘This person is just trying to get my goat because they don’t want me to succeed because they know I’m a threat.’ As far as that experience, I just remember it giving me that much more determination.”

Montoya, the daughter of Parx Racing Hall of Famer Dennis “Goose” Heimer, knew she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps from the time she was 10 years old. But when Montoya was 15, her father died of a heart attack. Even though some of her father’s friends took her under their wing, Montoya still felt like she had to forge her own path.

“Most of the people in the sport are men, so the men kind of want to hang with the men,” Montoya said.

“We’re still the underdog. … It’s still not as easy for a woman.”

DeMasi and Montoya noted that they’ve seen the number of women in horse racing grow significantly since they first entered the sport in the 1970s and 1980s. According to an estimate by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association, 16 of the current top 100 trainers by earnings at Parx Racing are women.

“I do think there’s a lot more women in the industry and a lot more women in higher positions,” DeMasi said. “They’re doing the bloodstock part of it, they’re running the farms — they’re not just the secretary behind the desk anymore.”

But men still far outnumber women in the sport’s most prominent and visible roles. Montoya, who has won 223 times and received over $7.3 million in career earnings, expressed optimism that Antonucci’s victory might prove that women are deserving of more opportunities in the years ahead.

“I’m hoping that [Antonucci] starting the trend maybe brings more owners to female trainers,” Montoya said.

Cover Photo Credit to John Minchillo / AP

Original Source Credited to

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.