An early-morning fog rolls over the racetrack and creeps around the barns as a pretty pigtailed girl in jeans gets ready to gallop her horse before the sun is up. Somewhere a bird chirps, and you would swear it was 'National Velvet.' The girl's name is Susan or Penny or Chris, and she is one of hundreds of young women, some of whom are shown on the opposite and succeeding pages, who work every day at thoroughbred tracks—and, sometimes, ride down homestretches in jockey silks. She isn't old enough to remember Elizabeth Taylor's 1945 Hollywood version of her life, but her numbers are increasing year by year, and she is touted by many trainers as "better than a man" in grooming horses, cleaning tack, walking hots or galloping. Sometimes she worries her trainer by being, or wanting to be, a jockey—the few who have tried have had sparing success so far—but mostly she is content to ready her horse for a race. "The biggest things she has going for her," says Trainer E. Barry Ryan, "are patience and a genuine fondness for the horse most men just don't have."
Susan Morgan (top), an English girl who handles horses in morning works, has been riding since she was 7.
Jockey Robyn Smith gave up a Hollywood contract to ride. Now she says, "I haven't time for anything else."
Penny Ann Early, a pioneer girl jockey, says, "I'm good as some men and better than others."
Irene Osterlund worked horses in Sweden before becoming a race rider in the U.S. last year.
Ramona Garramone grew up around horses, is an exercise "boy," hopes to become a trainer.
Sue Graham and her husband, now in Vietnam, both work horses. She'd like to be a jockey.
College graduate Chris Mehlhorn (right) exercises horses but plans to go to veterinary school.
College student Chris Stone (left) does not ride herself but fills in as a groom and hot-walker.
Sheila Maloney, daughter of Trainer Jim Moloney, works at breaking yearlings to the saddle.
Cindy Clark Knowles rode jumpers at 2, was a hot-walker before guiding horses in workouts.