Making A Place For More Women In Sport

By Jennifer Gish
Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

Sheila Rosenblum learned about thoroughbred ownership the hard way — pretty much the only way in a sport with horsehair-thin odds — with bad buys, bad decisions and good money thrown after bad.

“I have really just paid my dues, the trials and tribulations, and had a very, very expensive, difficult learning curve,” says Rosenblum, who just started a second syndicate that encourages women to join, one of several female-owned syndicates to enter racing in recent years.

“Everything one could do wrong, I’ve been there, done it. But I’ve persevered and tried to show some sort of resiliency.”

She tends to think of women as particularly resilient, though she wouldn’t say she’s a feminist. Her former worlds of ballet and modeling were hardly easy ones, and they were also where she developed the steel to push on when things got tough.

The infusion of more women in horse racing — a sport in which female trainers and jockeys are still rare and you’ll find more women who own horses with their husbands than alone — is great news for the “sport of kings.”

And sure, you could talk about how you’re bound to draw a wider group of fans with wider representation by having more female ownership, but the better news for horse racing is that you’ve got fresh bodies in the sport. Period.

“It’s time. I don’t think it needs to be only a boys’ club or a blueblood club. It could be people that are from all venues,”

Rosenblum says. “There’s absolutely room to share at the top. There are wonderful syndications out there, but I think a little good competition is a great thing, and it keeps people on their toes, and it could keep people more honest.”

StarLadies Racing — a women-owned syndicate started last year by two women who are partners in another syndicate with their husbands — offers women a piece of the racing action for $60,000.

To buy into Rosenblum’s new syndicate, Lady Sheila Stable Two, it will cost $100,000, and so far she has just shy of a half-dozen partners, including Jill Zarin, best known as one of “The Real Housewives of New York City.”

Rosenblum stepped into the business in 2010 after her now-estranged husband wanted to buy her a grand prix dressage horse.

But she decided she didn’t want to compete, even though she’s loved horses since she was in her 20s.

Instead, she asked that he take whatever the grand prix horse would have cost and throw it at a thoroughbred or two.

Her early years in the sport were rough, including a lawsuit and FBI investigation over a pricey filly that the racehorse agent may not have had the right to sell. She says when her lawyer had to bow out, she picked up the 6-inch-thick dossier and successfully represented herself.

She kept going, and two years ago she decided to bring her racing operation from Kentucky to New York, closer to her Manhattan home.

She also hired trainer Linda Rice, and shortly after, she started learning what the inside of the winner’s circle looks like.

This year, Lady Sheila Stables has had 21 starts and finished in the money 15 times for $588,320 in earnings, which ranks her in the top 100 of 16,000 owners nationwide.

Lady Sheila’s star is La Verdad, a filly whose four-race winning streak was snapped Monday in the Grade II Honorable Miss Handicap, in which she finished fifth.

Rosenblum’s hoping she’ll have the same success for her partners in the new syndicate, Lady Sheila Stable Two, which so far includes a stable of three New York-bred fillies that Rice, also a partner in the syndicate, picked out at a 2-year-old sale.

Two of the three are at Saratoga this summer.

“She thought that other women like herself would like to get involved. She’s already been through the learning curve and thought she could offer that to other women,” Rice says. “Horse racing is a source of entertainment. … Now it’s become a fun thing for the girls.”

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