Donna Brothers

“Everything that she does in life, she tries to do the best she can, no matter how small or how large a task. Donna was a She Hero to me from the moment she said, ‘I do.’ She is absolutely the best thing to happen to me.”

          Frank Brothers, trainer and Donna’s husband

“Jockey. Reporter. Author. Daughter. Wife. Winner. Advocate. Horsewoman.

Indefatigable. Inspiring. Intelligent. Available. Informed.

Maybe you know Donna Barton Brothers from her ‘sideline reporting,’ so characterized by Sports Illustrated in 2014 when she was named the magazine’s media person of the year in that category. Maybe you know her from her work at the World Equestrian Games. Maybe you remember her days as a jockey, notching more wins than any other female rider except Julie Krone.

Maybe you know her because she’s the chief operating officer of Starlight Racing, or because she’s a board member for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, or because she wrote a book about racing, Inside Track: Insider’s Guide to Horse Racing.

Her publisher got the title right: Donna knows racing both inside and out, from the shedrow to the saddle to the microphone. So no matter how you know Donna, no doubt there’s something else out there to learn about—and from—her.

Donna Barton, who rode 1,131 winners during her 11-year career as one of the leading female jockeys, gave her farewell performance Sunday at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

The 32-year-old rider from New Mexico said she would become a student next spring at the University of Louisville. She also announced that she would be married on Nov. 16 to Frank Brothers, the trainer.

She is the daughter of the pioneer female jockey Patti Barton, and was the jockey for Hennessy and Boston Harbor as well as the regular work rider for Thunder Gulch, Serena’s Song and Timber Country.

‘I became a jockey so that I could make money to go to college,’ Barton said. ‘This is one of the happiest and saddest days of my life.’”

          Joseph Durso, The New York Times, Sept. 29, 1998

“Donna’s post-race interviews are legendary. She does a great job of asking the right questions whether the winning jockey is the favorite or a longshot. She has a knack of being able to think on her feet, asking follow-up questions or interpreting the emotion the jockey feels. She’s the conduit for the riders to complete the story-telling process.

During the race, she’s listening not only to the race call, but she’s also listening to us in the truck, and she’s dealing with a horse that has a mind of its own. She’s holding the reins, she’s holding the notes, she’s holding the microphone. It’s not easy. It really isn’t.”

          Amy Zimmerman, producer, NBC Sports and vice president, Santa Anita Park

“My job is to capture something different. The win will be meaningful for every jockey, but it will mean something different for every jockey, too. In those first few moments after the races, I want to keep them in their heart. I don’t want them to tell me about the trip they had around the racetrack; I don’t want to get into their heads too soon.”

Donna Brothers in

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, when Brothers was denied the mount on Honour and Glory in the 1996 Kentucky Derby by the horse’s owners: “She was the perfect fit for this horse in a lot of ways…she was eliminated on the basis of her gender.”

Brothers: “I’m not going to say anything about it to (Tabor)…Why get mad? It’s like getting mad about getting stuck in a traffic jam. It’s not going to help anything. If he doesn’t want to ride me, I don’t want to ride his horse. All I can try to do is win people over day-by-day.”

          Neil Schmidt, Cincinnati Enquirer, May 3, 1996  

“Donna has been an advisor for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance since the early discussions of the organization, and she joined the advisory board in 2012. Last year, she agreed to come on as a full-time board member and she serves as chair of our communications committee.

She’s always been a great advocate for the TAA message. She wears the saddle cloth with our name on it at the Kentucky Derby, and she does interviews about our work. In the formative years of the TAA, having her influence and advocacy was important in getting our message out.

We can’t always get out of the office, so it’s great to have Donna out there in the action talking about the importance of accredited aftercare and taking care of horses.”

          Stacie Clark Rogers, operations consultant, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance