Some facts and figures in honor of International Women’s Day

by Bob Heyden

Let’s take a look at the impact that females have had at The Meadowlands and on the industry through the years. Let’s begin with the first ladies to start or get money in the Hambletonian; all doing so at The Meadowlands.

1. Anna-Lena Ljunggren was the very first female to train a Hambletonian starter. In 1993, Baltic Baby finished sixth in a seven-horse elimination field for owner Oleg Cassini at odds of 11-1 with driver Jack Moiseyev. The colt didn’t make the final.

2. Brooke Nickells trained and drove Lavecster in 2001 up until and after the Hambletonian, but Mike Lachance got the call on the big day and finished fourth. Nickells did drive him in the Kentucky Futurity that year finishing second at 77-1 and third at 23-1. To this day, no female driver has competed in the Hambletonian.

3. Paula Wellwood in 2007 was the first female conditioner to hit the board in the Hambletonian with Laddie finishing third with Paul MacDonell driving.

4. Julie Miller debuted in the Hambletonian in 2009 finishing fourth with The Chancellor.

5. Linda Toscano became the first female trainer to make consecutive Hambletonian finals and then the first female to win it in 2012 with Market Share. In 2011, Chapter Seven was fourth. He later sired a male and female winner of this race with Cool Papa Bell and Atlanta, respectively.

6. Nancy Takter got her feet wet in the 2014 Hambletonian getting the last check with Resolve, the same year her dad went 1-2 with Trixton and Nuncio.

7. In 2016 it was the first ever Triple Crown winner trained by a female. Marion Marauder was trained by Paula Wellwood with husband Mike Keeling.

8. Julie Miller has twice been runner up in the Hambletonian and Nancy Takter joined her dad on the Hambletonian Wall of Honor in 2023 with Tactical Approach. If Nancy can repeat in 2024 with Karl, she would join Jimmy (2014-2015) as the sixth trainer to win consecutive Hambletonians.

9. In 1920 women win the right to vote and on Aug. 18, 1926 the Hambletonian debuts. But, it would be in the 54th edition that Suzanne Tripp was the first female caretaker of a winner, Legend Hanover.

10. In 2000, Jacqueline Ingrassia’s Goalfish was not Hambletonian eligible, but did race in the Yonkers Trot and gave her the lone Triple Crown score in harness racing history for a female driver.

11. Ingrassia also appeared in the $907,000 Woodrow Wilson in 1989 and got fourth money, $77,600, with Southern Raider. That was the biggest purse check for a female driver until she got half of the $207G pot in the 2004 Goldsmith Maid with Aeronautess.

12. Linda McNatt (Macdonald today) scorched The Meadowlands mile oval the first week of May 1985 with her super filly Go Nancy Isle in the 3YO NJSS in 1:55.1, which was the standard until…

13. Followme Holly won in 1:54.4 on July 25, 1986 with Ingrassia as the first sub 1:55 winning lady at The Meadowlands.

14. Stacy Chiodo and Might Young Joe — he’s still around at 20 — was the very first sub 1:50 winner with a young lady driving going 1:49.3 at The Meadowlands.

15. In 1981, Gail Coppersmith became the first ever Meadowlands’ female driver to win consecutive races with the same horse, Yankee Legend.

16. The first sisters to each drive a Meadowlands winner were Flo and Diane Browne.

17. Susan Looney is still the youngest ever driver to win a Meadowlands race. She was 16 on July 2, 1984 with One For All. She had won her first race four months earlier with Pickle Parker. She was the only female to drive a winner that entire Meadowlands meet.


Let’s top this off with a few comments from Stacy Chiodo.

“Mighty Young Joe turned 20 this year and is living the good life in mom’s yard,” Chiodo said. “I’m not one for publicity, but I try to do what’s right for the industry. It [the record for female drivers anywhere] was a personal goal I had set and I do realize the significance of what I accomplished.

“I won with Shezafreaklikeme in 1:51.1; her dam is a full sister to Mighty Young Joe. Training Whole Lotta Lou and Chaser Hanover has been great; both have records of 1:49.3. ‘Chaser’ one night actually finished third beaten three quarters of a length in a 1:47.3 mile with Mark MacDonald driving.”

When was the first time you ever set foot at The Meadowlands?

“It was in 1995 as a groom. I was in awe of the caliber of horses racing there.”

The very beginning?

“It was 37 years ago and I went to Monmouth to watch my mother’s horse race. I saw Julie Krone riding and thought I wanted to be a jockey growing up. Although things took a slight turn, I couldn’t be happier with the things I’ve accomplished as a driver.”

Is there any men vs women thing?

“I never look at it that way. I set my own personal goals and try to reach them.”

How about the fact that no female has ever driven in the Hambletonian?

“I would love to drive in all the premier races, but my only chance is owning and training the horse myself. I have a nice Cattlewash 2-year-old this year that I bred myself. I would like to be the first to be in a few of them. I’m sure if Jacquie [Ingrassia] had a colt she would have been right there [in the Hambletonian].”