The hardest working exercise boy at Pimlico is a girl
By Eliza McGraw
Directly after junior high, Joyce Goldschmidt was already waking up at dawn to exercise yearlings. By 18, she was riding in a race at Pimlico against other female riders. The prize was a silver cigarette case. Goldschmidt was an exercise rider from Baltimore, and she wasn’t worried about losing the race, she told a reporter. She was just worried she would lose her cap.
Seven women jockeys entered the race. It was 1947. Goldschmidt won.
In 1948, Goldschmidt won again, on Audible again. (That year, a reporter wrote, one of the jockeys had trouble fitting into her breeches, because she usually wore blue jeans as an exercise rider. She found some extras in the jockeys’ room.) She got a silver plate. In 1949, Goldschmidt came in fourth; Betty Clouser aboard Real Wren, won.
Gender commentary pervaded the reporting of these races. For example, in an article about the 1947 Pimlico “Gals’ Gallop,” an AP reporter wrote that “The gal in the press box forgot to report who came in third.” The article didn’t report the race’s time, or how much Goldschmidt’s horse won by, just that Mrs. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt was wearing a pretty gray skirt and a beige and red sweater set.
In 1950, Goldschmidt drove to Mexico to ride in a match race against another famous female jockey, Wantha Davis. Agua Caliente offered to buy her an airplane ticket, but Goldschmidt wanted her family to come with her, so they drove. By then, she was one of the few female licensed trainers in Maryland. She worked at The Caves, a farm in Baltimore County, and was riding an average of 30 miles a day. She’d also bought her own horse by then, a 2-year-old filly named Graduation Pal.
In Mexico, publicity director Duffy Cornell at Agua Caliente had set up the race. The idea was that the riders would draw for which horse they’d ride and go at even weights, impost determined by the heavier rider. Davis was 31; Goldschmidt 21. Davis, by then, had won seven of her last races at Agua Caliente, and had beaten many of the track’s leading male jockeys.
When Goldschmidt got to Mexico, though, Davis had wrenched a shoulder breezing a horse, and couldn’t ride. Joan Pratt—profiled here—was substituting. Pratt had won two Powder-Puff Derbies—a name for all-women’s races–by then, which made her and Goldschmidt peers. Goldschmidt was aboard Test Passer, a son of Jamestown. Pratt rode King Bull.
Test Passer broke first, and by the far turn, was five lengths ahead of King Bull. Pratt and King Bull threatened in the homestretch, but Goldschmidt “shook up” Test Passer in midstretch, denying King Bull. Seven thousand people watched Goldschmidt ride to the winner’s circle. Then, she and the family loaded back up to come back to Maryland. The match race with Davis was rescheduled for the fall.
On October 29, Goldschmidt mounted up again at Agua Caliente, this time against Davis. Her horse stumbled out of the gate and almost threw her. She pulled it back together, but Davis’ horse won by a length.
By early November, Goldschmidt was back at Pimlico, and her filly Graduation Pal ran her first race. She finished next to last, but by then, Goldschmidt had another horse in training, an unraced 2-year-old named Wee McGee. She kept both her horses in with her employers’, at Pimlico. In those days, Goldschmidt left home at 4:30 to be at the track by daybreak. She worked horses until 10 A.M., usually riding 15 to 20 horses every day of the week. Exercise riders earned $1-3 a gallop.
She trained three horses running at the 1951 Cumberland Fair, in Maryland. One was her Graduation Pal, and the others were Bucko and Brindisi, both horses belonging to the Fisher family. The next year, it was time for another color piece on the women’s race at Pimlico, now called the Distaff Derby. Goldschmidt was a touchstone of its history. “One fan is likely to say to another, completely forgetting the horse, ‘Three to one on the blonde in the red silks,’” ran one article. That meant Goldschmidt.
Goldschmidt was still riding that race in 1957. She rode a horse named Adage, trained by her husband, Marty. By now she was Joyce Bachner, and, as Washington Post sportswriter Walter Haight noted, “On a percentage basis, the former Joyce Goldschmidt is the nation’s leading jockey and has been for some time.” By then, she had ridden in one race and won it five times, so, as Haight noted, she had “batted 1000 for five seasons in the saddle.” In 1958, she was aboard Adage again, and in 1961, she rode her 1960 mount, Doscena. In those years, she and a rider named Doris Riley, one reporter wrote, passed the trophy back and forth between them. Goldschmidt was still riding in 1964.
Later local papers—mainly from Hagerstown and Baltimore—show Bachner as an owner more than a rider. Then, in September of 1974, an advertisement for a horse sale, near Charles Town. Martin and Joyce Bachner offered many horses at auction, including a bay gelding who’d won two races, named Breezy Jay. Many colts and fillies out of Bold Max. Terms were cash, nothing to be removed until settled for.
Sales like those are the punctuation marks of lives marked in horses. Even just a newspaper ad for a sale, with its lists and rules, represents a moment of taking stock, a time of change. By the time she was listing her horses for that sale—Chaddyne, Blue Adage, Echo’s Honey, Tuscany, Another Goldie–Joyce Goldschmidt Bachner had done it all. She rode, raced, trained, bred, sold. She was a consummate horse person, a professional with a thoroughgoing knowledge of the industry. Throughout, people talked about her sex. As Joseph Kelly wrote, “The hardest working exercise boy at Pimlico is a girl.”
Sources from ProQuest and newspapers.com
“Baltimore Girl Takes Horse Race in Mexico,” July 17, 1950, S13
“Baltimore Girl To Ride in Mexican Match Race,” Baltimore Sun, July 10, 1950, 13S
Biemiller, Carl. “Pimlico’s Prettiest,” Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1952, I24
“Gals’ Gallop at Pimlico Goes to Joyce Goldschmidt,” The Washington Post, May 6, 1947, 13
Haight, Walter. “Horses and People,” Washington Post, May 19. 1957, C8
“How It Turned Out,” Baltimore Sun, June 5, 1949, MS2
Hughston, Louise. “Ladies Riding At Pimlico,” Washington Post, May 20, 1961, C5
Kelly, Joseph B. “Exercise Girl Owns Stable,” Baltimore Sun, November 7, 1950, 19
“Miss Goldschmidt A Licensed Trainer,” Baltimore Sun, July 10, 1950, 13S
“Pigtails” Shows Way At Pimlico,” Washington Post, May 12, 1949, 20
Poole, Gray Johnson. “When Queens Take Over The Sport of Kings,” Baltimore Sun, May 8, 1949, M5
“Powder Puff Preakness Draws Nine,” Washington Post, May 16, 1964, C6
“Public Sale of Thoroughbred Horses,” Hagerstown Morning Herald, September 13, 1974, 24
“Woman Jockey Trainer At Fairgo,” Cumberland News, July 13, 1951, 17