Over the years, Ms. Crump often found herself aboard the most difficult horses, the ones male jockeys had turned down, or those that were not the crème de la crème. Nonetheless, she won 228 races, earning her more than $1 million, according to statistics compiled by the database Equibase.
She may not have won the run for the roses, but she did ride the winner in the opening race of the day of the 1970 Kentucky Derby. “That was awesome, and the fact that I was riding in the Derby was exciting,” she said. “I was a part of it. It was a big field. Fathom wasn’t bred to go that far. He was bred to go a mile, not a mile and a quarter. He gave it a shot. So did I.”
Ms. Crump chose a tough career that never got easier. She had to prove herself over and over again.
“Resilience is what keeps you going,” she said. “No matter what you do, there are going to be a lot of challenges and obstacles. You’re going to get hurt, at least in my sport. You’re going to feel like you can’t accomplish what you want. So you have to have that belief in yourself that you can do what is in your heart. To me, that’s it. The dream is in your heart. No matter if I was injured, how many broken bones, how much pain, how much resistance. I just never gave up.”
But the passion did take a toll on her body. Along the way, she had crushing falls, broken collarbones, fractured legs and splintered ribs. She had three surgeries on each knee over the years and wore her shoulders out galloping horses. “I always got back up,” she said.
Her resilience was also rooted in her work ethic. “Diane showed up early every morning to gallop horses, despite the weather, despite illness, despite injury,” wrote Mark Shrager, author of the recently released “Diane Crump: A Horse-Racing Pioneer’s Life in the Saddle.”
That kind of all-encompassing passion is essential to getting back up after setbacks. “The great thing about having a passion is that it means you are focused on that thing,” Ms. Crump said. “The fact that every single day I did what I loved — galloping racehorses, working with horses, feeling in my heart that it was going to happen. That kept me going.”