The Thoroughbred Women’s Network and Taylor Made host a Mentor Mixer

TWN offers newcomers and employers the opportunity to meet and mingle during the Keeneland September Yearling Sales.


TWN 9.9 Mentor Mixer.jpg

The Thoroughbred Women’s Network is set to host a networking event Sunday, September 9th as part of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.  The “Meet and Mingle” will be held on the Keeneland Sale grounds between Taylor Made Yearling Sale Barns 2 and 6 beginning at 5:30 pm Eastern.

Recognizing a need in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry to address the difficulties many newcomers experience in becoming professionally involved in the sport, the TWN hopes the ice breaker-style event will offer interested individuals the chance to learn more about TWN, as well as meet like-minded Thoroughbred industry professionals, role models, and potential mentors. Light snacks and refreshments will be served, courtesy of Taylor Made Sales.

Attendees are encouraged to mix with current TWN board members and participants, register, exchange information, network with peers, and sign up for a mentorship program the TWN expects to unveil in the near future. Registration and Information tables will be set-up for those interested in learning more about various professions in the Thoroughbred industry. Topics will include: On the Farm, At the Track,Marketing, and Industry Services.

Women in Racing Symposium at the National Racing Museum & Hall of Fame

by L.A. Sokolowski, Equinista


Standing room only at the Women in Racing Symposium 8/19/18 in Saratoga Springs, NY

When breeding horses we understand the value of a great mare line and on Sunday morning, August 19, so did the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, presenting a Women in Racing symposium featuring six of the distaff side’s most thoroughly thoroughbred influencers in the sport: Janet Elliot, Gabby Gaudet, Julie Krone, Blythe Miller Davies, Linda Rice, Stella Thayer and Charlotte Weber.

The free-to-the-public event whet appetites for the Saratoga Springs, New York museum’s next major special exhibition – Women in Racing – to debut in the McBean Gallery in July 2019.

NYS Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund executive director and broadcast journalist Tracy Egan was guest moderator, and skillfully opened on a question that brought a flood of great answers:  “What has been one of your favorite moments in your career?”

Janet Elliot (2009 first female trainer enshrined in HOF, 4th in all-time steeplechase trainer earnings $8.3+million): My first Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase win for owners George and Jan Chase (Census, 1986).

Gabby Gaudet (NYRA on-air analyst): Sharing, with my dad and family, his having a Preakness qualifier in the last year of his career (Concealed Identity, 2011).

 Julie Krone (2000 first woman inducted into HOF, most successful –3,704 wins/22 Grade I races – female jockey of all time): Those days when you wake up and know you could have multiple wins that day, on four or five great horses.

 Blythe Miller Davies (first woman to win National Steeplechase Association Jockey Championship, 7th in all-time career wins – 204 wins, $5+ million earnings): Winning at Saratoga.

 Linda Rice (most successful female trainer in American racing history — 1,778 wins, $69.5 million earnings): Closing day at Saratoga in 2009 when I one-upped Todd Pletcher.

Stella Thayer (TRA past president, first woman NMRH president): Riding on the hay truck and watching the horses. I wasn’t allowed inside yet because the track didn’t allow minors!”

 Charlotte Weber (owner of Live Oak Stud, Breeders’ Cup winners Miesque’s Approval, World Approval): Being in the winner’s circle.

 There was also a short but touching tribute to the woman whose name is synonymous with racing, especially in Saratoga, Marylou Whitney, with Julie Krone presenting her with a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the museum and racing community.

And that was just the beginning!

Thoroughbred Women’s Network was proud to be there and enjoyed making new friends and watching its sign-up sheet list grow. We also had a giveaway, courtesy of Xpressbet, and gifted a lucky #distaffer a box to enjoy the races at Saratoga!

Julie Krone & L.A. Sokolowski outside the NMRH after the Women in Racing panel

Past Performances: Dora Delgado

Dora Delgado started with the Breeders’ Cup in 1983 in what she believed was a temporary administrative assistant position but 34 years later, she holds the current position of Senior Vice President, Racing & Nominations. She is primarily responsible for the development and administration of the Breeders’ Cup’s racing programs around the world including the Win and You’re In Challenge Series and Thoroughbred racing’s greatest event, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Delgado is also responsible for the promotion and expansion of the foal and stallion nomination programs worldwide to maximize participation and generate program sustaining revenue.

In her role, Delgado manages the event Equine Security Team, the Breeders’ Cup Veterinary Panel, the Field Selection Panel and works with the host track and its staff to create the safest and most secure environment possible for the equine participants. She is also responsible for all horse recruitment, equine event logistics and operational setup for the annual World Championships including communications with all federal, state and international regulatory authorities and works with the host state racing commission to ensure that any necessary waivers, rules and regulations are in place.

Supervising a Racing & Nominations staff of three full time employees, Delgado and her team ensure that all participants and their equine athletes receive a fair, safe and secure environment to race against the world’s best equine athletes. Continue reading “Past Performances: Dora Delgado”

Ask and Receive

Donna Barton Brothers reached out to mentors who ultimately influenced her career
By: Donna Barton Brothers
Left to right: my mother, Patti Barton Browne, brother Jerry Barton and his wife, Jackie, my sister, Leah Bruin and, of course, me and my little dog, Molly.

My brother, Jerry, was not my first male mentor, that distinction would go to my mother’s 4th husband (of 6!). Bob Pfingstler. He was an English Professor at Edinboro State University and while mom was married to him she rode at Commodore Downs (Erie, PA) in the summer and attended university in the winter. She was married to Bob for 4 years—coincidentally (or not) just the amount of time it took her to earn a college degree with a major in Computer Programming (back in the ’70’s!) and a minor in Accounting—while maintaining her status as the leading female jockey in the nation.

In any case, Bob and I hit it off as he and I both had an affection for writing, the English language, and how it could creatively be used to craft a great story. To be clear, I’m better at recognizing a creatively and well crafted story than I am at writing one.

I offer this background because my mother was such a strong and driven woman that, if not for people like Bob Pfingstler and my brother, I probably never would have turned to a male mentor—I had such a strong and successful female role model in my life. But my brother was smart enough to admire my mother too and from a young age he wanted to be a jockey. He studied every race he saw and hung on my mother’s every word when she talked about riding a race.

I, on the other hand, still had this fascination with how language could be used and was certain I would prefer to do something much more exciting than become a jockey—like be a lawyer or a politician. Ugh. Thank God that didn’t happen. And so it was that when I decided to ride my first race at age 21, literally, to eliminate being a jockey as a career option, that I had a brand new respect for my brother, sister and mother: all who had been jockeys and retired by the time I started. Continue reading “Ask and Receive”

Past Performances: Susan Bunning

Meet the Treasurer of TWN

Susan S. Bunning is a resident of Lexington, Kentucky, an attorney, and a long time participant in the Thoroughbred industry.  Susan established the commercial equine operation, Equine Equity Partners, LLC, which she has operated since 2009, and which she owns along with Kirk A. Shiner, DVM.  Equine Equity Partners, LLC is a commercial Thoroughbred operation with emphasis on the production of Thoroughbreds for public auction. Susan began operating her own equine portfolio nearly 30 years ago, purchasing her first Thoroughbred in 1988.  Since then, Susan has been active both as a commercial thoroughbred breeder and as an owner of thoroughbred racehorses. Her most successful racehorse to date is Bourbon Belle, a multiple graded stakes winner of over $1.15 million.

Susan and Bourbon Belle

Prior to her position as managing member of Equine Equity Partners, LLC, Susan worked extensively in the equine financial services area, as Vice President at three different banks, including Chase Bank, Fifth Third Bank, and PNC Bank. As an equine banker, Susan helped clients secure various lines of credits and term loans to assist the client in the management of their Thoroughbred assets. Susan holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky, and practiced corporate law with the law firm of Brown, Todd and Heyburn in Lexington, Kentucky.  She also placed great emphasis in the area of equine law before entering her career as an equine lender.

Susan has been active in the Thoroughbred industry in various leadership positions, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP). She is honored to be involved with this effort to educate the people of the Commonwealth concerning the importance of the equine industry, both in terms of jobs and to the economic future of Kentucky.  Susan is also a current member of the Board of Directors of Central Kentucky Riding for Hope with its mission of improving the quality of life of both children and adults with special needs through the relationship with the horse. Continue reading “Past Performances: Susan Bunning”

Right Place, Right Time

Lindsey Taylor connected with mentor Carrie Brogden at inaugural TWN meeting
By: Lindsey Taylor
Lindsey Taylor (right) with mentor Carrie Brogden. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Taylor

Walking into the inaugural meeting of the Thoroughbred Women’s Network (TWN) in February, I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got out of it was completely unexpected. One of the main topics that was discussed during the meeting was how to get more women involved in the industry and even starting a mentorship program through this network. This discussion quickly escalated into a brainstorm of how to bring qualified, young, horse loving women into the industry, and most importantly keeping them in the industry.

One of the first women to offer her mentorship was Carrie Brogden of Select Sales and Machmer Hall. When Carrie got up to speak, she mentioned that she was looking for someone to mentor during the sales season, and the first thought that went through my head was “ME! That person is me!” Having recently finished an internship at Keeneland, I had become passionate about the sales aspect of the industry and knew that I wanted to attain as much experience within this facet. As this beautiful opportunity was presented to me I knew that I could not let this potential experience escape me. And as cliché as it may sound, I knew it was fate and that this was meant to be. Continue reading “Right Place, Right Time”

Past Performances: Kiki Courtelis

Meet the Chairwoman and President of TWN

Kiki Courtelis is CEO of Town & Country Farms, a beautiful 320-acre equine facility, located in Georgetown, Kentucky. The farm has a staff of 15 people who are responsible for approximately 100 thoroughbreds. The farm also owns dressage horses currently training in Europe. Town & Country Farms focuses its U.S. operations on breeding Thoroughbreds for racing and for public and private sales.

Kiki’s career began in the mid 1970s when she got involved with her family’s Arabian show horses. Later, she owned a high-end women’s fashion boutique in the Miami, Florida area. Her career would then take her to Boston, Massachusetts, where she entered Public Service as Director of Development for the Metropolitan District Commission. Governor Weld also recruited her to be on his Privatization Team.

In the mid 1990s, she returned to Miami to be closer to her family as her ailing father battled cancer. While back in Miami, Kiki was the Chairman of The Florida Shakespeare Theater, raising funds to build a 200-seat venue. Continue reading “Past Performances: Kiki Courtelis”

Past Performances

From a young age, we’ve trained for challenges and opportunities. Each one is like a race; some we win, others we learn.

Some of us have run many races, ranging from internships and jobs to skill-building experiences, while others have only run a few. However, we all have this in common: we are constantly training and have many more races in our futures.

Our races vary. The “lung openers” – such as days at the track or farm spent learning from experts – help us tune up and assure we are in peak condition. We run in the “Saturday stakes” to reach the top – pitching ideas, interviewing or achieving a promotion.

They may strain us and demonstrate we need more training… or we might succeed beautifully, putting on a performance that wows others and launches us to the top of our personal and professional game.

The upcoming TWN board member bio series launches the “Past Performances” category on Distaffers, showcasing women who are experienced in their professional fields or demonstrating promise as they run their first few career starts. TWN wants to celebrate your journey, from your breaking and training to your first leap from the starting gates and most recent trip to the winner’s circle. Be inspired by the bios and Q & As with our board members, just a few of the many talented women with a mission of creating the Thoroughbred Women’s Network into an influential tool for support and advancement.

Let’s run our races and celebrate one another’s performances.


The Road to Vet School

Mary Kate Mehegan’s journey to becoming a veterinarian has been guided by strong role models.
By: Mary Kate Mehegan
Mary Kate enjoying her internship at Hagyard

From the age of 10 onward, I knew I had to become an equine veterinarian. Thirteen years later, the flame that lit this ambition has not waivered. Having just graduated from college and completed the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute Veterinary Ambulatory Assistant Internship, I am in the process of applying for veterinary school. But before I find out whether I will be heading to vet school next fall, I am packing my bags and heading across the globe to Matamata, New Zealand, to work for Dave Hanlon BVMS(Hons) MACVS PhD DACT. Dr. Hanlon is a theriogenologist in the heart of the New Zealand Thoroughbred industry. But what pushed me to want to experience the Thoroughbred industry internationally, besides my own sense of wanderlust, is the mentorship I have received over the years that propels me forward.

First and foremost, my father, Dennis Mehegan, has been there every step of the way, encouraging me to continue my education and follow my dreams, and to be bold. In the horse world, my first mentor was and is my great-uncle, Bob Standish. He is an honorary Vice President of the American Quarter Horse Association and served as Executive Director of the United States Equestrian Team. I have spent years soaking up all of his stories and set my sites on a career that also involved horsemanship and an international perspective. I have also been inspired by the legendary Charles “Doc” Graham, one of the founding veterinarians of Elgin Veterinary Hospital, just outside Austin, Texas. Today Doc spends most of his time breeding racing Quarter Horses like the incredible Kiss My Hocks, at his stud farm, the Southwest Stallion Station. Despite being a very busy man, Doc is always willing to take time out of his day to talk to to me on the phone about my plans and answer any questions that I may have. As a young woman trying to learn the ropes in horse industry, this kind of mentorship means so much. Continue reading “The Road to Vet School”