Denise Boudrot, a pioneering female jockey with more than 1,000 victories and the first to win a major race meet title, died May 19 at her farm in Grafton, Vt., after a long battle with brain cancer. She was 57.
A native of Burlington, Mass., Boudrot broke into race riding in 1972 when female jockeys were considered a novelty and struggled to earn mounts. While still an apprentice in 1974, she was dubbed "Longshot Lady" when she won the autumn meet riding title at Suffolk Downs and scored a five-win day on Nov. 12 during that stand. She remains the only female to win that many races on a single Suffolk program. She will be inducted in the New England Racing Hall of Fame this year.
Boudrot rode for 13 years in New England before retiring in 1985. She married prominent local horse owner and newspaper publisher Roland Hopkins and stayed active with show horses and performed a comedy routine with a trick pony called "The Reluctant Racehorse." The horse was featured in national television commercials.
"Denise's title helped pave the way for female riders like myself here in New England," said Tammi Piermarini, who won her own Suffolk riding crown in 2007 and is the early leader at the current meet. "She will always be remembered for the adversity she had to overcome being one of few female riders in a male-dominated sport."
Retired jockey Abby Fuller said: "She was like a big sister to those of us in the room. Sometimes when you got a little big for your britches, she would nicely give you a little poke. She could do it because she never forgot the hard work and never forgot the people who helped her starting out. She was such a nice, honest person."
In addition to her husband, Boudrot is survived by four step-children and six grandchildren. A private Memorial Day service is planned in Vermont.