HALLANDALE, FLA. -- On Jan. 15, 1969, 19-year-old Barbara Jo Rubin was prepared to make history.
Rubin was about to become the first woman to break the gender gap in an exclusively male professional sport, as she was scheduled to ride a horse in the third race at old Tropical Park. But the male jockeys revolted, threatening to boycott the third race if Rubin were allowed to ride.
Then things got nasty.
"I had a little trailer to dress in behind the jocks' room, and someone threw a rock through the window," recalled Barbara Rubin Warman, of West Palm Beach, Fla. "We had it planned where if they did a boycott, I would go out by myself and ride in a walkover. But they boycotted the first two races too."
Rubin decided to relinquish her mount. A few days later, she did get her first mounts at a racetrack in the Bahamas, becoming the first woman to ride in a parimutuel race. On Feb. 7, 1969, Diane Crump became the first woman to ride at a major North American racetrack when she rode Bridle 'n Bit at Hialeah Park.
Craig Perret, who won the 1990 Eclipse Award as the nation's top jockey, was one of the riders who boycotted.
"I wouldn't do something like that now," he said. "But back then, we were scared of one of them making a mistake in a race and taking us with them. When they proved they could do it, it was no problem."
Rubin, who now gives riding lessons and runs a carriage business for weddings and special events, said she was scrutinized when she sought to get her apprentice jockey license, the first woman in Florida to do so.
"I had to go through a bunch of tests the boys didn't have to do," she said. "I had to show I could break from the gate, just like everyone else. Usually, just the starter checks you out. But instead, all the stewards wanted to watch me. Then they watched me do a workout just to make sure I didn't get tired and fall off."
She did even better, winning seven of her first 10 races and becoming a national celebrity. Ed Sullivan had her on his show. So did Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin. She was the guest the panel tried to guess on "To Tell the Truth." She was making special riding engagements at different tracks.
"They were shipping me all over the place because I was a novelty," she said.
Toward the end of her tour, however, she was getting mounts on horses of lesser quality. She fell 14 times during a two-week span. Despite several comeback attempts, injuries -- mostly to her knees -- forced her to retire.
Rubin said she has been approached about writing a book on her role in racing history. She never visits the track anymore, saying she is too busy with her career.
"I guess the other jockeys thought I would get them into trouble," she said. "But really, if a woman wants to do it, she can. And I helped to prove that."