A person once said, “Everyone has a story” — or probably they reported, “There are a hundreds of thousands stories in the Substantial Desert” — and anyone who does nearly anything with horses normally has a lot of tales to convey to.
Gabriele Bernat is just one these kinds of person.
Gabriele now lives in Apple Valley, her home filled with scrapbooks and partitions adorned with just a sample of her amazing career — a single that performed out on the race observe and put her in the equestrian record books.
Gabriele was a single of the initially female harness racing motorists, as well as 1 of the initially female members of the Western Harness Association. She was also the very first female to win a harness race at Hollywood Park, at the ripe aged age of 23 in 1977.
The number of “firsts” on Gabriele’s racing resume is amazing. She was the first female driver at Centennial Downs in Denver Cloverdale Raceway in British Columbia and Calgary Stampede and Northlands Park in Alberta.
In California, she achieved the same feat at Golden Gate Fields, Hollywood Park, Los Alamitos and Bay Meadows, the place she was also the primary driver or among the top rated 5 primary motorists many situations.
“I won 85% of my races,” she said.
She raced at Los Alamitos from 1981 to 1999, often the only female driver amid almost 100 males. Her data in the Common Driver Standings — which ranks drivers according to the amount of commences, wins, seconds and thirds — are quite spectacular, ranging very well above 300.
Horse racing and harness racing were being dominated by adult men for decades. Being the to start with girl in the drivers’ space opened her eyes to the masculine competitiveness that played out behind the scenes.
“Men are different,” she said with a chuckle.
A German native, Gabriele came to the United States in 1965 and spoke no English at the time. Her relatives moved to San Francisco, where she found out harness racing at nearby Bay Meadows.
“Horses gave me a perception of freedom,” she claimed.
To triumph over the problem of forging a occupation in a male-dominated activity, she labored for U.S. Harness Racing Corridor of Fame inductee Joe O’Brien as a groom and exerciser for his Standardbreds. She discovered anything she could about the sport.
Just about every groom and exerciser had two horses. One day, O’Brien despatched her to New Jersey with two horses, and Gabriele developed an interest in education and driving.
Her vocation was not without its setbacks, though. In 1977, in her 1st race at Centennial Downs in Colorado, Gabriele crashed the sulky wheels into the rail.
“It made so significantly sounds, and all the drivers ended up seeking at me,” Gabriele instructed a Extended Beach front Impartial reporter that year. “I was humiliated. I was afraid everybody would have a negative impression of me. Most of all, I understood it was a great deal more durable driving in a race than it appeared.”
Just after the crash, an proprietor who wished Gabriele to travel for him gave her a pep talk. She went on to gain her 2nd race at Hollywood Park.
Then she was on her way.
Gabriele married and lived in San Francisco. She raced at Cal Expo in Sacramento and invested time in Southern California. She in particular loved Pomona.
Generally she drove her own horses, but she once in a while drove if a person essential a driver.
She acquired a single of her first horses at a $500 “bargain.” The animal had a negative leg that Gabriele massaged and iced frequently. Sooner or later, her Australian find won eight of 16 races.
“I produced sufficient income for the deposit on my property,” she mentioned.
Swimming is a preferred “fitness builder” for race horses due to the fact it builds and maintains stamina without the need of the concussion that will come with hooves hitting the ground. Gabriele credited one of her grooms as a significant support with her horses. This groom in fact swam with them when they needed h2o therapy. But an equine swimming pool was not offered, so Gabriele hauled her horses to the ocean or the river. Her groom would choose the work from there.
As Gabriele watched other drivers and trainers “train” their horses, she recognized their procedures had been operating versus them. Inevitably, they tired of working the horses really hard enough to win. They then bought them cheap, “usually to another person like me,” she said. “In return, I would enable the horse snooze for a week and give him plenty of consideration.”
As a outcome, Gabriele reported the nicely-handled horses won for her about 99% of the time.
A single this kind of horse led Gabriele to “one of her largest achievements,” which transpired at British Columbia’s Cloverdale Raceway — a track she explained all people described as “a 50 %-mile bull ring” since coming from guiding to gain or obtaining out of a trapped position generally proved tricky.
She felt lucky when she acquired the prospect to push a horse from New Zealand, a maiden (non-winner) named Raboni N. He was, in Gabriele’s text, “quite crazy,” but they gained their very first race collectively.
“The 2nd and third situations out were being significantly more difficult lessons, but we stayed relaxed even when we were trapped on the within,” she recounted. “At the past eighth of a mile, we bought out and received each times.”
Their fourth and fifth races were entirely different ball online games, while.
“Every Tom, Dick and Harry was out to make confident I did not get out of the trap the whole mile,” she explained. “I tricked them by being on the outside the house by myself with no deal with and just permit Raboni unwind.”
When it was time, Gabriele gave him his probability, and he crossed the end line very first in those people races, much too.
“To gain 5 races in a row on a fifty percent-mile observe was amazing,” she stated, “but I drove him one particular far more time and we gained that race, as well.”
By then, the other drivers figured if Gabriele could win with Raboni N, they could no question do the very same.
Raboni N bought for $40,000 to a leading driver who took him out in a race and made use of him “hard and early,” Gabriele said. As they rounded the flip by the back gate, Raboni N made a rapid U-turn and zipped out the gate.
The driver just about fell off his sulky. Raboni N arrived back to Gabriele’s barn for a mere $5,000.
Becoming the 1st female driver challenged Gabriele until she figured out how to make that do the job to her advantage, as properly.
“I was less than the perception I experienced to act a little crazy,” she admitted. “I had a motorbike and would push it into my lodge room.”
Ray Paulick, of the horse-racing information publication Paulick Report, personally wrote of Gabriele’s profitable ways in that publication. He also wrote in a Los Angeles Situations article that she finished a lengthy winless streak by driving two horses she owned to victory in professing races.
She drove the horses she owned, most of them “low-level claimers,” in accordance to the Paulick create-up.
Throughout winters, Gabriele traveled to Canada, where she and Raboni N gained races in grueling conditions. Muddy tracks are a typical prevalence there, but she pointed out she turned known as a little something of a “mudder,” racking up wins in spite of the setting.
When not tending to her horses or traveling to race meets, Gabriele enjoyed receiving her world globe and just “putting her finger on a place.” Then she’d arrange to go there.
She and her partner traveled to Germany, in which she visited Hitler’s bunker. A real lover of history, she also drove 9,000 miles by means of Europe and Scandinavia, going to the North Pole and Santa’s Village. She met Laplanders there who tended herds of reindeer.
Yet another most loved vacation was to Brazil, exactly where she went to Iguazu Falls, a place President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt said made “Niagara Falls glance like a drinking water faucet.”
She frequented Machu Pichu and lived between tribes together the Amazon River for two months. She packed items to trade (white pants and pliers had been preferred among the tribespeople, she stated). In return, she received a blow gun, an alligator protect and a monkey tail — a very treasured merchandise — as perfectly as other keepsakes.
Due to the fact of her expertise with Raboni N, Gabriele loved New Zealand horses.
“They are pretty hardy,” she claimed. “They are also nuts, but they are winners.”
A single own trait that served her properly was tolerance.
“I have a good deal of patience,” she said, “and I know after 20 yrs that if I just take my time, the consequence is normally greater.”
Immediately after a using personal injury, Gabriele gave up horses and now lives in Apple Valley with a number of rescue canine. She life by 3 rules that she reported have served her perfectly:
- Respect and honor other folks
- Go for your goals
- Really don’t undervalue your opponent
Gabriele said she also believes you need to stand up for your beliefs in get to receive them in return.
She demanded and received respect at every single observe, normally by letting the guys imagine she was not considerably opposition before showing them that she not only understood her horses, but what they wanted to make them get for her, as nicely.
A number of yrs ago, the Southern California Sports activities Broadcasters Association invited Gabriele to represent horse racing. She shared the phase with Gary Cunningham, of UCLA baseball fame two-time Indy winner Johnny Rutherford and previous globe No. 5 tennis player Dennis Ralston, who produced the Wimbledon closing in 1966.
Women of all ages jockeys and harness drivers are no extended rarities on in the earth of horse racing thanks to the difficult but fair-minded perspective of ladies like Gabriele Bernat, who was at the time the only female in a discipline of 97 motorists to get to the tracks — and win — in a sulky behind a Standardbred trotter.