Denise Boudrot Hopkins, a pioneering female jockey who rode over 1,000 winners on the New England circuit, died this May from brain cancer. Denise, who was 57, rode in her first race in 1972, just three years after Diane Crump broke the gender barrier by riding in a parimutuel race at Hialeah racetrack. She gained national fame in 1974 when she rode 94 winners in 92 days at Suffolk Downs in Boston, giving her the autumn riding title at the track. This feat garnered her a glowing profile in Sports Illustrated, which hailed her as the first of a “second generation of female riders.” Her ability to find the winner’s circle with the most unlikely of mounts earned her the nickname “Longshot Lady.” In the early 1970s, she bought her parents a farm in Elloree, S.C., which was called Longshot Lady Farm.
Denise later married Roland Hopkins, a racehorse owner and newspaper publisher – they first met when he hired her to pilot his longshot, Mostly Jesting, in a race at Suffolk Downs in 1982. (The horse paid $134 when he won.) After 13 years on the track, she retired from professional riding, and hit the horse show circuit. In the mid-2000s, she trained her Quarter Horse gelding, Cleve Kadiddlehopper to be a trick horse, and began traveling around the country performing an act called “The Reluctant Racehorse” in which Cleve would do such things as lie down on the track and sit in a beanbag chair. Denise brought this show to town in 2008, when she and Cleve performed at the Aiken Trials.
Denise will be posthumously inducted into the New England Turf Writer’s Association Hall of Fame on July 29.