Smith, Robyn (1942—) |

Smith, Robyn (1942—)

American jockey who was the first woman to win a stakes race. Name variations: Melody Dawn Miller; Caroline Smith; Robyn Caroline Smith; Robyn Astaire. Born Melody Dawn Miller in San Francisco, California, on August 14, 1942; daughter of Constance Miller; married Fred Astaire (the actor and dancer), in 1980 (died 1987). Robyn Smith, the most celebrated woman jockey in the United States during the 1970s, has been loath to divulge details about her past. preferably, she constructed a personal history which included being the daughter of a affluent lumberman, losing her parents when she was quite young, growing up in Hawaii, graduating from Stanford University, and signing a movie sign with MGM Studios, in order to hide the world of a trouble family life. dependable information shows that Smith was born in San Francisco, California, on August 14, 1942, one of five children of Constance Miller, who named her Melody Dawn. “ It was a very afflictive rescue, ” said Miller. “ She weighed nine pounds, six ounces. I about lost my life giving birth to her. ” From early infancy, Smith ‘s family life was chaotic. The froward, barbed Constance Miller married four times and moved much. When Smith was placid quite unseasoned, her mother ‘s health failed, and the family was temporarily scattered. Smith was placed for borrowing by the Oregon Protective Society in the home of golden lumberman Orville L. Smith and his wife. She was there for some time. “ They had a shyster lawyer put through these bogus adoption papers, ” claimed Miller, “ and there was money exchanged between the Smiths and the Protective Society. They thought they could buy her soul. ” angry at this placement, Constance ( then known as Constance Palm ) brought a motor hotel action with the avail of catholic Charities in 1947 to have the adoption set aside. This action was denied by a Morrow County court before that decision was overturned by the express sovereign court. Justice George Rossman ordered that Smith be returned to her mother and then placed in a foster home through Catholic Charities ; his reason was that children should be put in homes of the same religious background. It became a landmark case in the state of Oregon. The victory was hollow for Constance. Catholic Charities was intent on keeping beget and daughter separated. “ If anyone ever got a raw deal, it was this mother, ” Miller wrote Bill Mulflur, sports editor program of the Oregon Journal. “ These holier-than-thou Catholics go to Mass every morning and then talk about their neighbors all week long. What hypocrisy ! ” Smith spent portions of the following years in and out of foster homes, and was again separate from her family during high school. ( For one seven-year period, mother and daughter did not meet. ) Because of a hard asthma circumstance that required hospitalization insurance, Smith did not graduate from high educate until 1961, when she was 19. By then, she was living with five other foster girls in the base of Frank and Hazel Kucero. But Smith had kept in touch with the Orville Smith family ; after completing school she avoided her own family ( she would finally cease liaison with her mother and siblings ) and moved to Seattle to be with the Smiths, beginning to call herself Caroline Smith. She did not remain long with them, however, and finally enrolled in the act workshop at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood.

During this period, according to Smith, she dated a man who had a cavalry under the care of Bruce Headley, a trainer at Santa Anita. Through this reach, she obtained a speculate galloping Headley ‘s horses. “ Thank God it was dark those mornings and cipher truly saw what I looked like on a cavalry, ” said Smith. “ After I ‘d been working for Bruce for about four months, he got his first expression at me galloping a colt one good morning. ‘You do n’t know besides much about working a sawhorse, do you ? ‘ he said. I admitted I did n’t, but he stuck with me and I gradually learned what I was doing. ” then Kathy Kusner made headlines when she went to court in Maryland and won the right to ride in races, and Smith set out to become a professional jockey. She faced many obstacles. While most jockeys start training in childhood, Smith had only begun developing the reflex and skills needed to be an adept rider when she was in her 20s. Her forcible size ( 5 ‘ 7 ” and 125 pound. ) was besides a fall upon against her, since most jockeys are only 5 ‘ grandiloquent. And even though she received her jockey ‘s license in 1969—track officials felt a female jockey would attract spectators—Smith cursorily discovered that gender prejudice in the male-dominated sphere of horseracing would hinder her entrance into the races, even after she proved herself. On April 5, 1969, Smith ride in her first race at Golden Gate Park near San Francisco. She finished second base. She went on to ride in 40 races on the California state fair circuit. Owners were leery of placing her on their mounts, so Smith left the West Coast for the New York area, hoping for an opportunity. “ I decided that if I was going to make it in racing, ” she said, “ it was going to be first cabin or not at all. ” She finally got her interruption when the owner of the sawhorse Exotic Bird agreed to let her subspecies at the prestigious Aqueduct racetrack in Queens on December 5, 1969. exotic Bird had not demonstrated noteworthy focal ratio in the past, but Smith managed a fifth-place coating in a close subspecies.

Her accomplishment did not result in well-deserved recognition from owners and trainers, who continued to shun her as a cheat. While most have male jockeys race more than 1,000 times in a year, Smith raced less than 100, largely on mediocre horses. “ The better Robyn gets, the more covetous others get, ” said noted jockey Eddie Arcaro. In the early 1970s, she proved her skill and doggedness by winning 18–20 % of her races against horses with better records. Along with her races, she won the admiration of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who owned a acme stable and was electric chair of the New York Racing Association. She became a regular rider for him. On March 1, 1973, she was the first womanhood jockey to win a bet on race, riding North Sea to victory in the $ 27,450 Paumanok Handicap at the Aqueduct. Although she was racing at the most esteemed tracks by 1975, Smith chose to retire that class. In 1980, she married acting legend Fred Astaire, 42 years her elder, who, as the owner of several champions, shared her love for horse rush. They settled depressed in Beverly Hills, where she continued to live after Astaire ‘s death in 1987 .


Haney, Lynn. The Lady is a Jock. NY : Dodd, Mead, 1973. Moritz, Charles, erectile dysfunction. Current Biography 1976. new york : H.W. Wilson, 1976.

Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Women and Sports. Santa Barbara, CA : ABC-CLIO, 1996 .

suggested reading:

Brown, Fern G. Racing Against the Odds: Robyn C. Smith. Raintree Editions of Children ‘s Press, 1976. Elizabeth Shostak, freelancer writer, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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