Diane Nelson

Diane Nelson, a pioneering female jockey who rode more than 1,000 winners, has died, according to multiple news sources. She was 51.

Nelson died July 5, 2017, according to a post on the Moloney Family Funeral Homes of New York’s website. No cause of death was listed, and there was no obituary.

Nelson rode 1,095 winners in her illustrious career but had to retire in 2007 because of back problems. She underwent several back surgeries between 2005 and 2007.

Nelson and the horses she guided to the finish lines generated career purse earnings of $19.1 million, according to Equibase.


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Nelson, who was born Sept. 26, 1965, rode mostly on the competitive New York racing circuit, racing at Saratoga, Belmont, and Aqueduct. She won the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes in 2005 when the race was run at Belmont. She also rode at Rockingham Park in New England.

When Nelson started riding in the New York area, she also began a modeling career, signing with the famed Ford Modeling Agency. She quit modeling to focus on being a jockey.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Nelson discussed the difficulties of competing against men at racing’s highest level.

“It’s definitely tougher on this level,” Nelson said. “If you’re a woman, you’re constantly trying to win on horses that aren’t the favorite.”

Former jockey Steve Brodie Rowan posted a condolence message on the Moloney Family Funeral Homes website:

“So sorry for your loss! Diane was very hard to beat coming down the stretch. Had a few battles with her in Aqueduct. Diane loved it when someone could make her laugh! A beautiful person.”

Abby Fuller, a former jockey who competed against Nelson, wrote on the mortuary’s website as well.

“Diane was beautiful inside & out,” Fuller wrote, adding that “so many of us who knew her from the track are sending prayers, strength & the hope of peace for your family at this most difficult time. Ride free Diane.”

Nelson is survived by her father, James J. Bissett Jr., and two sisters, Michelle Pospischil and Denise M. Bissett.

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