LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (WKBN) – Lordstown native and Mineral Ridge graduate Cassie Dempsey will make history on Saturday when she steps into the starting gate at Churchill Downs Racetrack.
The 31-year-old will be the first female to work the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby.
“I’m very honored,” Dempsey said. “Just extremely honored and very proud to be here.”
Dempsey is an assistant starter and will be loading the horses into the starting gates before the races. After a horse is loaded in, she will remain in the gate to monitor the horse and make sure the jockey is secured on properly.
Dempsey grew up riding horses and competed in barrel racing and galloping events. She began working as an assistant starter at the Mahoning Valley Racetrack in the winter of 2014. She has worked numerous races since, but none as large or prestigious.
“I’ve worked the Ohio Derby,” Dempsey added. “We have it each year with six races, but that’s the biggest I’ve ever done.”
Dempsey still competitively barrel races and hopes to continue breaking down barriers as a gate starter.
“I definitely want to see myself go further and potentially become the first female head starter,” she said.
The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby takes place on Saturday, May 7. The race is slated for 6:57 p.m.