On 18 June 2003 Southwell racecourse ran the Amelia Earhart Intermediate Hurdle. It was a strange date for the race, with no discernible connection to the aviator. Today’s card at the Nottinghamshire track would be a more appropriate one; Earhart was born on 24 July 1897.
She and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared 75 years ago, in July 1937, between New Guinea and Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. Earhart was part way through an adventure to become the first female pilot to fly all the way round the world, an achievement that would surely have brought her as much fame as her disappearance did.
Her husband, George P Putnam, was a fine publicist, and in 1928, just weeks after she had become the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air, he arranged for her to address the spectators at Lincoln Fields (now Balmoral Park) racecourse, in an event designed for publicity or both the racetrack and Earhart herself.The image here, published courtesy of Chicago History Museum, shows her presenting a bouquet to one of the jockeys at Lincoln Field.
There’s no evidence that the aviator had any particular interest in horse racing, though the sport itself has briefly embraced her beyond that race at Southwell in 2003.
In the four years before then, Cathal Ryan owned a horse named Amelia Earhart, which was trained by Arthur Moore. A chestnut mare by Be My Native, foaled by Daring Glen, she was not destined to the fame of the woman she was named after. It’s true she took off several times, and she only failed to land safely once, but any comparison between the two has to stop there. In a career spanning four years and 17 races, Amelia Earhart won twice, in a maiden hurdle at Gowran Park and a beginners chase at Cork.