Donna Barton Brothers was born into horse racing. Her mother, Patti Barton, was one of the first half dozen women to be licensed as a jockey in the United States—that was in 1969. Throughout Patti Barton’s career (and until four years after her retirement) she was the leading female rider in the nation by number of wins. Patti retired from racing in 1984 with just over 1,200 wins.

Both Donna’s brother, Jerry, and sister, Leah, were jockeys, but by the time Donna started riding professionally in 1987, her mother, brother, and sister had all retired from riding. That’s when Donna’s racing career took off. She rode from 1987 to 1998 and retired in 1998 as the second leading female jockey in the United States by money earned. She holds that title still, with 1,130 wins and more than $18 million in purse earnings.

Donna’s Early Years (click to enlarge)

In 1999, she began dabbling in television commentary, and since 2000, she has been a sports analyst and commentator for NBC Sports, covering the Breeder’s Cup Championships, World Equestrian Games, PBR World Championships, Kentucky Land Rover (Rolex) Three Day Event, the Triple Crown races and more. To date, she has covered  23 consecutive Kentucky Derbies, including the historic victories that took place in 2015 when American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years, followed three years later by Justify’s domination of the Triple Crown races in 2018!

“Brothers plies her trade not on the sidelines but on a saddle, as NBC’s on-track reporter for horse racing. Year after year, she does excellent work, interviewing jockeys before and after Triple Crown races, always with an eye toward providing information for viewers.”

(Excerpt from Sports Illustrated. For the full story click here.)

Brothers is also the author of Inside Track: Insider’s Guide to Horse Racing, published in 2011 and then updated in 2014 and again in 2020. The book is geared toward bridging the gap between novice horse racing fans and the sometimes complicated ins and outs of the sport of thoroughbred racing. The book is now in its third printing. In 2014, Donna was honored by Sports Illustrated Magazine when she was awarded Best Sideline Reporter of the Year for her on-track reporting.

She currently serves as New Client Liaison for Starlight and StarLadies Racing and remains an active ambassador for horse racing, the sport she has been involved with since her earliest memory.

Little known fact: Donna received her certification to teach Bikram Yoga in 2016 and has practiced yoga for 28 years. She started working out when she became a jockey as a way to be as strong and fit as her (mostly male) competitors, but she loved the feeling of feeling well! And so her workouts have continued: yoga, weight training, spinning, sculpting… you name it. As she says on her Healthy Living page, it’s not about “looking good.” It’s about “living well”!

A big believer in giving back, she also takes an active role in the community in multiple roles, from advocating for thoroughbred aftercare to supporting backstretch resource services. Donna currently serves on the Executive Board of the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky and is a former Board member for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, and the Backside Learning Center. She continues to advocate for these organizations through her fundraising efforts. Brothers has also served as a Keynote Speaker at many events, talking about horse racing and/or inspiring people with the story of her own journey. To book Donna for a public speaking event, please reach out to her here.

When she’s not on location, or in meetings, she loves to spend time with her two dogs and her husband, Frank (not necessarily in that order!). She also skis, practices yoga, is always reading something, and loves to travel. In the past few years she’s been to Italy (three times), France, Spain, South Africa, Costa Rica (twice), Switzerland, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Amsterdam, Germany, Mexico, Canada, and many, many points around the United States, often while covering many of the nationally televised equestrian events.