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Brothers finishes second in the Breeders' Cup. Photo courtesy Donna Brothers

Donna Brothers thinks fast in the irons

Dirt stung her face and bounced off her goggles like gravel on a windshield from a speeding truck.

She flinched, and crouched lower in the saddle.

Beneath her, the striving, rushing Thoroughbred waited for a signal: where did she want him to go? They’d rocketed from the gait and had surged only a few paces when, in her peripheral vision, a solid wall of galloping horses squeezed from the right toward the rail; and, horses to her left struggled to hold their position.

In the thick of her first race, the petite, 21-year-old “girl jockey” had mere seconds to make a plan.

“There’s nothing in the world that could have prepared me,” says NBC Sports broadcaster and former jockey Donna Barton Brothers.