Lexington, KY — Beatrice “Bea” Farber, 79, whose 1,801 wins is the most ever by a female driver, died Aug. 11, 2020.
A member of the harness racing Hall of Fames in Michigan, Illinois and Florida, Ms. Farber’s exploits were so extraordinary that in 1980 in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association, a short film was made about her titled Queen Bea. In a book later written titled Girls Can Be Anything They Want To Be, an entire chapter was devoted to “Queen Bea.”
Born on a farm in Emmett, Mich., Ms. Farber rode horses growing up, and when she was 23 she purchased a second riding horse, which was a Standardbred. It was then that she met harness horseman Chuck Farber, who she would later marry, when she leased him the horse to put back into training.
At age 29 while working as a secretary in an attorney’s office, Ms. Farber decided to leave her job and join her husband and start racing horses.
“I wasn’t that good at school. I couldn’t spell, but for some reason I could understand what made a horse tired and what it meant to be a good driver,” she told a reporter for the Naples Daily News several years ago.
Ms. Farber had immediate success, winning her first pari-mutuel race on May 1, 1971, at Jackson Raceway. Two years later she earned the distinction of being the first female to ever capture a driving title when she posted a .536 Universal Driver Rating in 1973 at Northville Downs. She later went on to win numerous more titles at other Michigan racetracks as well as in California, New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Canada.
Ms. Farber competed in several Battle of the Sexes competitions, and in 1978, despite battling pneumonia, she won the Women’s World Championship against drivers from eight countries. The following year she became the first female to ever compete in the World Driving Championship.
Arguably the best horse ever raced by the Farbers was Easy Irv, who Ms. Farber drove to the first-ever 2:00 victory at Northville Downs. Other top horses driven by Ms. Farber over the years include Quick Command, Quick Harry, Quick Candy, Emerald Scar and Proudfoot Laurie.
Ms. Farber last drove on July 29, 1995, retiring with purse earnings of $9,094,683.
After retiring, she opened her own restaurant in Naples, Fla., and then later helped at a restaurant owned by her sister’s husband. Until health issues slowed her down, Ms. Farber remained physically active, riding more than 150,000 miles on her bicycle.
Ms. Farber was the youngest of eight siblings, with only sister Marion Weaver surviving. Other survivors include her niece, Lynette Buter, the wife of trainer Todd and mother of driver Tyler.
Upon her wishes, Ms. Farber was cremated.