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Press Release -
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Two new episodes airing on Friday!
Legends of the Fallen / Go Big or Go Home
Friday March 6 at 9pm ET/PT on Animal Planet
Some of the greatest riders of all time come out of retirement for
one big race; Chantal faces a tough decision. / Horse of the Year
Curling arrives at Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup.
…AND THEY’RE OFF!
ANIMAL PLANET EXPOSES THE MOST DANGEROUS TWO MINUTES
IN SPORTS IN NEW HORSE RACING DOCU-DRAMA JOCKEYS
-- It’s High Stakes and High Drama When JOCKEYS premieres Friday,
February 6, at 9 PM --
Get ready for the ride of
your life. Nearly 10 times a day during the famous 30-day Oak Tree Meet
at the Santa Anita Race Track, the world’s most skilled jockeys and the
boldest thoroughbreds line up at the gate to compete for big bucks or go
home broke, risking life and limb in their quest for glory. Competition
comes from across the country and the world in search of elusive
winnings all for the love of horse racing. Minutes before the race, the
jockeys clad in their colorful “silks” mount up. They sometimes have as
little as 10 minutes to bond with their horses, each relying on the
other for success and survival.
Premiering Friday, February
6, at 9 PM ET/PT, Animal Planet presents JOCKEYS, a docu-soap
chronicling the lives and careers of seven 112-pound jockeys and their
1,200-pound horses. See who crosses the finish line first in the quest
to win a share of more than 35 million dollars in purse money at the
prestigious Oak Tree Meet. Sixty-eight years ago at Oak Tree, the
infamous Seabiscuit saw his final victory, and now, these seven jockeys
and their horses aspire to make history as well.
“The world of the race
track is complex and controversial. Horse racing is one of the most
popular sports in the country, and this series is charged with the high
stakes, big risks, strong personalities and drama of the sport on and
off the track” says Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of
Animal Planet. “The lives of these jockeys and their mounts are on the
line in every race. It's an intense existence that makes for exciting
Cameras take viewers on and
off the track – from their homes to the jock’s room where we see how
these athletes physically and emotionally prepare for each race. At the
starting gate, the anxious energy of the horse and jockey must be
contained within their stall. With jockeys and horses fatally injured
each year, the ambulance engines are on and ready for action at a
moment’s notice. In the stands, revelers wait with baited breath to see
which horse-and-rider team takes the lead…and if everyone finishes
The drama for these jockeys
doesn’t end when the race is finished. Off the track, gorgeous jockey
Chantal Sutherland makes the emotional decision to leave her family in
Canada for California to be closer to her boyfriend fellow jockey Mike
Smith and ride at Santa Anita racetrack. Joe Talamo’s high school
girlfriend ponders whether or not she can be in a relationship where
each phone call could mean Joe has had a bone-breaking – or worse --
deadly fall. Family man Aaron Gryder worries that his children will grow
up afraid that their daddy can be hurt at any given moment, but he’s
driven by finding the next horse that will take him to “the big time.”
Audiences get to know the
lives of these seven jockeys, their personalities, strengths and flaws.
They all have big dreams and even bigger egos and are determined to
cross the finish line first -- every time.
THE ICON – Hall of Fame
jockey Mike Smith is a living legend and a fan favorite. His fierce
riding style and stringent pre-race ritual has earned him a
shaman-like reputation among fellow jockeys.
THE HOTSHOT – Joe
Talamo may be young, but he already has taken the racing world by
storm earning nearly $4 million in purse money in one racing season.
THE BREAKOUT FEMALE
STAR – Canadian jockey star Chantal Sutherland is a woman who’s
dominating the tracks. And, because she’s dating fellow jockey Mike
Smith, it puts her in competition with the man she loves. Can they
make this work?
THE WORKING MAN – Aaron
Gryder is credited with more than 3,000 career wins and is motivated
by supporting his family.
THE ELDER STATESMAN –
After racing more than 30 years, Jon Court is the consummate
veteran, and he has no plans to quit.
THE NEW GIRL –
Fresh-faced Kayla Stra is racing gold in her native land of
Australia, but only time will tell if she has what it takes to be a
success in the US.
THE COMEBACK KID – Alex
Solis bounced back after a broken back injury nearly took his life.
He’s been to the winner’s circle 4,000 times, but he’s yet to be
inducted into the Jockey Hall of Fame.
For these jockeys,
everything they have is riding on the next 30 days at the Oak Tree Meet,
which leads up to some of the most important races of the season – The
Breeders’ Cup, two days of high stakes racing that can canonize a
“So little is known about
what goes into becoming a jockey, but these athletes couldn’t triumph
without the strength, speed and spirit of their equine partners,” says
Kaplan. “I think audiences will be surprised by what unfolds throughout
Jason Carey is executive
producer for Animal Planet on JOCKEYS. Liz Bronstein, Tina Gazzerro and
Gary Auerbach are executive producers for Go Go Luckey. Visit:
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Back to top
Jockey's Fact Sheet
All jockeys must have a riding license in the state
that in which they compete. A jockey must be at least 16 years old
before he or she is eligible for a jockey‘s license.
Jockeys own and are responsible for their own riding
equipment, including saddles, pants, crops, helmets and boots, etc.
As a rule, jockeys cannot own the horses they ride.
Jockeys are independent contractors who are employed by owners
and/or trainers to ride their horses. In turn, the owners and/or
trainers hire jockeys through the jockeys‘ agents.
Jockeys are not subject to height limits, only
weight limits. A rider can be of any height if he or she still can
make the assigned weight, but it is generally limited to fairly
short individuals because of the limits on a person‘s body.
The average jockey has a light but athletic build
and body weight is anywhere between 108 to 118 pounds. The weight
assigned for the Kentucky Derby is 126 pounds (including jockey‘s
body weight and equipment).
Jockeys typically range from about 4'10" to 5'6" in
At age 16, potential jockeys are eligible to begin
An apprentice jockey is also referred to as a "bug
boy“ because the asterisk that follows his or her name in the race
program looks like a bug. When a jockey finishes his or her
apprenticeship, it is said that he or she "loses his or her bug.“
Apprentice jockeys are given an initial 10-pound
weight allowance, meaning their horses carry 10 pounds less than the
others until the time they win their fifth race, at which point the
weight allowance is lowered to a five-pound allowance from the
fifth-race win to a year beyond or 40 races past (whichever comes
first). When they win enough races, they lose their bug and receive
no additional weight allowance. The only exceptions to these rules
if an apprentice injures him or herself and is out of action.
After completing an apprenticeship, a jockey becomes
a "journey man“ rider. Some riders waive their apprenticeship
because they can‘t make weight with the added weight allowance.
Jockeys are typically self-employed and are hired by
horse trainers to ride their horses in races. For each race, jockeys
receive a minimum mount fee ranging from $35 to $100 and a
percentage of the purse for first, second and third. The mount fee
is paid regardless of the prize money the horse earns for a race.
Jockeys earn their livings by competing in races.
The more races they win, the greater their incomes.
Aside from the large purses for first and second
place, most jockeys walk away with a mount fee of only $25 to $50
for any given race.
A few jockeys earn six figures or more a year, but
most earn a modest income of about $30,000 to $40,000 a year in a
sport that requires frequent travel and equipment expenses.
Jockey John Velazquez earned the most money in 2008,
receiving a share of purses worth about $2.1 million.
Eating Disorders Among Jockeys:
Lighter jockeys may be able to get more rides
(although it‘s mostly about their ability).
Eating disorders are very common among jockeys due
to the extreme pressure to maintain unusually low and specific
In order to keep their weight down, some jockeys
consume as little as 600 calories a day.
Many race tracks have "heaving bowls" installed in
bathroom stalls to accommodate the 30 percent of jockeys who purge
to maintain weight, this process is also known as "flipping“ in the
horse racing industry.
Before each race, a jockey gets on a scale to
determine whether he or she makes the assigned weight. If a jockey
fails to make a certain weight requirement, he or she may spend up
to two hours in a hot box to sweat off more weight. Others will
combine this with taking diuretics to reduce weight. These practices
can have grave effects on the jockeys‘ bodies. In serious cases,
such practices can cause dehydration and potassium depletion, which
causes heart problems, fatigue, slow reflexes, muscle weakness and
dry skin. If potassium levels are depleted quickly, the jockey could
suffer heart failure and possibly death.
Jockeys who stay dehydrated in order to avoid water
weight can push their liver and kidneys to failure. Lack of fluids
can cause heart arrhythmias that can be fatal. Bone density also
suffers when restricting food which can result in broken bones.
The best-selling historical novel "Seabiscuit: An
American Legend" portrays the eating disorders of jockeys living in
the first half of the 20th century.
Injuries and Safety Precautions:
Jockeys are subject to extremely high risk factors;
therefore, premiums to cover jockeys are among the highest of all
Because horse racing is so dangerous, an ambulance
follows the jockeys around the track in preparation for an
The Jockeys' Guild receives 2,500 injury
notifications in a year. The average jockey gets sidelined by
injuries about three times a year.
Approximately 50-60 jockeys have been totally and
permanently disabled at any given time, and more than two jockeys a
year are killed in North America.
Common injuries include concussion, bone fracture,
trampling and paralysis.
Pari-mutuel betting is the system of legalized
betting used at all race tracks in the US.
The pari-mutuel system was developed in France in
The term "pari-mutuel“ means "betting amongst
In pari-mutuel betting, the number of possible
outcomes is determined, and then people wager money on each possible
outcome. The total of all money wagered on the race is then placed
into a pool, and when the outcome of the race is decided, the pool
of money is divided among all the people who bet on that outcome.
Before the money is distributed to the winners, a
state-regulated commission is taken out. The commission goes back to
the state, therefore justifying the allowance of betting.
The calculations for horse racing are extremely
complex due to the different types of bets that can be placed and
won. Below are some common bets:
Win - to pick the winning horse
Place - to pick the first or second place horse
Show - to pick the first, second or third place
Exacta - to pick the first and second place
horses in exact order
Trifecta - to pick the first, second and third
place horses in exact order
Superfecta - to pick the first, second, third
and fourth place horses in exact order
Double - to pick the winner of two consecutive
Triple - to pick the winner of three
consecutive races, also called "pick three“
Win, place and show bets are classified as straight
bets while the rest are classified as exotic bets.
The colors worn by jockeys in races are the
registered "colors" of the owner or trainer who employs them.
The practice of horsemen wearing colors stems from
medieval times when jousts were held between knights. However, the
origins of racing colors and patterns that are seen today can be
traced to medieval Italian cities.
Getting white breeches and a bib, stock or cravat
known as "silks" is a rite of passage when a jockey is first able to
don silken pants and colors in his or her first race ride.
In the United States, three main breeds of horses
are used in horse racing: the American Quarter Horse, Thoroughbreds
In the series JOCKEYS only Thoroughbred racing is
The Thoroughbred breed is the most well known of all
the racing breeds and has influenced the development of many breeds
in the US.
Although people sometimes use the term
"thoroughbred“ to discuss any purebred horse, horses of the
Thoroughbred breed can trace their ancestry back to one of three
English stallions - Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian or Godolphin
Because of its origins under English royalty,
Thoroughbred racing has been deemed the Sport of Kings;
Thoroughbreds were ridden by monarchs Charles II and George IV.
Unlike Standardbred horses, Thoroughbreds are not
known for their speed but for their endurance. A typical
Thoroughbred race is approximately one mile.
Thoroughbreds range from 15 to 17 hands* high.
Quality Thoroughbreds have a well-chiseled head on a
long neck with a lean body and long legs.
Thoroughbreds that are born in the northern
hemisphere technically become a year older on January 1, each year;
those born in the southern hemisphere turn one year older on August
1. These artificial dates have been set to enable the
standardization of races and other competitions for horses in
certain age groups.
Thoroughbreds are used mainly for racing but are
also bred for other riding disciplines, such as show jumping,
combined training, dressage, polo and fox hunting.
American Quarter Horse:
As the name implies, American Quarter Horses are
bred to sprint short, quarter-mile races at fast speeds. This is in
contrast to thoroughbreds, which are expected to run much longer
Quarter Horses usually stand between 14 and 16
Quarter Horses have a top speed of up to 55 miles
per hour, earning them the title of —world‘s fastest athlete.“
The American Quarter Horse was first bred in
colonial Virginia and the Carolinas with Indian Ponies and Spanish
Criollos as their ancestors.
The modern Quarter Horse has a small, short, refined
head with a straight profile and well-muscled body.
Although they are commonly used for racing, Quarter
Horses are also a popular pleasure breed.
The Standardbred breed grew popular in the United
States in the 1800s.
The breed is named after a performance standard that
was developed for the horses - Standardbred horses had to be able to
trot one mile in two minutes and thirty seconds.
Standardbred horses are used as roadsters, meaning
they are ridden at a trot only.
While Thoroughbred racing has long been known as the
Sport of Kings, especially in the US, Standardbred harness racing
brought the sport to the common people.
Standardbred horses are typically 15 to 16 hands*
high and are well known for their stamina.
*Historically horses have been measured in hands because
measuring horses precedes the invention of modern scales of measurement.
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GET TO KNOW THE JOCKEYS Q&A
JT - Joe Talamo
JC - Jon Court
CS - Chantal Sutherland
MS - Mike Smith
AS - Alex Solis
AG - Aaron Gryder
KS - Kayla Stra
When did you know you wanted to be a jockey?
AG: I think I was three years old, but I know I
couldn‘t have been any older than four. It has always been my dream.
AS: I knew I wanted to be a jockey when I was 13,
and my father took me to the race track.
KS: I knew I wanted to be a jockey when I watched
the races from the fence. I started riding race horses when I was
JT: When I was eight years old, my father took me to
the race track. I saw my first race, and I was hooked. It became my
dream from that day forward.
JC: Becoming a jockey was a childhood dream that
became a reality when I was 17.
MS: At an extremely young age
CS: I knew I wanted to be a jockey when I was 13.
This was reaffirmed when I was 22 at university. I was in a
psychology class, and we were asked about our occupation “sweet
spot.“ Jockey was the only fit.
If you weren‘t a jockey, what would you be?
KS: I'd be a riding instructor or teacher of some
sort. I'd like to teach people to ride because being able to work
with such beautiful, strong powerful animals is a magical feeling.
AS: I would have liked to be a boxer.
AG: Early in my life, I never thought of anything
other than being a jockey. Today, if my career were to end abruptly,
I would look toward TV sports commentary.
MS: Maybe a trainer - definitely something in horse
JT: I‘ve always wanted to be a jockey. Never in my
life have I thought of doing anything else.
CS: I hope I would be a sports broadcaster or maybe
have my own talk show - Regis and Chantal.
Describe the emotions of your first race.
CS: Nervous, surprised, addicted…
AG: I went through the whole range of emotions -
excitement, nervous, anxious, happy and, of course, extremely proud.
There is no duplicating that experience.
AS: For my first race, I had the most amazing rush
you can imagine. Nothing compares.
JT: Winning my first race was the greatest feeling
in the world. The emotions are beyond explanation.
KS: The gates opened, and I was excited and happy
because I worked so hard to get to that point. But, turning into the
home stretch, my horse, Set of Bells, broke her leg, so naturally, I
was upset. It was a very numbing experience - my hourse had to be
How often do you race?
MS: I race five days a week. I practice two days a
AG: I race five days a week - in total probably
900-1,000 races per year.
AS: I race five days a week. I practice four days a
JC: I race five to six days a week.
CS: Every day, all the time
KS: As often as the racing gods let me
Who is your jockey role model? Why?
JT: When I was little, I always admired Pat Day and
Eddie Delahoussaye. Today, so many jockeys have taught me so many
things. I will always be grateful to all of them.
MS: My role models are everyone who wears the white
pants (signifying when one graduates from apprenticeship).
AG: Jerry Bailey took control of his life, always
putting his horses in the right spot. Jerry avoided trouble on and
off the track. He is very intelligent.
KS: Frankie Dettori - because he looks like a part
of the horse when he‘s riding
AS: Well, I have a few jockey role models - Fernando
Toro, Eddie Delaho and Lafir Pink.
CS: I have so many because I take a piece from all
of them. Like diamonds in a crown, the more stones, the more
sparkle. I want to sparkle!
Have you ever had a favorite horse?
JT: Nashoba‘s Key was my favorite horse. She gave me
my first grade one win and boosted my career. She passed away this
year, but I will always remember her.
KS: I have had a few favorites, which included my
first pony who taught me how to ride. He was not a racehorse; he was
so old, but he knew everything, and he never gave me a hard time. My
first Thoroughbred, Gurtie, who‘s back in Australia. She, too, is
not a racehorse, but I‘ve had her since she was two years old, and
now she‘s 13. She‘s a big pain in the butt, but I love her!
AS: There are many favorite horses, but a few of my
favorites are Snow Chief, Pleasantly Perfect and Connaof Gold.
MS: There have been too many to mention.
JC: I have had several favorite horses each decade
CS: Yes, Cognac taught me everything.
AG: I‘ve had many favorites. They are not always the
fastest horses, but they are the ones that have personality. Well
Arms tops the list.
Where is your favorite place to race?
KS: Adelaide, Morphetteville in Australia… it is my
home track where I accomplished a lot…it feels like home to me.
AS: Del Mar
CS: Hmm… tough one! If I could be a leading rider
anywhere it would probably be Santa Anita.
JT: The Southern California circuit is my favorite
place to race. Nothing beats the weather.
MS: Any tracks in California, New York or Kentucky
JC: Right now Santa Anita, but that may change in
the near future.
AG: Santa Anita is my favorite place to race. I love
the mountains, and it‘s where the dream began for me.
What was your most rewarding win and why (monetarily or
MS: My most rewarding win was my first win at age
16. I didn‘t win much.
CS: It changes all the time. Maybe Sugar Bay because
I feel like I had something to do with it, but I would also say
Smokume for Allen Jerkens.
JC: My first win and also the Japan Cup Dirt
JT: My most rewarding win was Bilo in the Triple
Bend. I get goose bumps when I watch the replay of that race because
Bilo was so impressive and courageous. He gave me my second grade
one win on 7-7-07… my lucky day!
KS: One of my most rewarding wins was on a horse
called Navy Shaker. This occurred during my apprenticeship when I
was riding for my boss at the time. The owner of the horse didn‘t
want me to ride because I‘m a girl; however, my boss pushed and
pushed, and we won a stakes race! Another incredible win was with a
horse named Woman Eyes. My grandma died a week before, and during
that race, I commemorated her by wearing a black armband. It was a
very symbolic win for me. And, I would be remiss to not credit Saeta
Rose with one of my favorite wins. Saeta Rose was named after my
grandma and was the first horse my father ever owned.
AS: The Dubai World Cup was very rewarding for both
the prestige and the money; the whole world was watching.
AG: My most rewarding win was on November 4, 2007 -
the day after my father unexpectedly died. I won that race for him.
Do you have a pre-race ritual?
JC: I stretch, do warm-ups and then pray.
AG: I have to work out in some fashion. It gets my
mind and body going.
MS: I pray for safety.
JT: Before I put my helmet on in the jocks‘ room, I
make the sign of the cross.
AS: I pray, stretch and try to visualize the race.
KS: I try to stay focused; at the same time, I
remember that I‘m doing this because I love this sport and because
it‘s what I live for.
How do you establish a connection with your horse?
KS: It‘s hard to explain. I usually get a feeling
when I sit on the horse. I compromise with the horse; this forms a
bond. When horses aren‘t happy, they might throw their heads around
or freeze up. I like to let them take their time with things instead
of forcing it upon them.
CS: I touch the horse and listen. How a horse reacts
to my touch determines how sensitive or aggressive I need to be. If
horses —can feel a fly on their neck,“ then they can feel me. Their
ears tell if they like you.
AG: Forty percent of the horses I race, I have never
rode prior to the race. You have 10 minutes to get to know them. The
best thing you can do is stay out of their way.
MS: I‘m not sure how I do it; I just do it.
JC: I try to connect with the horses mentally,
physically and emotionally - although not necessarily in that order.
JT: During the paddock and postparade, I pet and
talk to the horses.
AS: I try to figure out what motivates the horse,
and I keep myself relaxed. A horse can sense when you are tense or
Have you ever been hurt while racing?
AS: Yes, I‘ve had five or six concussions,about 20
broken ribs and a broken back, which was the most serious of my
MS: I‘ve had too many broken bones to mention.
JC: Yes, I‘ve broken my back, neck, face and
knee–over 25 broken bones in all.
JT: Fortunately, so far I have only had a busted lip
when I fell at the beginning of a race.
KS: There‘s a saying that you‘re never a real rider
until you‘ve fallen a hundred times, and I‘ve fallen at least a
hundred times. First fall, I got off, brushed myself off and got
back on because that what you must do. My first fall during a race
was more dramatic. With racing and the speed and impact you make
onto the ground, there‘s a half a second where thoughts go through
your head. You shut your eyes and hope that it‘s going to be ok,
because when you fall in the middle of the field, anything can
happen to you. My most serious injury - thankfully - was only a
broken foot. And, I‘ve had a few concussions, but I‘ve been pretty
AG: Yes, the worst was about six years ago. I fell
on my head, fracturing my skull and three vertebrae in my back, and
sprained my neck.
CS: Yes, I‘ve had a concussion that put me in the
hospital. I didn‘t know my name or my family. I was in a fog for
about a week, and I‘m still missing about six months of memories
from around that time.
Have you ever thought about quitting? What drives you to
JT: I have never once thought about quitting. I‘m
driven by the thrill of winning.
CS: Yes, I‘ve thought about it, but passion keeps me
going. It‘s lasted longer than any boyfriend or even a marriage.
Financially, it looks after me….
AG: In 1995, it definitely crossed my mind. I had a
terrible year, but I committed to give everything I had for two more
years. If I couldn‘t pick it up, I was going to retire. My drive
comes from the competition and love for the horses.
AS: Yes, it‘s crossed my mind a few times, but I‘m
driven by finding that next horse that will take me to the big time.
KS: I‘ve thought about quitting because the mental
frustration to stay in the game is so strong and can wear me down.
What drives me is my family - mainly my sister - because I always
want to be able to say no matter how hard life is, you must keep
going on. People who support me drive me because I don‘t want to let
them down. The belief they have in me gets my spirits up.
MS: Quitting? Well, maybe for a half a second, but
my love of the sport drives me to continue.
Tell us something about yourself that others may not
AS: I have so much respect for the other jockeys as
well as the horses.
CS: I love people even though I am shy at first and
seem aloof. I long for acceptance just like everyone else. And,
something else people don‘t know about me… I can‘t walk on
handicapped parking spots!
KS: In my spare time, I like to paint and draw - not
everybody knows that about me!
JC: My life‘s an open book. The secret chapters have
been torn out. Good luck!
JT: I just bought my first house in California this
month. I‘m excited to move in and finally have a place to call home.
AG: I keep a lot of things to myself. I am very
comfortable with that. I thoroughly enjoy life, and I love new
MS: I think I may have OCD…
How important is it to keep your weight down?
AG: There is no other option. I‘m 5‘6. If I don‘t
follow a strict diet, I don‘t ride.
MS: It is extremely important because I‘d lose my
job if I didn‘t keep it down.
JT: Being a jockey depends solely on your weight -
my livelihood depends on it.
JC: It is very important. It is also important to be
physically fit and flexible.
KS: Extremely - if I don‘t have my weight at the
right balance, then I wouldn‘t have a job. I carry muscle easily,
and even though I‘m petite, I can put weight on just as quickly as I
have to get it off.
AS: It is the most important. If I don‘t keep it
down, I am out of a job. It‘s a must.
What do you hope to accomplish before you retire?
JT: My ultimate dream is to win the Kentucky Derby
and be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
KS: I hope I accomplish everything that I can. I
want to assure myself that I leave nothing undone.
MS: I‘d like to win a Triple Crown.
AS: The Triple Crown
JC: The same goals that got me into this game - the
Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown and Breeders‘ Cup
AG: I will win some classic races (Kentucky Derby,
Breeders‘ Cup). I will be personally satisfied and fulfilled, and I
will feel that I‘ve done everything in my power to help the sport
and glorify the horses.
How do you balance your personal life?
KS: I make sure that I have time to organize my
dirty clothes and make sure my friends are doing ok. I like quiet
time as well and time with my animals. At the moment, my roommate is
my trainer Jennie Green, and she has two cats, two birds and an
incredible dog (a boxer) named Jake.
CS: I don‘t do this very well. I never call people
back or call enough, but I promise that I think of every one, every
JT: My girlfriend, Elizabeth, helps me balance my
personal life. She has introduced me to so many of her friends in
California, and I attend many of her high school events with her.
This helps ground me and enjoy this time in my life.
AG: I balance my personal life through love, trust
and friendships. Being a jockey is what I do - not all of who I am.
AS: I try and spend as much time as possible with my
kids and do things together as a family. I also like to golf.
MS: There‘s no difference between my personal and
professional life. Racing is my life…
How does someone become a jockey? What advice do you
have for people who would like to pursue horse racing as a career?
MS: I‘d say learn to take care of a horse before you
learn to ride one.
AG: Eat healthy. Be disciplined at an early age.
Open your eyes and ears wider than your mouth. Respect the animals.
This will bring you all that‘s needed in life.
JC: Follow your dreams. Actually, there are numerous
ways to become a jockey. There are schools that specialize in equine
education, centers or farms. You could also find a mentor.
CS: Try to start riding young. Practice, passion,
perseverance - you can be anything you want! Just believe in
yourself and believe in what the world has to offer you.
KS: First, you have to have a passion for it, and
you always must keep your ears and eyes open because you won‘t be
able to get anywhere if you don‘t have anyone helping you or someone
to look up to.
AS: The Jockeys‘ Guild is a great place to start.
JT: My advice is to work from the bottom up. It is a
grueling business, so you really have to have a passion for it.
Exclusive Questions for Joe Talamo:
Tell me a little bit about your family. What do they
think of your profession?
You are only 18, but have been incredibly successful so
far. How does it feel beating jockeys who have been racing since before
you were born?
You made the decision to leave high school and pursue a
career as a jockey. Any regrets?
Are there a lot of young jockeys, or do you find
yourself in the minority?
Exclusive Questions for Jon Court:
Tell me a bit about your family. What do they think of
You‘ve been a professional jockey for over 25 years -
any end in sight?
Will you encourage your children to get into horse
You were the recipient of the 2007 George Woolf Award.
What did that mean to you?
Exclusive Questions for Chantal Sutherland:
Tell me a little bit about your family. What do they
think of your profession?
What it is like being a female in a predominantly male
You are dating jockey Mike Smith. Is it hard to date a
fellow jockey? And, have you and Mike ever raced against each other?
Who has been your biggest role model?
You‘ve done some modeling too. Is that something you
want to keep pursuing?
Exclusive Questions for Mike Smith:
Tell me a bit about your family. What do they think of
You‘re dating fellow jockey Chantal Sutherland. Is it
difficult dating another jockey?
Exclusive Questions for Alex Solis:
What does your family think of your profession?
You were born in Panama. Did you move to the US to
pursue a career as a jockey?
You are consecutively near the top of the earning‘s
board. To what do you attribute your success?
You have three children. Will you encourage them to get
into horse racing?
What did it mean to you to be recognized at the Sports
Exclusive Questions for Aaron Gryder:
Tell me a little bit about your family. What do they
think of your profession?
You‘ve had some minor TV roles, including an appearance
on the Sopranos. Any plans to do more acting?
Will you encourage your children to get into horse
At 5‘6 you are taller than most jockeys. Do you find
your height to be a disadvantage?
I‘m not 5‘6“; I‘m 4‘18“. There is no disadvantage. I
have very good balance and can be very compact on the back of a
horse. I would probably be a few pounds lighter if I was shorter,
but I don‘t worry about that. I am able to do what I love, and I‘ve
been doing it since I was four years old. How many people can say
that? I‘m blessed.
Exclusive Questions for Kayla Stra:
Tell me a little bit about your family. What do they
think of your profession?
How has your life changed since you moved from Australia
to pursue racing in the US?
I have grown more inside myself. I‘m a stronger
person because I‘m still trying very hard. I‘ve met a lot of people
who have taught me a lot about life. I‘m fortunate for these
experiences because I wouldn‘t be who I am today without going
through these motions. And, not all of it has been an easy ride. But
being here has given me more drive. And, it‘s not about the money -
it‘s what I can accomplish.
What is it like being a woman in a male-dominant sport?
Have you ever felt at a disadvantage because horse racing is so male
It‘s not easy being a female rider in the United
States in a male-dominant sport. In Australia where I was riding, it
was more accepted for women to ride as there were always one or two
girls in each state riding. Also at times, there are trainers who
may look at me with a little wink in their eye. If I were a guy,
that would never happen.
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Aaron Gryder - Alex Solis -
Chantal Sutherland - Darrell
Haire - Joe Talamo - Jon Court
- Kayla Stra - Mike Smith
Aaron Gryder The Family Man
Height: 5'6" Weight: 114 lbs. Born: June 5, 1970; West
Covina, CA Residence: La Verne, CA Family: Wife Karen; children
Christian and Grace
Aaron Gryder has known since the age of four that he
wanted to be a jockey. He grew up in Southern California, and his father
and grandfather, both horseracing fans, exposed him to the sport at this
early age. From that point forward, he has relied on his hard work and
dogged determination to build a solid racing career and support his
At age 13, Gryder left home and began taking riding
lessons with former jockey Rudy Campas. Just a few years later when he
was 16, Gryder registered his first win aboard Ragin Henry in Tijuana,
Mexico. As an apprentice, Gryder led the Hollywood Park fall meet in
1987, when he had his first Grade 1 win.
Since then, Gryder has enjoyed a successful career in
horseracing, boasting multiple Breeders‘ Cup rides and three Kentucky
Derbies. In 1992, Gryder won the biggest purse of his career when he won
the $750,000 Super Derby. He achieved his 3,000th career win on March 7,
2007 aboard Pressthepace at Santa Anita. This year, Gryder has high
hopes for Well Armed, a horse that he rode to a third-place finish at
the Dubai World Cup.
Gryder has made guest appearances on The Sopranos and
Dellaventura. He is involved with several children‘s charities and is
the proud father of two. In his free time, Gryder enjoys outdoor
activities including cycling, water sports, running and working out.
Alex Solis The Comeback Kid
Height: 5'3" Weight: 112 lbs. Born: March 25, 1964;
Panama City, Panama Residence: Glendora, CA Family: Wife Sheila
(daughter of trainer J.B. Sonnier); children Alex Jr., Andrew, Austin
With more than 4,000 trips to the winner‘s circle and
boasting more than a dozen racing titles in California, Alex Solis is a
rider known for his perfect form on a horse and extreme physical
fitness. Solis began his 25-year career in his home country of Panama
but quickly made the leap to the United States racing circuit to seek
Solis was interested in horse racing from the time he
was a boy when he attended races with his father in Panama. At the age
of 14, he enrolled in the Panama Jockey School where he learned the
basics of horseracing, graduating from the school in 1981. Two years
later, Solis won his first race at Presidente Remon, Panama before
moving to Florida in 1982 to continue his apprenticeship and try his
hand on the American circuits.
After a short stay in Florida, where he became leading
rider on the Gulfstream, Hialeah and Calder circuits, Solis moved to
Southern California in 1985. Subsequently, his career as a jockey took
off when he won the Preakness in 1986 aboard Snow Chief. In 1991, Solis
had three consecutive third place finishes in the Kentucky Derby,
Preakness and Belmont Stakes. He has finished second in the Kentucky
Derby three out of the four times.
In 2003, Solis won the Dubai World Cup, three Breeders‘
Cup races and registered his 4,000 win aboard King Robyn in Santa Anita.
Soon after, in 2004, he suffered from broken vertebrae and three broken
ribs when he fell while riding, leaving him out of commission for seven
months. However, his injury did not deter him from getting back into
racing, and Solis is still going strong after 25 years.
In 1997, Solis was the recipient of the prestigious
George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, and in 2006, he was honored at the
Sports Legends Awards for his impact on the sport. As Solis‘ career
winds toward retirement, there are still racing achievements he is
looking to attain, including a win at the Kentucky Derby and a spot in
the Hall of Fame.
In his spare time, Solis has taken on a new challenge away from the
track œ he‘s created a private wine label with fellow jockey Mike Smith
that they are managing together.
Chantal Sutherland The Female Star
Height: 5'2" Weight: 105 lbs. Born: February 23, 1976;
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada Residence: California/Canada
Family: Single; father Hugh Sutherland; mother Diane Gignac; sister
Dominique; Brother Hugh
Chantal Sutherland began her career as a jockey in 2000 when she decided
that becoming an airline pilot was not what she wanted to do with her
life. In the eight years since, she has become one of the top riders in
Canada and one of the most recognizable jockeys in the world. In only
her second year of racing, Sutherland won 124 races in a single season
and has amassed 450 wins since. In August 2008, Sutherland had a
victorious day at Woodbine, having won five races in one day.
Sutherland grew up in Manitoba, Canada. In her teenage years, she
excelled at sports,
avidly playing field hockey and even competed for Canada‘s national
Cup team. She was introduced to horses through jumping and dressage.
warnings from her father against racing, Sutherland eventually found her
calling on the
racetrack. After graduating from York University in Toronto with a
communications and psychology, Sutherland explored flat racing and was
professional jockeys Angel Cordero, Shane Sellers and Edgar Prado.
Sutherland quickly became a top rider in Canada, but as nice as her
success was, she
realized that riding in Canada was never going to land her in the
Kentucky Derby or The
Breeders‘ Cup races. Sutherland knew that Santa Anita is the place that
jockeys call home, which is why this year she has relocated to southern
Off the tracks, Sutherland also is known for her beauty, grace and
charm. Sutherland was
named one of People Magazine‘s 100 Most Beautiful People in 2006 and was
photographed by Annie Liebovitz for a four-page spread in Vogue.
Sutherland is the
model spokesperson for Mistura Cosmetics, a Canadian-based company that
2008. She is coming out with an eco-friendly perfume line called
DARRELL HAIRE West Coast Regional Manager of
the Jockeys‘ Guild
Born in Lexington, Kentucky, Darrell Haire is a native
to the state and is considered by many as the heart of the thoroughbred
racing industry. Haire spent his childhood in the New England area as
part of a large Irish-Catholic family consisting of five sisters and one
brother. Known as —D“ among family and friends, he was greatly
influenced by the strong Italian heritage of his maternal grandmother,
Haire‘s family is deeply rooted in the industry as his
father was a jockey, his uncles were trainers, and his brother Timothy
also was a rider. Haire has been around horses —as long as I can
remember,“ and beginning at a very early age worked at race tracks and
saw first hand the personal and professional struggles faced daily by
He began his own jockey career at age 17 and
successfully rode for the next 15 years throughout the country. His
career highlights include winning the 1980 Arkansas Derby aboard
Temperance Hill, owned by John Ed Anthony (Loblolly Stables), and a near
magical streak in 1982, winning the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs
aboard Listcapade, owned by Mrs. Joe W. Brown. A 10-year career as a
licensed securities dealer and investment and insurance broker followed,
but Haire kept his ties to horse racing by exercising horses early
mornings at Santa Anita Park for highly respected trainers Bobby
Frankel, Richard Mandella and the late Walter Greenman.
In 1999, Haire returned full time to the sport he loves
as west coast regional manager for the Jockeys‘ Guild, the professional
organization that represents more than 1,200 of the nation‘s riders. He
briefly left the Guild during its reorganization in 2001 and later
returned in the position of national member representative. In that
role, Haire traveled the United States, representing the riders at race
tracks, racing commission meetings and at other industry-related
On November 15, 2005, Haire was named the interim national manager of
the Jockeys‘ Guild by a new board of directors elected during an
emergency meeting of the organization‘s senate. Haire served for nine
months in the position during which time he worked to rebuild the Guild
and bring important issues affecting jockeys to the industry and
public‘s attention. After his tenure as interim national manager, Haire
returned to his previous Guild position as west coast regional manager.
Haire is considered an expert on jockey health and
safety issues and has served on a number of committees and boards within
the industry such as the Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety
Committee and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Track
Insurance Working Group, formed to examine the issue of medical
insurance for jockeys. Haire was also a member of the governor of
Kentucky‘s Blue Ribbon Panel studying workers‘ compensation insurance
for jockeys and exercise riders.
Haire presently serves on the advisory boards for the
National Accreditation Program for Racing Officials and Judges and is
frequently a guest lecturer as part of these accreditation programs
around the country. He is a charter member of the National Medication
and Drug Testing Consortium and has given presentations throughout the
U.S. on professional issues of importance to the jockeys such as the
scale of weights and track safety. Haire also is a member of the board
of the highly acclaimed North American Racing Academy located in
Lexington, Kentucky. The Academy is the first and only fully accredited
jockey training school in North America.
Haire is especially proud of his work as a board member
of the Winners Foundation, a non-profit organization based in California
providing assistance to individuals in horse racing with substance-abuse
Finally, Haire coordinated the initial participation of
riders in —Tribute to Kentucky Derby Winning Jockeys,“ a permanent
exhibit at the Galt House Hotel & Suites in Louisville, Kentucky that is
similar to Hollywood‘s —Walk of Fame.“
Haire‘s home is in southern California, where he lives
with his wife, Susan, and their four children, Natasha, Darrell Joe,
Natalie and Cara.
Height: 5'3" Weight: 108 lbs. Born: January 12, 1990;
Marrero, LA Residence: Monrovia, CA Family: Single
At age 18, Joe Talamo is one of the youngest and most
successful jockeys in the country. Talamo is the only apprentice to have
ever won a riding title at the historic New Orleans Fair Grounds, with a
record number of wins for an apprentice jockey in the storied history of
As the son of an assistant trainer, Talamo began
accompanying his father to the New Orleans Fair Grounds when he was only
seven years old. By age 11, he was riding Thoroughbreds at a training
center located not far from his home. Talamo, at age 16, reached the
difficult decision to leave high school after his sophomore year to
pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a jockey. He recorded his first
win as an apprentice jockey two months later, in July 2006, at Louisiana
Following that initial win, Talamo concluded a successful apprenticeship
with more than six million dollars in winnings in 2007. For his many
accomplishments, Talamo received the Eclipse Award for outstanding
apprentice jockey in 2007.
During his apprenticeship, Talamo moved his tack to Southern California
after winning the riding title at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. Shortly
thereafter, Talamo became the only apprentice jockey in the history of
thoroughbred racing to ever win two Grade One Races on the same day.
Talamo went on to finish second in the 2007 Hollywood Spring/Summer meet
with the second-highest number of wins for an apprentice jockey in track
history. He also finished second in the jockey standings at the
prestigious Del Mar 2007 race meet.
Later that year, Talamo became the youngest jockey in
history to participate in the Breeders‘ Cup.
In 2008, Talamo has continued his tremendous success by
consistently finishing near the top of the jockey standings in all the
Southern California race meets. Once again, in October, he was fortunate
enough to participate in the Breeders‘ Cup at Santa Anita. Talamo
clearly has established himself as one of the most consistent riders in
the country while participating in the sport of Thoroughbred horse
racing at the highest level.
Jon Court The Elder Statesman
Height: 5'1" Weight: 112 lbs. Born: November 23, 1960;
Gainesville, FL Residence: La Verne, CA Family: Wife Krystal; children
Justin, Donielle, Aaron and Aubrey
Jon Court is an award-winning jockey who has been racing
for almost 30 years. Since beginning his career 1980, Court has tallied
more than 3,000 victories across the country, finally landing himself in
Southern California. Now, as the end of Court‘s horseracing tenure
approaches, he is determined to achieve his lifelong dream œ a Breeders‘
Court grew up in Ponce Inlet, Florida but moved to
Colorado to pursue a career as a jockey, registering his first win
aboard Nevada‘s Hope in April 1980. In the fall of 1980, Court left
Colorado and landed in Louisiana, where he raced for 14 years before
moving again to Indiana.
While in Indiana, Court was the leading rider at Hoosier
Park from 1996 to 1998. He celebrated his 2,000 career victory in
September of 1999 at Kentucky downs and won titles at Ellis Park,
Oaklawn Park, Turfway Park, Kentucky Downs and Birmingham Racecourse. In
2002, Court was the leading jockey at Kentucky racetracks, and he won
the Indiana Derby the same year. In 2004, after much success in the
Midwest, Court moved to California upon the urgings of father/son owners
Lee and Ty Leatherman and trainer Doug O‘Neill of Leatherman Racing.
Since his move to California, Court‘s success has
continued. He enjoyed his 3,000win at Santa Anita in 2005 œ exactly 25
years after his first win. In 2006, Court was elected secretary of The
Jockey‘s Guild and was reelected in 2007. He serves as the Guild's
representative board member for the National Thoroughbred Racing
Association's (NTRA) Charities-Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund. Court
has earned the respect of jockeys nationwide through his amiable
personality and professional successes, which is why they honored him
with the George Woolf Memorial Award in 2007.
Besides racing, Court enjoys archery and riding his Harley-Davidson.
Kayla Stra The New Girl
Height: 5'1" Weight: 117 lbs. Born: December 3, 1984
Residence: Adelaide, South Australia; Los Angeles, CA Family: Parents
Alex and Connie; sister Desiree
Kayla Stra was born in Australia, where she launched her
career in horseracing prior to moving to California in 2008. From a very
young age, Stra was interested in horses, having talked her parents into
buying her a pony when she was eight years old. During her late
childhood and adolescence, Stra worked at racing stables and eventually
bought her first horse - a Thoroughbred named Gurtie, which she trained
on her own for picnic races (unregistered race horses) before getting
her certificate in racing.
Stra acknowledges her first trainer, Ray Moore, as
someone who has had a strong influence in her life. Moore taught Stra
how to be a horseman œ how to communicate with horses by reading their
body language and having a keen feel for what they‘re thinking. Stra
credits John Letts as one of her mentors for his outstanding jockey
career, having won three Melbourne Cups and hundreds upon hundreds of
As an apprentice, Stra was always in the top five riders
and won all her premierships. During this time, she began traveling to
different tracks to learn more from those experiences.
Stra eventually racked up approximately 500 victories in
her native country and became the "poster girl“ for Australian
horseracing. Now, she hopes to continue that success in the much larger
US market. But here, she will face the toughest competitors in the world
- serious professional athletes who are not likely to cut any slack for
the new girl.
Outside of horseracing, Stra enjoys the company of her
close friends and family (including all animals) and focusing on her
Mike Smith The Icon
Height: 5'4" Weight: 114 lbs. Born: August 10, 1965;
Roswell, NM Residence: Pasadena, CA Family: Single; father George Smith;
mother Vidoll Daniels; brother Ray Smith
Mike Smith is one of the top winning jockeys of all
time, boasting wins at both the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby. With
his strong riding style and stringent pre-race rituals, Smith has earned
an almost shaman-like reputation among fellow jockeys, cementing his
icon status in the racing world.
Smith began riding races in his home state of New Mexico
at age 11, getting his riding license at 16 and winning his first race
that year with Forever Man in Santa Fe. A year later, he left New Mexico
to pursue his career as a jockey, riding in Arkansas, Nebraska,
Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota before landing in New York in 1989.
While in New York, Smith began making his mark in horse
racing. In 1991, he became the first US-based jockey to win a European
classic, winning the Irish Two Thousand Guineas with Fourstars Allstar.
In 1993, Smith won the Preakness Stakes, and in 1993 and 1994, he was
awarded the Eclipse Award, which recognizes outstanding jockeys. In both
years, he was the national leader for earnings. In 1994, Smith held the
record for stakes wins with 68.
After two serious injuries in 1998, Smith quickly
rebounded and continued racing, moving to Southern California in 2000.
He has enjoyed tremendous success this decade with a win at the Kentucky
Derby in 2005 aboard Giacomo. He now is tied for second with the most
Breeders‘ Cup victories with 12 and has received numerous awards
including the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2000 and Jockey of
the Year in 2003. Smith was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in
In his spare time, Smith owns a private wine label -
Jinettes - which will be out in 2009.
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New Clip: Jockeys - "Chantal vs. Mike"
During the final week of the Oak Tree Meet, canadian rider Chantal
Sutherland goes head-to-head on the track against her boyfriend, Hall Of
Fame Jockey Mike Smith.