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Press Release - Pictures  - Jockey's Fact Sheet - Q&A with the Jockeys - Jockey's Bios - Video & Links

 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.


-- 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 television."

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 safely.

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 rider’s career.

“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 the series.”

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: http://animal.discovery.com/tv/jockeys/ 

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Jockey's Fact Sheet

General Information:

  • 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 height.


  • At age 16, potential jockeys are eligible to begin an apprenticeship.

  • 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 weights.

  • 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 professional sports.

  • Because horse racing is so dangerous, an ambulance follows the jockeys around the track in preparation for an emergency.

  • 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:

  • 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 mid-1800s.

  • The term "pari-mutuel“ means "betting amongst ourselves.“

  • 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:

    1. Win - to pick the winning horse

    2. Place - to pick the first or second place horse

    3. Show - to pick the first, second or third place horse

    4. Exacta - to pick the first and second place horses in exact order

    5. Trifecta - to pick the first, second and third place horses in exact order

    6. Superfecta - to pick the first, second, third and fourth place horses in exact order

    7. Double - to pick the winner of two consecutive races

    8. 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.

Racing Colors:

  • 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 and Standardbreds.

  • In the series JOCKEYS only Thoroughbred racing is featured.


  • 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 Arabian.

  • 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 distances.

  • Quarter Horses usually stand between 14 and 16 hands* high.

  • 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.


  • The care and training of racehorses is split among several different individuals:

    1. Horse Grooms/Stable Hands: Horse grooms take care of the daily maintenance of the horses, including grooming, feeding and even cleaning the stables and yard. They ensure the well-being of the horses and prepare them for riding.

    2. Horse Trainers: The trainers develop the horses‘ fitness and stamina to enable them to perform at their best in races. They judge the horses‘ abilities to ensure their health and welfare is maintained, and they enter them in suitable races to give them the best chance of winning.

    3. Stable Yard Owners and Managers: The owners and managers oversee daily operations and are responsible for the well-being of the horses. They manage the staff and delegate responsibilities for caring for the horses.

    4. Veterinarians: Bigger stables and race tracks employee full-time veterinarians in case of an emergency.

    5. Jockeys: Jockeys are talented riders employed by horse owners to help keep their top horses at peak performance and also exercise and educate the younger horses during morning workouts. Jockeys compete and win purse money on behalf of the horse and owner.

*Historically horses have been measured in hands because measuring horses precedes the invention of modern scales of measurement.

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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 14.

  • 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 racing

  • 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 put down.

How often do you race?

  • MS: I race five days a week. I practice two days a week.

  • 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 week.

  • 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 of racing.

  • 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 personally)?

  • 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 nervous.

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 injuries.

  • 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 lucky.

  • 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 continue?

  • 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 know.

  • 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 challenges.

  • 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.

  • CS: Very

  • 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

  • CS: Happiness

  • 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 day.

  • 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?

  • My family has been very supportive of me, but like all parents, they would have liked me to finish school first.

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?

  • I‘m so fortunate to have had so much success. I respect all the jockeys, and I learn so much from them every day. It is an amazing feeling, though - beating them.

You made the decision to leave high school and pursue a career as a jockey. Any regrets?

  • I don‘t have any regrets. This is what I‘ve worked for my whole life…I‘m living my dream.

Are there a lot of young jockeys, or do you find yourself in the minority?

  • I definitely find myself in the minority. Even most apprentice jockeys are older than I am..

Exclusive Questions for Jon Court:

Tell me a bit about your family. What do they think of your profession?

  • My wife and my four children are all very supportive.

You‘ve been a professional jockey for over 25 years - any end in sight?

  • Yes, I know I am in the golden years of my career. It is definitely a concern.

Will you encourage your children to get into horse racing?

  • No, however, I will support them in whatever careers they decide to pursue.

You were the recipient of the 2007 George Woolf Award. What did that mean to you?

  • That award is the highest award one can receive from his/her peers. It‘s one of my biggest career milestones.

Exclusive Questions for Chantal Sutherland:

Tell me a little bit about your family. What do they think of your profession?

  • My family is love. They are fearful of my profession but extremely proud and understanding. They are the best family in the world.

What it is like being a female in a predominantly male sport?

  • It is good, really good. Greatness is coming!

You are dating jockey Mike Smith. Is it hard to date a fellow jockey? And, have you and Mike ever raced against each other?

  • Yes to all of the above

Who has been your biggest role model?

  • I think I have the talent and ability to be good, but meeting Mike (Smith) has put me on the path to greatness.

You‘ve done some modeling too. Is that something you want to keep pursuing?

  • Modeling is not exciting - it is work. I like work, and I like money. To pursue modeling would mostly be for monetary purposes.

Exclusive Questions for Mike Smith:

Tell me a bit about your family. What do they think of your profession?

  • I have a very close family. My profession still scares my mom, but she‘s happy for me.

You‘re dating fellow jockey Chantal Sutherland. Is it difficult dating another jockey?

  • I‘d be lying if I said it isn‘t difficult at times, but I wouldn‘t change it.

Exclusive Questions for Alex Solis:

What does your family think of your profession?

  • I am lucky. They are extremely supportive.

You were born in Panama. Did you move to the US to pursue a career as a jockey?

  • Yes, jockeys in the US are at an advantage because they have better horses, and there is more money.

You are consecutively near the top of the earning‘s board. To what do you attribute your success?

  • I attribute my success to hard work and dedication. I‘m always looking for ways to stay ahead of my competition.

You have three children. Will you encourage them to get into horse racing?

  • I will support them in whatever they decide to do.

What did it mean to you to be recognized at the Sports Legends Awards?

  • I was flattered to be placed in a group that includes all of horse racing‘s greats.

Exclusive Questions for Aaron Gryder:

Tell me a little bit about your family. What do they think of your profession?

  • My family has always been very supportive of all that I do. They do not get very involved in my career, but they are my biggest fans.

You‘ve had some minor TV roles, including an appearance on the Sopranos. Any plans to do more acting?

  • I would love to. I enjoy the camera. I know I would need some training, but I would welcome the challenge.

Will you encourage your children to get into horse racing?

  • No, I will allow them to follow their own dreams; then I can do everything in my power to help them achieve those dreams.

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?

  • I left home and school when I was 13 to live close to the horses and to find my own place. Later, I brought along my sister. My parents have come to embrace my career track.

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 dominated?

  • 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 StraMike 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 young family.

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 and Tiffany

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 his fortune.

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 Junior World Cup team. She was introduced to horses through jumping and dressage. Despite early warnings from her father against racing, Sutherland eventually found her calling on the racetrack. After graduating from York University in Toronto with a degree in communications and psychology, Sutherland explored flat racing and was trained by 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 high caliber jockeys call home, which is why this year she has relocated to southern California.

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 launched in 2008. She is coming out with an eco-friendly perfume line called —Chantal.“

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, Angelina Cicerone.

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 jockeys.

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 gatherings.
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 problems.

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.

Joe Talamo

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 the track.

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 Downs.
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‘ Cup Victory.

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 stake races.

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 dreams.

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 2003.

In his spare time, Smith owns a private wine label - Jinettes - which will be out in 2009.

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Video Clips

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.


The Weight Game


Updated 3/4/09  

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