More Than Just a Name in the Program

Have you ever watched the horses in the paddock or post parade and felt soooooo strongly about an entrant? Whether it was a longshot or a favorite, you just knew the horse couldn’t get beat. You had such a solid hunch over it that you bet that big chunk of change you brought with you to last a 10 race card on the 2nd race…. and the horse finishes up the track, barely beating the ambulance.

Now you’ve lost your money, your ego is probably a little bruised, and you have nothing to bet with to keep you occupied for the next 6 hours. There goes your entire day.

So what do you do?

As the jockeys are galloping back towards the grandstand to unsaddle and walk past the spectators on their way to the jocks room, it’s so tempting to vent your frustration and let the rider of your horse know exactly how you feel about them and their finish. Before you do that, take a deep breath and think for just a moment…

While that little bit of money you put on the line for this race might be your wagering bankroll for the day, it is trivial in comparison to what that jockey puts on the line each time they ride… risking their life and their livelihood. So maybe you lost your spending allowance for the day or the week or even the month depending on your gambling style. This is fun for you… a game, a hobby.

For those riders, it is their job… their career… their everything.

Maybe that jockey was depending on a win to be able to pay the rent and keep a roof over his and his family’s head. Maybe that jockey has a child at home with health problems and astronomical medical bills that a $65 jocks mount isn’t even going to put a dimple in. Maybe that jockey is coping with injury and pushing through severe pain to ride.

Maybe that jockey is more than just a name on a program.

Photo by Arron Haggart and Eclipse Sportswire

Nobody wants to win more than the person sitting on the back of that horse. Anytime you go out on the track, there’s a possibility you might not come back. It doesn’t matter who you are, how talented you are, or how many races you’ve won. It can happen to anyone. Not only do you have to love what you do, but the reward must be worth the risk. As someone who has been in those shoes (errr….boots), we have to compartmentalize everything else going on in our lives to ride the best race possible for the owners, trainers and for the bettors who are also counting on us. It’s horse racing. We know there is nothing such as a sure thing. One week you may be winning races every day, then there might be a slump where it’s weeks before you see the winner’s circle again.

I’ve seen jockeys haggled and harassed at the racetrack by upset bettors. I’ve experienced people sending vile and threatening emails and messages online. I’ve even heard upset trainers and owners talking about jockeys like they are worse than a rabid raccoon in the feed room.

But we always need to remember that these riders are more than just a jockey. They are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, hard workers and good people who are putting themselves out there to be critiqued in the public eye. So next time you see your favorite jockey run last on a favorite you bet the farm on and you want to let them have a piece of your mind, remember that nobody will be harder on them than themselves. Just shake it off, hope for better luck, and be grateful that even though your pockets are a little lighter today, everyone came home safe and sound.

There is always next time.

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Article written by Cassandra Buckley Naupac

Featured Contributor

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jan Lenox Reply

    We just lost a great jockey and great friend two weeks ago in a freak racing accident at Will Rogers Downs in Claremore, Oklahoma. It was devastating to his friends, family and the racing community. People should think before they criticize.

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