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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Unless you're a jockey, you don't know

Pound for pound, jockeys may be the most physically tough athletes in sports.  Many work everyday which include early mornings, afternoons and sometimes nights.  They are atop 1,000+ pound animals racing at nearly 40 MPH in close quarters with split second decisions determining a win from a loss.  They also take their share of spills, getting kicked or stepped on by a horse and eating just enough to get through the day. All this along with cardio and weight training in between.

There is also the mental side from having to work with many different "teams" consisting of owners and trainers.  The pressure to win has to be very high which has led some to take drugs or alcohol to deal with the pressure.  Combine all this along with what goes on in their personal lives and it can lead to disastrous results.

However, there must be a reason why jockeys go through all this: Winning.  Most jockeys will tell you there is nothing like winning a horse race whether it is a claiming race or a Stakes race.  Winning a Triple Crown race or a Breeders' Cup race, though, likely produces a high no drug can reproduce and that is why some jockeys ride into their 50's or even 60's even though they have enough money to retire.

This year alone, we've seen some highs and lows from jockeys across the nation.  Eclipse Award winning jockey Ramon Dominguez was forced to retire due to a head injury he suffered earlier this year.  Hall Of Famer Gary Stevens made his return following a seven year absence and won the Preakness aboard Oxbow.  Tyler Baze was suspended 120 days for breaking his contract after testing positive for alcohol.  Up-and-comers Rosie Napravnik and Joel Rosario won riding titles and both are currently in the top five for wins and money won this year.

A bad ride can happen now and then and they often hear about it from those who bet on them after the race. As professionals, most are probably used to it and just try to ignore it.  Still, instead of insulting the jockey, how about encouraging them by saying something like "get 'em next time".  Unless you're a jockey, you don't know what it is like to live like one and this kind of encouragement may go a long way in helping them out as their lives are difficult as it is.

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