By HorseplayerNOW.com Night School host Joe Kristufek
The single best aspect of Night School is the fan’s ability to access some of horse racing’s biggest and most well-spoken stars.
Tonight’s session focuses on “The Jockey”, and we are privileged to have Hall of Famer Mike Smith, popular jockey/actress/model Chantal Sutherland and star Quarter Horse pilot Cody Jensen serving as panelists.
Set a reminder and join FREE Night School Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. ET here.
During the 90-minute interactive lesson, racing fans will have a chance to ask questions directly to Smith, Sutherland and Jensen. Tonight’s Night School program will be co-hosted by Caton Bredar and myself.
Also appearing via video in Night School this week will be jockeys John Velazquez, Julien Leparoux and Joe Bravo. The video vignettes also will take you inside the Laurel Park jockeys' room with Maryland's leading riders Sheldon Russell and Malcolm Franklin.
Smith’s and Sutherland's former off-the-track relationship was widely featured on the Animal Planet television series "Jockeys", and Night School brings the two back together for a reunion of sorts with the fans.
Smith is best known for piloting legendary racemare Zenyatta, as well as upsetting the 2005 Kentucky Derby aboard 50-to-1 longshot Giacomo. Most recently, Smith finished second in all three Triple Crown races - with Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and with Paynter in the Belmont.
Sutherland is a Sovereign Award-winning jockey in her native Canada, and her off-the-track modeling and acting careers have taken off since moving to Southern California to ride. She is the regular rider for multiple graded stakes winner Game On Dude.
Jensen is a two-time winner of the All American Futurity, American Quarter Horse Racing's richest race, having captured the Ruidoso Downs classic in 2005 and 2006.
I am of the contention that this is horse racing, not jockey racing. That being said, there is no braver athlete in professional sports, and their split second decisions can win or lose a race.
The fact of the matter is, even the best rider cannot make a horse go faster, but with a vast array of skills, they can put a horse in a better position to win.
Some of the qualities that top jockeys possess include: knowing how his horse’s style fits a race, judging pace, willingness to take a chance, being able to whip with both hands, rhythm and flow on horseback, and strength and stamina to finish well.
Even if a jockey makes all the right moves, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to have racing luck on their side.
Any jockey will tell you that unless they have a fast enough horse, they can’t win the race. Top jockeys get the best mounts because of their reputation for winning, but if the worst jockey is on the fastest, most talented horse, chances are he or she will still win.A good jockey will win approximately 15 percent of his or her races and they will hit the board (finish first, second or third) 40 percent of the time.
Wagering on the best jockey is usually a safe way to play, but due to the rider’s proficiency, a shorter price can be expected. When handicapping, if you notice a positive jockey switch from an average rider to one with better stats, chances are the trainer is confident in a winning performance.
Pay particular attention to a horse who is being ridden by an out of town jockey, especially if it is in a non-stakes event. Jockeys often travel across the country for a big money race, but if they follow a maiden or allowance horse, chances are they angling to secure the mount on this runner for the future. Obviously the rider thinks the horse has a chance to win.
Remember, virtually every jockey has an agent, a person who handles their riding assignments. They work with a condition book of upcoming races, and secure mounts with owners/trainers. Agents work for a percentage of rider's earnings (usually in the 20% range, but a good one can get 30-35%).
The agent’s job is to book the best mount possible in a given race, while remaining as loyal as possible to the stables that give their jockey the most business.
Take notice if a horse has performed well for that day’s jockey in the past. Horses get along with some riders better than others, and if the team has a proven track record together, you can feel a little more confident going to the windows. If a jockey is riding a horse for the first time, downgrade their chances just a bit. The jockey is not used to the horse’s mannerisms or running style and it could cost the team during the running of the race.
When jockeys begin their careers, they are given a break in the weight that their mount is assigned to carry. They receive ten pounds until the fifth winner, seven pounds until the 35th winner and five pounds for one calendar year after the date of the fifth winner.
It is important for jockeys to take full advantage of their apprenticeship, and often times that means riding at lesser racetracks where trainers will be more inclined to take advantage of their services. That’s how they rack up wins.
Any apprentice jockey with some athletic ability, riding on the right circuit, who can tack 110 pounds, has a chance to be a flash in the pan. Regardless of their success as an apprentice rider, the acid test comes when jockey’s gain journeyman status. They no longer have the weight advantage that has lured trainers to them. They must stand on their own, on a level playing field, and the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to maintain weight.
Longshot winners can be found when apprentice jockeys ride cheap horses in route races contested over a tiring track. The weight break can really make a difference.
Learn all about what it takes to be a jockey from some of the best in the game TONIGHT at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Remember, Night School is FREE, fun and informative, and no sign-up is required!
Another "After Night School Special," featuring live racing from Mountaineer Park, will follow Tuesday from 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET, covering the late daily double in real time with free, live-streaming video and complimentary Daily Racing Form past performances.
The Tuesday, June 26 episode of Night School will focus on race horse ownership and retirement.
Presenting title sponsors for Night School are the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Inc. and Daily Racing Form. Tuesday's session will be the 19th of 40 Night School lesson plans throughout the 2012 season, which continues through November.
For this week's study materials, courtesy of Horse Player NOW and Daily Racing Form, click here.
This week's preview video: