by Doug McCoy

Carol Cedeno is riding hard for herself, and her kids. Photo courtesy of Liz Morris.

Carol Cedeno is riding hard for herself, and her kids. Photo courtesy of Liz Morris.

There are millions of working moms around the country, women who have to deal with the daily challenge of juggling a career with family obligations.

Carol Cedeno is one of those working moms, but when she goes off to work in the morning she’s not headed to teleconferences or sales meetings.  A jockey, she spends her working day atop 1,100 pound Thoroughbreds racing around a track at speeds up to 40 miles per hour.

Cedeno, a 25 year old native of Puerto Rico, is married to jockey Angel Serpa and the couple has two children, Angellika and Dylan. The family has a home in Pennsylvania and each morning the rider leaves the children in the care of her mother and heads to Delaware Park, arriving shortly after 5:00 a.m. She works horses during training hours and  then during live racing days heads to the jockeys’ room to prepare for her mounts in the afternoon. Then, after the races are over, she drives back to Pennsylvania to have dinner and spend time with the children before heading to bed.

It makes for long days and a lot of time on the road.  But Cedeno, a quiet young woman, shrugs it off.  “If you love your kids and you love riding,” she says, “it’s not such a big deal.”

Cedeno’s career has been one of starts and stops. She has had modest success at several tracks — among them Indiana Downs and Tampa Bay Downs — winning 321 times in her career with purse earnings of nearly $8 million.  But she has not had a regular schedule where she has been able to return to a track year after year, which has made it hard for her to break through.

After suffering several fractured vertebrae in a spill at Penn National in August, Cedeno set her sights on rehabbing from those injuries while making plans to set up a regular year-round schedule. She retained agent Liz Morris, a former rider who had been working in the Chicago area, handling such riders as Junior Felix. This winter Cedeno returned to riding at Tampa midway in the meeting. While she won only three races, she was able to get fit and strong, and Morris feels her rider is hungry to establish herself this summer.

“I had watched her ride for a couple of years and was very impressed,” Morris said.  “I encouraged her to come to Chicago and ride at Arlington, but Carol said she wanted to try and establish herself at Delaware so she could have a regular circuit of Delaware Park in the spring and summer and Tampa Bay Downs during the winter. That circuit would be the easiest to manage for the family. So we came here to team up with her. It’s a challenge for both of us, but I’m confident that once trainers see Carol ride and see what she can do on a horse, we’ll have a chance to build some business.”

Carol Cedeno.

Carol Cedeno.

On Saturday at Delaware, Cedeno, aboard a first starter named Quiet Dinero for trainer Randy Nunley, patiently bided her time behind the speed in the six-furlong event for maiden claimers.  Entering the stretch, she steered the filly outside and kicked her into gear, finishing strongly to win by two lengths and reward backers with a $27.80 payout.

It was enough to make a gambler appreciate the business card Morris uses to promote Cedeno’s services.  “Rides like a man, but has the finesse of a woman,” the tagline reads.

That may suggest something about the sexism still alive in racing, but one thing is for sure: Carol Cedeno can ride.

Doug McCoy has been a racing writer and chartcaller since 1972. He retired in late 2013 after 23 years with Equibase and continues to write for the Daily Racing Form and The Racing Biz.