In their own words: 4 jockeys talk about the racing life

by | Mar 4, 2020 | Breaking, Features, Regionwide, Top Stories

To the bulk of racing fans jockeys are the most high-profile individuals in racing. But beyond watching them perform in the afternoon most fans know little about their riding stars.

The life of a rider is a busy and complicated one. Riders have all the challenges of running (and being) their own businesses, to go along with the challenges of being a top-class athlete. They have to adhere to rigorous diets, while keeping a positive mindset in a profession in which they will lose more than 75 percent of the time.

To get a better idea of a jock’s life we interviewed four riders who race regularly in the Mid-Atlantic. The life of a jockey, in their own words.

ALEX CINTRON

Alex Cintron.

Alex Cintron. won five on April 22, 2016. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Alex Cintron’s career began in 2008, a year in which he won 70 races. To date, Cintron has won more than 1,100 races while amassing over $34 million in purse earnings. He has also won four graded stakes, most notably last year’s Grade 1 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine aboard Wet Your Whistle. Cintron’s career has nearly been derailed by injuries on multiple occasions, his latest comeback having led trainer Graham Motion to tweet that he is “made of steel, literally.”

My family is my foundation, my wife, little girls and my 17-year-old cousin. I’ve been down several times with serious injuries, and without them it would have been tough to get through those periods. My wife has supported me when I’ve been down and she gives me a sensible approach to use making decisions about my career. And with my cousin wanting to be a rider, I get the picture a young rider sees these days…

When we’re racing at Laurel, I’ll stay at a motel near the track because the trip from my home near Delaware Park to Laurel would mean I’d have to get up around 3:00 to get to the track for training hours. So staying at Laurel, I can get up around 5:00a.m. and be at the track on time. Then after training hours, I usually either go back to my room and catch a quick nap or go to the jocks’ room and hang out ’til the racing starts…

I’ve got the diet under control, I eat a lot of fish and chicken. My tough days are dark days, it’s tougher to keep the weight down on days when I’m not riding…

When I’m going through the racing day I just try to keep my mind clear and deal with things one race at a time. I just put the races behind me and concentrate on the one coming up next. Right now I’m in such a good, positive frame of mind that I just bring that positive feeling to my mount as we go to the gate. You have to know you’re doing your best, you give your mount the best ride possible win or lose then move on…

TREVOR McCARTHY

Trevor McCarthy

Trevor McCarthy. Photo by The Racing Biz.

Trevor McCarthy, a son of former jockey Mike McCarthy, has established himself as among the best jocks in the region. McCarthy is likely to reach the 1,500 win mark during 2020, and his mounts have earned more than $48 million. He has won 17 graded stakes, including at least two in each of the last six years and a career-best five in 2019. He is engaged to fellow jockey Katie Davis.

Since I bought a house near Laurel, I’m usually at the track by 5:30 a.m. I’ll get on my workers, then once that’s done I’ll head to the jock’s room to reduce. I’m naturally tall, and, watching my dad reduce during his career, I’ve learned early how to keep my weight under control. I eat a lot of fish, vegetables and chicken and as long as I’m active and riding a lot of horses, I don’t have a lot of problems with weight…

I’d say I put around 50,000 (miles) a year on my car. In this area a rider can start the day driving from Delaware to Laurel to get on horses, ride at Laurel in the afternoon, then drive to Penn National to ride the evening program. That’s a day that can start around 4:00 a.m. and not end until around midnight. It can really be a grind…

Having watched my dad growing up has helped me a lot when he comes to handling the peaks and valleys of riding. I learned from watching him and how he would be when he came home after a tough day, and I’ve tried to apply that to my mental approach. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard; it’s probably the toughest part of the game, the frustration of losing. I’m an intense competitor. I want to win on every horse I ride, and, of course, that’s not going to happen. Here again, talking with my dad helps a lot; he keeps my head on straight and shows me how to keep things in their proper perspective…

I’m really lucky I’ve got my dad to call upon on the financial front. He goes over my financial portfolio; we talk about how I should invest my money, and how I can make what I earn work for me. I’ve seen more than one rider fail to handle his money prudently and wind up squandering what he worked so hard to earn. There’s nothing sadder than seeing a jockey who was successful and won a lot of races wind up having to struggle to survive financially. I made a promise not to let that happen to me. I put a lot of time and effort into being as fully informed as possible when it comes to what happens to my money…

VICTOR CARRASCO

Victor Carrasco

Victor Carrasco won the 1,000th race of his career Jan. 26 aboard Justin Front. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Victor Carrasco won the 2013 Eclipse Award as champion apprentice jockey and has gone on to rank in the national top 50 by earnings four times. Carrasco recently recorded his 1,000th career victory, and his mounts have earned nearly $29 million. He’s been trainer Rodney Jenkins’ go-to rider in recent years, and his top runners include Phlash Phelps, Cordmaker, and Shimmering Aspen.

I’ve got a place that’s located half way between Pimlico and Laurel. It’s 13 miles from Pimlico and 18 miles from Laurel, so I can get to the track between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. in the morning…

I’ve had kidney stone problems, and I have to watch my calcium input carefully. I’ve given up sodas and and caffeine and just have to watch what I drink or eat…

I really like to run and jog, and you’ll see me doing that whenever I’ve got free time. I like to get on the treadmill and do some jogging if I have an opening between mounts, and I’ll jog the track before the races if I have time. It’s more like a hobby than a chore…

I just try to keep a positive attitude every day. I know I’m not perfect, and I can’t win every race I ride. If I know I tried hard and did my best, then at the end of the day all I can do is move on and know tomorrow’s another day. I talk to my uncle Victor (Carrasco), who’s a trainer, and he gives me a lot of encouragement and guidance. It’s never easy to lose but you have to know it’s part of the business…

 

KATIE DAVIS

Katie Davis

Katie Davis. Photo by HoofprintsInc.com.

Katie Davis certainly comes from a riding family. Her father, Robbie, was a jockey who won nearly 3,400 races. Her brother Dylan and sister Jackie are also jockeys, Dylan riding primarily in New York and Jackie at Penn National. Katie has won 216 races in her career, with combined purse earnings of more than $5.8 million. With 52 wins and over $1.4 million in purse earnings, 2019 was the second best year of her career, and she’s off to a strong start in 2020. She and Trevor McCarthy are to be married April 2.

When we’re home, we’re a couple, but when we head out the door we’re fellow professionals and competitors. We root for each other unless we’re in the same race; then all bets are off. Bragging rights go a long way in our house. I know Trevor so well I can predict his behavior. The girls’ quarters are by the walkway leading back to the main jock’s room, and I’ll tell the other girls, “Watch this, he (Trevor) will be cussing and ranting,” and sure enough, he’ll come rumbling by.

But once the day’s over, we’ll be back home, we’ll talk some about the day, but then we like to kick back and relax and put the job aside. In this game you’ve got to do that, otherwise it’ll eat you up….

As a female rider we’ve got added pressure to perform because, unfortunately, there’re still a lot of people in the business who will say we didn’t win on a horse simply because we’re a girl. That makes me mad as hell, but I know in my mind I’ve given that horse every chance to win, and it was the circumstances of the race and the horse who had as much to do with losing as the rider. I watch and follow horses I’ve been taken off of, and more often than not they lose with other riders, too. You kinda have to ride with a chip on your shoulder a bit, but you’ve also got to be a professional and just move on, it’s just part of the game. Trevor is a big help in that regard; he tries to keep me grounded and keeping the right kind of attitude…

 

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About The Author

Doug McCoy

Doug McCoy has been a racing writer and chartcaller since 1972. He retired in late 2013 after 23 years (and 150 Grade 1 charts called) with Equibase and continues to write for the The Racing Biz and The Blood-Horse.

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