Inside the jockeys' room
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and Chantal Sutherland-Kruse, a two-time Sovereign Award winner in her native Canada and one of racing's most recognizable personalities, take America's Best Racing's readers inside the jockeys' room in 2014. Stevens and Sutherland-Kruse will provide answers to all sorts of questions such as how jockeys get paid, what goes on between races, whom they admire and what type of music and fashion they favor.
At what age did you first ride a horse and when did you realize you wanted to be a jockey?
STEVENS: I rode my first horse at age three. My mom was a rodeo queen, so she got me up on a horse when I was little. I don’t know what age I knew I wanted to be a jockey. My dad was a trainer and my older brother was a jockey, so I was around it my whole life. We would ride horses around our yard, so it was always in my life.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: There is a picture of my dad and myself when on a horse together when I was three. There was a pony named Barbapoppa that I received at the age of five, and he was very mischievous and maybe even devilish. Barbapoppa was the most fabulous first animal I was to have and challenged me much. Right about when I turned 13, I realized that women could be jockeys, from my travels to the racetrack with my dad. A family friend of my dad’s and a jockey used to come to our house and swim in our pool with his family. This was the man that I asked if he thought I could be a jockey? He replied, “you can be anything that you want to be,” and that is what I still tell young children today.
What is an average race day in the life of a jockey like?
STEVENS: I can only say what my average day is like, as every jockey’s average day is different. I wake up around 6 a.m. I check my weight on the scale. That determines a lot of how my day will shape up. I get ready and feed my dogs. I make a protein shake, read a little bit on the TDN [Thoroughbred Daily News], then head to Clocker’s Corner. Some mornings I work horses, but even if I don't work horses I head out to the track. I talk with my agent and trainers. If it is a race day, I head home and finish reading the TDN. I go through the [Daily Racing] Form and handicap my races. I head down to the jocks’ room and walk a few miles on the treadmill or hit the hot box if I have to. I prefer to walk versus sweating in the box. I then go through the Form again and see if there are any races I want to watch to help me figure out my strategy for the races that day. I hang in the room between races and hopefully make a trip or two to the winner’s circle. After the races, I talk to my agent. I then head home and have dinner with my family or we go out to dinner. Then, I watch a movie or TV and go to bed and do it all over again.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: The average day for me and probably most jocks is busy and slow. For me, it is up at 5 a.m. and an hour drive to the track from Huntington Beach. The first break after the tractors “for jocks” is usually 7:45. The track sees horses at 4:45 a.m. until 10 a.m. Then, for me, it is off for a run or workout or sauna ... pick your inevitable option. The point is to lose a little weight every day and keep the scale consistent. When you ride the first race, you must be in the room by 11 a.m. or ask for permission from the stewards to come in later if you ride later in the day and confirm your weight to them at that time. Once in the room, you may not leave and the girls have separate quarters that only valets may enter. The girls are not allowed in the male jockey room and there is a common room and kitchen that we all can visit. At 12 p.m., we check for the first and are weighed by the clerk of scales and then our valet will take our tack and bring it to our trainer to saddle our first mount of the day, and this will be repeated for every race that we ride in. Once we are finished our races, then we shower and go home.
What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled to ride in a race?
STEVENS: I’ve traveled all over the world. Saudi Arabi was the farthest I ever traveled to ride.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: Dubai, Hong Kong or Japan would be the farthest distance that I have flown to ride in a race.
What’s the most embarrassing song on your iTunes?
STEVENS: I don’t have any embarrassing songs on my iTunes. Maybe if you asked my kids they would think some of the songs I have are embarrassing, but I don't think any of them are embarrassing.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: The most embarrassing song on my iTunes would be lullaby songs that I put on my Pandora shuffle for Brys, Kayla Stra’s son, for when he can’t sleep.
What hobbies do you have away from horse racing?
STEVENS: Golf, and studying horse pedigrees.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: My hobbies away from horse racing would be reading and painting; I love art. Although, I have not painted for some time because my life is so busy.
Who or what makes you laugh?
STEVENS: My 4-year-old daughter Maddie. The things she does and says just makes me laugh.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: My husband makes me laugh every day and my dogs, too. My family is pretty hilarious as well. Oh and my best friend Michel and Anna, that’s “who” makes me laugh. For “what” makes me laugh, is someone who stumbles and then tries to act cool … that’s hilarious.
It’s your last drink and meal on earth. What will it be?
STEVENS: A porterhouse with the best glass of Cabernet.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: My last meal and drink on earth would be Anna’s risotto, glass of champagne with a touch of homegrown oranges and a cookie that my husband makes and maybe one of his pancakes if I really know it’s the end.
Which talent would you most like to have?
STEVENS: The talent that I have to ride. I am truly blessed.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: To sing.
What is your greatest extravagance?
STEVENS: It use to be cars, but I don't really have one now.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: Greatest extravagance, diamonds and Jimmy Choo.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
STEVENS: Being broke. It is the one thing I never want to be.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: Rejection and lack of support.
My friends think it’s weird that I … ?
STEVENS: Am doing these questions instead of hanging out with them watching football.
SUTHERLAND-KRUSE: My friends think it’s weird that I spray perfume on my feet.
I think this will be the year I finally … ?
STEVENS: Grow up