Sherry Walsh is a retired jockey and
she rode at Mountaineer before the slot machine era. I recently got Sherry on
then phone for a trip down memory lane and here is what she said
FOTH: Sherry where were you born and where did you grow up?
SW: I was born in Konastana, Montana and I kinds grew up all over the country cause my dad was a race horse trainer and we moved a lot from track to track.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up?
SW: Quiet. Very quiet and shy.
FOTH: What did your parents think about you being a jockey and did they get a chance to see you ride?
SW: With my dad being a trainer they were just kinda waiting for the day I would start riding. I waited my whole life to ride.
FOTH: Did you know at a young age that you wanted to become a jockey?
SW: No, I wanted to become a jockey as far as I can remember back. With my dad being a trainer my whole life I grew up on the tracks and being a jockey is what I wanted to be.
FOTH: How long did you ride for?
SW: About 10 years.
FOTH: What led to you retiring?
SW: I moved out here to Northern California and there is no race tracks up here I live. The closest track is about 2 1/2 hours away from where I live. So I just quit.
FOTH: What was it like riding in your last race and did you know at the time that it was your last race?
SW: Yeah I did. I was riding at Detroit Race Course (now closed) and all my family was out here and I just decided I was done. I moved out here with my family.
FOTH: I know Detroit has been closed a few years. What are some fond memories you have of that race track?
SW: The main track I rode was Mountaineer Park. I only rode about 3 months at Detroit. I rode most of my career at Mountaineer Park. I had the most fun in my life at Mountaineer. Since I have quit riding I have been barrel racing and I break and train a lot of horses. For me there was nothing that could replace riding in a race. The adrenaline rush and everything you get out of it, there was nothing that could ever replace it for me.
FOTH: Did you ride there at all when there was slot machines?
SW: No this was way before the slots. It was a cheap track then.
FOTH: During your time as a jockey, did you fell you were treated fair as a female rider?
SW: When I rode I rode with the men I never took nothing off of them. The men when I was riding, the men, if the girl was shy or quiet they would push them around in a race or the race track. I never took that off of them. I was hard for them to ride with (laughs) I stood up for the other girls too.
FOTH: What years did you ride?
SW: 1980 to 1989
FOTH: Do you still follow the sport at all?
SW: I have a trainer's license now and I have a couple horses and I might go to Portland Meadows and ride em there. I am raising some babies now. I have a really nice stud that I am breeding my mares to. He is a hennesey stallion by Storm Cat and I am hoping I can take these babies down south and run them down there for some more money.
FOTH: What sort of injuries did you have over your racing career?
SW: I didn't get hurt a whole lot. I was pretty careful out there. I broke my wrist one time. I was in the lead one time and I had another rider come over on top of me and I clicked heels and my horse stumbled and I flew up over the horses head, but I had a hold of the mane and I held onto the mane and that snapped my wrist.
FOTH: What advice would you give a young girl who wanted to become a jockey?
SW: It's hard. You have to compete with the men and a lot of the trainers, they just will not ride women. It can be done. You can win a lot of races if your tough and stick it out.
FOTH: Did you ride at any other tracks beside Mountaineer and Detroit?
SW: Oh yeah. I rode at Thistletown, Erie Downs, River Downs, Beulah Park, Penn National.
FOTH: Did you have a least favorite track?
SW: I didn't care for River Downs a whole lot.
FOTH: What sort of emotions were going through you riding in your last race?
SW: I really didn't think about it a whole lot. I think when I left I kinda figured I would come out here and start riding here and I didn't.
FOTH: Tell us what you can remember about your 1st race if you can.
SW: It was at Mountaineer Park and I rode a horse for trainer Ernie Thortorn and the horse had been getting beat by 50 or 60 lengths, it was horrible.
FOTH: What about your 1st win?
SW: The trainer was Glenn Phillips and the horses name was "Kingston Three" and the horse paid a $162.00 to win. That was also at Mountaineer and it was in the 10th race and their was no riders in the jocks room so I didn't get much stuff dumped on me and I was really glad about that. (we both laugh)
FOTH: Is there any other female riders that you got along with really well?
SW: I got along with all the girls and the men as long they weren't trying to push me out along the track. I pretty much liked everybody. Jayne Painter the 1st time she ever came out of the starting gate was with me. She won her 1st race for my dad. I think you have her on your site. (yes she is-chris) I rode a lot of long shots and a lot of horses that a lot of other jockeys wouldn't ride and I won a lot of races that way.
FOTH: Do you have a favorite moment as a jockey?
SW: I had had one horse for my dad called Best Beds and he got the horse because he was a bolter and the horse had come from Santa Anita. This horse won wide open allowance races there. The horse could run as any horse could run and I don't know what happened to him, but the horse started bolting really bad and he got ruled off a bunch of tracks and my dad ended up with him. I won races at every track we took him too. We could run the horse for as cheap as we wanted too as we knew nobody would claim him. When we would run em he would win.
FOTH: Did you ever have any problems with weight when you were riding?
SW: I have had weight problems my whole life. I'm 5'6' and I weight about 160 now. When I rode I did everything I could to keep the weight off. I didn't for 2 or 3 days at a time, I would flip (throw up-chris), I would take ex-lax, hit the box (the sauna-chris). I had a horrible time when I rode. When I had the bug, the bug did me no good.
FOTH: Sherry thanks for the interview. Any last words to wrap this up?
SW: I loved it when I rode and I still love it. Once your a race tracker your always a race tracker. The people I am around now don't understand that. They are kinda getting used to it with me breeding horses and stuff.
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