Janice L. Blake
FOTH: First off, thanks for doing a new interview. I see you now have your own website. What made you decide to do that, and how long has it been up?
JB: Thanks for the interview, Chris. These days, it is imperative to have an online presence as it allows people to find and communicate with me easily and efficiently. My email address is directly connected to my phone so people can reach me at any time. I have also written a book called How to Exercise a Thoroughbred Race Horse, and this is for sale on my website at www.janicelblake.com. My website has been up over two years. I just redid the entire site and it is brand new again.
FOTH: I know you have 2 books out now as well. Tell me about your first one, and what made you decide to do that. Looking back, was doing that book harder or easier than you thought?
JB: My 13-year-old, horse-crazy niece came to New York for a visit and to learn about race horses. After she left, I began writing down tips for her about riding; like a guide book.
As I was writing, I thought the information would be useful for anybody, so I enlarged the thought of my audience to include people who don't know much about the race track lifestyle. It eventually turned into a book about how to take a horse from the barn to the race track and back safely: what to watch out for, why there are different people on the track: what they do and who they are. It's like taking a horse to the track with me alongside explaining what everything is and why it’s done. I wrote it as if I was holding the hand of my niece on the way to the track so she didn't get hurt.
Most information in the book is learned by word-of-mouth and is experience-based. It is not written down in a manual or guidebook anywhere. This is very interesting to people who don't know anything about what we do.
Writing the book was a wonderfully fun and creative experience. Researching writing styles and material is something I enjoy doing. I didn't find the writing difficult, but making the book right took a great deal of time. There were many aspects of putting it together that just needed doing if it was to turn out how I envisioned it. I read the whole text over and over and over and over, looking for typos and making sure what I wrote was what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I clarified meanings, researched the use of different words, synonyms, antonyms, definitions. Was there a better word to express what I needed to say?
FOTH: How long has the book been out, what sort of reviews have you gotten, and where can people purchase it?
JB: The book has been out since the end of 2013. I have received 16 five Star reviews from people of all levels of experience. It is available on my website at www.janicelblake.com, or from me personally if you see me around. I will be doing book signings at various race tracks in the spring, so look on my website for the Events Calendar stating where I will be and when. I also have a DVD for sale with my six videos on it. You can go to You Tube and search: Janice L. Blake, and they will all come up for you to view. Click the “Like” button after you view it, please.
FOTH: We will get into your 2nd book later. Now that it has been quite a long time, what are some of your memories riding at Garden State Park, and was that your favorite track?
JB: My memories of Garden State mainly concern the condition of the track and what a pleasure it was to ride the turf course. It was one of the best on the East Coast. The people on the backside left an indelible memory, and I can remember a certain security guard, who shall remain nameless, who hassled me to no end, especially when I parked my car between the barns.
Garden State was my favorite track at the time because I won so many races there. I have fond memories of GSP.
FOTH: What tracks have you ridden at over the years? Is there a big difference in every track? If so, can you give me a couple examples?
JB: I’ve ridden at quite a few different tracks in my career such as Atlantic City, Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Charles Town, Colonial Downs, Delaware Park, Finger Lakes, Garden State Park, Hoosier Downs, Laurel Park, Monmouth Park, Mountaineer Park, Parx Racing, Penn National, Pimlico, Presque Isle Downs, Saratoga, Tampa Bay Downs, and Hipodromo do Cristal (Brasil).
Yes, every track is different. The length of the race track is different, how the surface is managed at each track is different, the surface itself is different. Presque Isle is composed of Tapeta. Other tracks have more of a sand base, like Tampa Bay Downs, while others have a clay base like Charles Town. I never wear any new jock pants when riding at Charles Town. That clay just does not come out of your clothes easily! Aqueduct has a bit of salt in it to keep it from freezing in the winter. They are all different, yet similar.
FOTH: Take me through a typical morning that you go through these days?
JB: Actually, these days, I am getting over an injury where the horse threw me into the wall in the barn while shed rowing. He was feeling exuberant, and I came off in mid-air. I broke my shoulder and now that the bone is healed, there are a couple of issues with the surrounding soft tissue. So I am resting and trying not to strain my arm. If I do, it hurts, and so I don’t do that again. I am writing a children’s book and screenplay in the meantime.
FOTH: Do you have any idea how much longer you would like to ride for?
JB: I would love to ride forever. I plan on doing lectures, speaking engagements, consultation work, teaching clinics and more writing.
FOTH: Looking back how long did it take you to really feel comfortable getting up on a horse? Do you feel there should be more schools to teach people how to ride?
JB: I felt comfortable immediately getting on horses, always. I had sat on and ridden horses for as long as I can remember at county fair pony rides and trail rides my parents took me on when I was very small. One time my brother wanted to canter so they let him go ahead of everyone. Well, my horse wanted to go, too, so he took off after my brother’s horse and ran me all the back to the livery stable. I was just 5 years old, but I hung on and it was the most exhilarating thing I had ever done up to that point. After that, there was no question I wanted to go fast on top of a horse. The trail guides were worried that I was going to be crying and frightened when they got back to the barn, but I was all smiles from ear to ear.
No, there doesn’t have to be more schools. People will learn to ride any way they can if they really want to. I do think there should be programs at race tracks that teach people who are already getting on horses some fundamentals they missed coming up. Everybody can learn something new when they are open to it.
FOTH: Obviously, popularity in racing has decreased, where do you see the sport of horse racing in 5 years, and then even in 10 years? Do you see some racetracks closing, and will there ever be another Triple Crown winner?
JB: I’m not worried about horse racing. As long as there’s money to be made, there will be horse racing. Some tracks will close and others will open. It depends on who wants what and who pays whom to get it done. There will be another Triple Crown winner, yes!
FOTH: If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be a jockey, what would you tell her?
JB: I would tell her to look up Frankie Lovato’s information at www.jockeyworld.com, write him an email and get some real-world advice from him. He’s got it all laid out for a rider to learn easily, and he is very open and pleasant to talk to. He has excellent material, and it is well put-together.
My book is also useful for early riders: How to Exercise a Thoroughbred Race Horse by Janice L. Blake at www.janicelblake.com. She could also write me an email off my contact form on my website, and I would give her sound advice as well. email@example.com
FOTH: What are some of the things you think need to be done to attract new fans to the sport?
JB: I think making the jockeys and horses more into celebrities would help the sport, similar to baseball and football players and Nascar drivers. But because race tracks cannot see a measurable monetary increase from the benefits of promoting jockeys and horses, they are not likely to market them to a significant degree.
FOTH: To your knowledge, have you ever brought in a 99-1 shot winner?
JB: No. The longest shot I ever brought home was 80.50-1 at Finger Lakes on a filly named, “It’s Cool to be Small.” And she was a tiny filly, true to her name. She paid $163.00.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when you are not doing something horse racing-related, and are there any other sports you follow?
JB: I enjoy making more money, finding rental properties I’d love to buy, learning, reading, writing, meeting my friends in the City, going to museums. The list is inexhaustible. There are simply not enough hours in the day for me to take everything in. I enjoy watching baseball players run around the field.
FOTH: Casinos and horse racing. A good or bad mix, or a necessary evil nowadays?
JB: I don’t know that much about what goes on between the two to make a valid judgment. The tracks that have casinos seem to be doing better than before they had them. It depends on who is behind-the-scenes negotiating the deals.
FOTH: I know you have ridden in a few female jockey challenges, what are your thoughts on them?
JB: I think the novelty of female jockey challenges brings the fans out and creates interest in the sport. I love riding in them.
FOTH: Now tell me about this new book you have out. What is it called, and what made you decide to do another book?
JB: My latest book is the first in a series for beginning horse people. It is entitled, “How to Groom a Horse.” I am writing a series of books based on the very basic skills it takes to be around horses in a safe way. I will continue to write books about horses, hoping to impart my knowledge and experience to those interested in learning more about horses and how to get along with them better on a very basic level. I am also writing a children’s book, and I have a screenplay in the works.
FOTH: Have you ever had any thoughts of one day becoming a trainer, or that isn’t for you?
JB: I have never thought about being a trainer. I thought about being an assistant one time, but I lied down until the feeling left me.
FOTH: What is the hardest and funniest thing about being a jockey?
JB: The hardest thing is maintaining one’s level of fitness and weight. The funniest thing is living with the horses day-in and day-out and watching how they develop. Some of them are real characters.
FOTH: Tell me a few funny jockey stories and the funniest prank you pulled on somebody. Have you ever had a chance to get a jockey after his/her first win?
JB: The absolutely worst thing I ever did to another jockey was to put my foot on the scale as he was weighing himself so it looked like he was heavier than he really was. Not that bad but not funny, either. Yes, I participate in throwing eggs and spraying shaving cream on the apprentices when they win their first race.
FOTH: How do you prepare to ride in the cold, and is it that bad?
JB: I dress as warmly as I can within reason. It’s not really that bad. People have different tolerances for riding in hot and cold weather. I don’t take much notice of it. I can’t do anything to change it, so I just deal with it.
FOTH: Worse injury you have had and how long were you out for?
JB: I broke my shoulder, and I was out for over 5 months.
FOTH: Over the years has any male jockey tried to start a fight with you?
JB: I can’t say it was on purpose, but in the heat of competition, words are exchanged. (That’s all I have to say about that. J)
FOTH: Do you plan on writing any more books in the future?
JB: Yes, I am writing a series of very basic beginner books, a children’s book, a screenplay and other books about riding and how to treat the horses better.
FOTH: Do you feel you have a certain riding style? If so, where do you think you got it?
JB: I have an aggressive style. I was born like that. It’s in my nature to be competitive. I am the youngest of six, including four brothers, so if I wanted to eat or watch something on television, I had to speak up.
FOTH: (funny question maybe I’ll include it with the interview lol) If you were riding at Parx, how would you torment me, ha ha?
JB: I would tell you I needed to renew my jock’s license. You would ask me for my driver’s license, and I would say I didn’t have it, and can you just let me pass like you did last time? LOL
FOTH: Thumbs up for doing this new interview, any last words to wrap this up?
JB: Check out my website at www.janicelblake.com and sign up for my newsletter or you can sign up by texting “Janice” to 22828. I give advice on horses and riding in general and how to get along better with horses. I also have videos and interviews with jockeys and trainers you can look through. Purchase my book called How to Exercise a Thoroughbred Race Horse. Thank you very much indeed.
Thank you for the interview, Chris, and all that you do for female jockeys.