Cheryl Smith is a young jockey that has been doing pretty good down in Louisiana area so I got her on the phone and this is her story so far:
FOTH: Cheryl where were you born and where did you grow up?
CS: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. I pretty much grew up all around New Orleans as I lived in a few different places around there.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up? Were you a tomboy?
CS: Yes I was.
FOTH: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
CS: I have 2 sisters.
FOTH: What do they and your parents think of you being a jockey?
CS: They were apprehensive about it at first, they eventually saw my talent as a rider and they got more comfortable with it and they supported me.
FOTH: When you were young did you know you wanted to become a jockey or was that the farthest thing from your mind?
CS: Yeah it was the farthest thing from my mind at first cause growing up in the city I wasn't exposed to many horses. I was an animal lover as a child and my original goal was to become a vet.
FOTH: Did you go to the Fairgrounds racetrack much before you became a jockey?
FOTH: Is that sort of how you got interested in becoming a jockey?
CS: My passion for becoming a jockey didn't begin until my mom moved to Wisconsin and she brought me a horse and I taught myself how to ride and I got into horses from there and when we moved back to New Orleans with the horse I got exposed to other people with horses and they exposed me to race horses.
FOTH: When you started exercising horses and stuff, was your goal at that time to be a jockey?
CS: Yes that was my goal. Once I knew I could become a jockey that is when I wanted to become a jockey.
FOTH: Did you have a lot of people trying to help you out or did you get a lot of backlash from people?
CS: I had a lot of negative feedback, but I also had a lot of negative feedback, but there was a lot of people willing to put me on horses and give me a chance and give me a try.
FOTH: Looking back now, was becoming a jockey harder or easier than you thought it would be?
CS: It was definitely harder than I thought it would be. Definitely a challenge.
FOTH: Tell us a bit about your 1st race.
CS; My 1st race was on a horse named "Huge Powermad" and the deal with him was I was working him out at Evangeline Downs and the jockey that previously rode him didn't like the horse and didn't want to ride him back. The trainer said if you get your jock's license by the time I get him ready to run you can ride him. My first race was a wonderful experience as I won on this horse the 1st time that I rode him.
FOTH: What was going through your mind jogging the horse back to the winner's circle?
CS: I was like this is unbelievable and it really didn't sink in until they called the race official. I heard them say over the loud speaker that the #6 horse was the winner.
FOTH: Did you get the initiation after the race?
CS: Yes (laughs) I got ice cold water dumped on me.
FOTH: Did you know it was coming?
CS: Yeah I knew it was coming.
FOTH: Have you pretty much just rode down in Louisiana so far?
CS: Yeah, Louisiana Downs, Delta Downs, The Fairgrounds and Evangeline Downs.
FOTH: Out of those 4, what is your favorite and least favorite?
CS: My favorite would have to be the Fairgrounds because it is home and least favorite would be none as I like all 4 tracks, but The Fairgrounds is home.
FOTH: A lot of the trainers down there are they good with putting female riders up on their horses?
CS: Well it is with anything, you have to prove yourself as a rider and I have been doing pretty good. I have been getting like 5 or 6 mounts per card.
FOTH: Has there been any day that has been special to you so far as a jockey?
CS: Yeah, there a few horses that stick out. A few weeks ago I won a race and it paid $94.00 to win.
FOTH: Take us through what you do in a typical day.
CS; I wake up about 5:30 am and I get to the track and I try to talk to some of the regular trainers I gallop for and set up appointments with them. At 6:00 am I meet some of these appointments and start working out their horses and around the break time and I go to the training track, which is about 15 miles from Evangeline Downs and I get on horses over there and then I come back to the track and get on some more horses till like 10:30 am. I am usually in the jock's room around 5pm and getting ready and resting and also checking out what horses I ride for the night.
FOTH: Is there any hobbies or things you like to do when your away from the race track?
CS: I like to dance and spend times with my kids. Most of the time when I get any free time I'll spend with my family and my kids.
FOTH: If a young girl wanted to become a jockey, what advice would you give her?
CS: There is gonna be a really good feeling when you arrive at where you want to arrive, but just don't get discouraged.
FOTH: How long would you like to ride for?
CS: I would like to ride all over the US and to get to the Kentucky Derby and ride with Pat Day and Jerry Bailey levels of riding status. I would also like to ride steeplechase races. Once I do that I'll move on to something else.
FOTH: Have you ever been to any of the slot areas at the tracks?
CS: Yeah, I have walked through it, it's really nice.
FOTH: Do you get anybody that recognizes you?
CS: Oh I am very recognizable.
FOTH: Is Bourban Street as wild and crazy as they say it is?
CS: Yes, it is.
FOTH: Is there any other female riders or athletes that you admire?
CS: Julie Krone.
FOTH: Do you have any problems maintaining your weight?
CS: I am about 5'4 and right now I am an apprentice jockey so I have to watch my weight. Once I lose the bug I'll pretty much be at normal weight.
FOTH: Do you feel with each race you are improving as a jockey?
CS: I feel I have come a long way since that 1st race. I think I have learned more as I have rode.
FOTH: Do you hope to see some more black female riders in the sport with you doing so well?
CS: Yeah I would. As a matter of fact I have had a lot of young kids coming up to me. I always thought growing up the stereotype jockey was a short while male, Mexican male, or Spanish male. I didn't even know there was female jockeys at all. It just gives people the feeling that there is more than one kind of jockey.
FOTH: Have you had any injuries yet?
CS: I have had 2 spills. The 1st time a horse fell down in front of me and my horse tried to jump over the fallen horse and it didn't and I ended up with a concussion and took a couple days off from racing. The 2nd time I broke my nose.
FOTH: I am out of questions. Anything you want to say to wrap this interview up?
CS: We pretty much covered everything. Thanks for the interview.