Mary Doser is my favorite jockey and when me and Jim decided to start up this website she was the first jockey I contacted about an interview and she has the honor of being the first female rider we interviewed for the page. I have been following Mary ever since I saw her win 6 races on a card at Great Lakes Downs. Mary has really been coming into her own since 1999 when she won the riding title at Great Lakes as well as leading female jockey for wins in 1999. She also placed in the top 3 in 2000 and 2001. I have met Mary four times and she is one of the niciest jockeys I have ever met and I am proud to include this interview with her on our page.
Mary Doser with Chris at Great Lakes Downs
CF: WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND HOW WERE YOU AS A KID GROWING UP? ANY BROTHERS OR SISTERS?
MARY: I grew up in St. Anthony, Iowa and I grew up on a dairy farm. I was an outdoor kid. Little tomboy. I have 3 brothers and 5 sisters.
CF: DID YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST IN HORSES WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP AND WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER?
MARY: I always had an interest in horses cause we always had horses around when we were rounding up our cattle. We were always saying that we were riding in the Kentucky Derby so that was always a dream to be a jockey and riding in that race. Well at least I had my wish come true or at least part of it.
CF: WHAT EVENTS LED YOU TO BECOMING A JOCKEY?
MARY: After graduating high school and working for a year I decided to go to Kentucky on a bet with a high school friend who said I wouldnít and when I was there the Keeneland meet was going on and an exercise ride for John Oxley did not show up that morning and he asked me to get up on a horse in the shed row and that is what kinda started the whole thing
CF: WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU SAW YOUR 1ST HORSE RACE?
MARY: I just remember I couldnít believe the power. I was standing close to the starting gate when they broke and donít think anybody actually realizes the power there. And then to actually to get on some and I wasnít getting on them on the race track I was just getting on them in shed rows. When they play with the power they have they can lift you right out of the saddle I was surprised by that.
CF: WHO TAUGHT YOU HAD TO RIDE AND WERE THEY ANY JOCKEYS THAT YOU ADMIRED?
MARY: Bill Shoemaker always caught my eye as a matter of fact he rode in a stakes race the 1st day I was down there. Naturally you were in awe of him and everything he had done. John Oxley helped me a lot and I also worked for John Ford and his crew. At the time his crew helped me out a lot. They took extra time to show me things to do with my hands. They were on me a lot about the basics. To learn the basics and always remember those cause that would be what would carry you, were the basics. Donít ever forget the basics they would tell me. So those people helped me out a lot. I wish I could remember all their names. I canít actually say it was trainers, as much as it was their helpers that helped me. They were very good about helping me.
CHRIS: WAS THEIR ANYBODY THAT TRIED TO DISCOURAGE YOU FROM BEING A JOCKEY AND WHAT DID YOU PARENTS THINK OF THE IDEA?
MARY: You always have people discouraging you. It is a competitive business and it seems like if there is someone else around it is also in the same spectrum as you, you are always going to get discouragement from them. But like I said I always had a lot of people giving me support. My parents werenít too keen on the idea I have to admit (laughs). As a matter of fact nobody in my family was too keen on the idea. I t was a long time before any of my family came to watch me ride. I bet I rode for 3 or 4 years before any of my family came to watch me ride.
CHRIS: DO YOU REMEMBER THE NAME OF THE 1ST HORSE YOU EVER RODE? WHAT TRACK WAS IT?
MARY: (Mary went and asked her agent Scott who didnít know) I do know it was at Churchill Downs, but I would have to look it up and I donít have that information in front of me right now. I do remember I got the horse out of the gate real good and we led for like half the race, but I ended up finishing dead last.
CHRIS: BEING A FEMALE RIDER IN A MALE DOMINATED SPORT DID YOU FIND IT TOUGH AT ALL TO GET MOUNTS WHILE STARTING OUT AND DO YOU STILL FIND IT TOUGH NOW?
MARY: Um not so much. Especially now. When I 1st started to ride and even once in awhile now you will run into someone who believes it is a male game and you really shouldnít be in it. But not nearly like the woman years ago and I have to give them a lot of credit because that had to been a tough go for the 1st woman riders. I canít imagine being in that spot. Cause I know when I was learning to gallop you come across a lot of negativity from the older trainers it was just a belief of theirs that this wasnít a womanís sport. It still is much male dominated, but they take us a lot more seriously now especially if you able to prove yourself.
CHRIS: WERE AND WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR 1ST WIN? WHAT WERE YOUR FEELING LIKE GOING INTO THE WINNERíS CIRCLE FOR THE 1ST TIME? DO YOU STILL GET THAT SAME FEELING NOW?
MARY: My 1st win was at River Downs (Ohio) I donít know I guess your mind is at least mine was going a hundred miles an hour thinking your always going to win and a lot of times you get beat. It was a great feeling to finally get that 1st win out of the way. (laughs). It was for somebody that was a friend of mine so that meant a lot also. I remember it was around Halloween because I remember all the pumpkins were set up at River Downs. I was riding this filly, Dondaís Future that her owner brought for a buck. She ended up beating the boys that day. It doesnít matter how many races you win. It doesnít matter if it is claiming race or a stakes race. At the time you hit the wire there is just that rush knowing that you won the race you always get it. You donít care if it is a cheap race or a stake race at that moment you hot the wire it doesnít matter you might think about it differently afterwards. At that exact moment when you hit the wire you get that rush you get.
CHRIS: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TRACKS YOU HAVE RIDDEN AT BESIDES GREAT LAKES DOWNS (MI) AND TAMPA BAY DOWNS (FL)?
MARY: I have ridden at Churchill Downs (KY), Ellis Park (KY)--at time I rode it is was called Latona, Turfway Park, (KY), Keeneland (KY), River Downs (OH), Thistledown (OH), Mountaineer (WV), Horsemanís Park (NE), Arlington (IL), Hoosier Park (IN),
CHRIS: WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST RACE YOU EVER RODE IN AND THE BIGGEST RACE YOU EVER WON?
MARY: I guess the biggest race would have been at Keeneland in the Alphabouy. I hate to say my horse broke down in that race, and the biggest race I won would have the Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park and when I won it was $150,000. Now itís a $200.000 race.
CHRIS: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE RACE TRACK TO RIDE AT AND YOUR FAVORITE HORSE YOU EVER RODE? WHAT TRACKS WOULD YOU LOVE TO SOME DAY RIDE AT?
MARY: Favorite race track to ride would be Keeneland. It is wonderful to ride there. It is always a thrill to win a race there. Schmoopy was a horse that was wonderful to ride. (I saw Mary win about 6 races in a row with this horse at GLD. They were all stake races and the horse was so good that each time it ran it kept winning by more and more lengths. In fact it won its last race at GLD by 22 lengths. The trainer Richard Rettele shipped the horse to Turfway Park in 2000 and with Doser aboard the horse was in a stakes race and took a bad step and injured its leg so bad it would not race again-Chris) We had a lot of success with her. Another filly called Lawyer Talk, which I won that Gardenia with was great. I had a great year with her. We went all around the country with her and she was a very nice horse to ride. I have been to Saratoga (NY) but I never got to ride there. I guess that would be wonderful to get a chance to ride there. Just the prestige to ride there would have to be a thrill. Just like anywhere else you would want to go there with a live horse. (a live horse is horse talk for a horse with a shot to win not just some 50-1 shot-Chris)
CHRIS: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT SO FAR IN YOUR CAREER?
MARY: There has been a lot. To name just one (pauses) I guess it would be not a particular horse or race it has to be there is not a lot of loyalty in this business. That has to be my biggest disappointment. There is not a guarantee of a mount ever. So I guess my biggest disappointment is lack of loyalty.
CHRIS: I KNOW YOU RODE AT THE DETROIT RACE COURSE BEFORE IT CLOSED. HOW WAS THE CLOSING OF THE TRACK FOR YOU?
MARY: I rode there the last 2 or 3 years that it was open. It really wasnít a big deal to me cause I knew something else would open up elsewhere and I even had the hopes that maybe that I could go back to the Kentucky circuit, but that wasnít where my clientele was going at the time. It was a great opening for me at Tampa Bay Downs where a lot of the Michigan people went there and also here at Great Lakes Downs cause a lot of people that I rode at Detroit came up here which was a huge plus for me.
CHRIS: IN 1999 YOU WERE THE LEADING FEMALE RIDER IN THE USA. WAS THAT SURPRISING TO YOU WHEN YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT IT AND HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT IT AROUND THE END OF DECEMBER WHEN IT WAS REALITY THAT YOU HAD THE TITLE OF LEADING FEMALE RIDER?
MARY: It was a surprise. I knew I was close to the top cause my agent kept track of it. I have to give him a lot of credit for that. I donít really watch the stats, but he was big on watching stats, trying to keep my percentage up and having me ride better horses. Quality horses instead of a number of horses. I have to give him a lot of credit for that.
CHRIS: ALSO IN 1999 YOU WON THE GREAT LAKES DOWNS RIDING TITLE WHICH ISNíT EASY CAUSE IT WAS A 132 DAY MEET. HOW WAS THAT ACCOMPLISHMENT IN YOUR CAREER FOR YOU?
MARY: It was a big accomplishment. There was also a lot of mental strain when you get to that. Cause there is always somebody wanting to knock you down. And being a female I think I was wanting to get knocked down even more. There was a lot of pressure there. It took away a lot of the fulfillment that you weigh out of that. There was a lot of pressure.
CHRIS: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE INJURIES YOU HAVE HAD OVER THE YEARS AND WHAT WAS THE WORST ONE?
MARY: I have had a broken nose 2 times, broken hand, broken fingers, broken both ankles, I guess the most severe injury I ever had was a spill at Ellis Park in 1986 and that was when I had a injury to my back and to my spine. I was temporally paralyzed for 48 hours from the waist down. It has had some lasting effects on my back.
CHRIS: HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A RACE?
MARY: First of all I always go through what I am riding that day. You always try and give every horse every physical shot it can to of winning the race. You just donít go look at it and say, "oh this horse is in a tough spot". I try and look at it and see who I can beat. Or how I can beat or if I canít win the whole race how can I beat 5 or 6 horses. Or how can I make the horse run to the best of his ability.
CHRIS: HOW MUCH LONGER DO YOU THINK YOU WILL KEEP RIDING?
MARY: Gosh one only knows baring injury. I would like to ride for a couple more years. I know I am nearing the 1000 win mark. (only a handful of female riders have passed the 1000 win mark which shows just how tough it is to win a 1000 races-Chris) I would like to accomplish that. Like I said if I physically stay sound I canít really answer that question now. I am in good health right now. Iím 40 years old and I can ride for 3, 4 or 5 years. It just depends. Baring any injury I can ride for a few more years.
CHRIS: DO YOU GET BORED AT ALL RIDING OR ARE YOU STILL INTO IT 100%?
MARY: You have to be into or you just couldnít do it. As far as getting bored I canít say get bored. Sometimes you get discouraged on days when ride horses that donít have a shot. Especially when you ride every race and you donít win a race that gets very discouraging. I am lucky where I donít have that happen many days in a row. That is very discouraging to any rider.
CHRIS: WHAT DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO BE DONE TO HELP HORSE RACING? DO YOU THINK IT IS SLOTS THAT NEED TO BE AT EVERY TRACK?
MARY: Slots definitely help that is a proven point. It is hurting the ones that donít have it. The other thing is and there is so many sides to it, but you have to have somebody in it who manages well. Churchill Downs (KY) is one that is managed well. They own so many of the tracks around anymore and they sink money like I said management is a big part of it. Every track with slots the purses have gone up and it is an inspiration to everybody. Of course the larger the purses are the larger number of horses you get and the quality of horses you get also improves. So slots is a big thing too.
CHRIS: HAVE YOU EVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH YOUR WEIGHT? EVER HAVE TO GO SWEAT OFF 4 POUNDS JUST SO YOU COULD RIDE THAT DAY?
MARY: I have been very fortunate. I am short and I do not have a problem and my metabolism is great cause I eat like crazy. (Mary is 4 foot 11" and 108 pounds-Chris) The only time I ever had to watch my weight was when I had the bug. Since then I have been very fortunate. I feel for the people who have to perform 2 jobs. They have to keep their weight down and perform their race track job and that has to be tough.
CHRIS: DO YOU EVER GET RECOGNIZED BY PEOPLE WHEN YOU ARE SAY IN MUSKEGON SHOPPING OR AT THE MOVIES, ETC CAUSE MUSKEGON ISNíT SUCH A BIG TOWN?
MARY: No I canít really say that I have. Once in awhile I may bump into somebody that knows me. I am a pretty quiet person too. (Laughs)
CHRIS: ANY LAST WORDS FOR THE RACING FANS AND A BIG THUMBS UP (Mary laughs loud as I say thumbs up-Chris) FOR THE INTERVIEW MARY?
Any publicity you can get only helps racing and help the riders. It is always
nice to meet the players out there and get support from them. Believe me the
riders hear a lot more from the fans walking by than they think they do. Those
little words of encouragement mean a lot to the rider. Especially riders when
they are having a bad day. Anybody who can give them a holler once in awhile
make them feel a lot better.
Mary Doser at Great Lakes Downs, June, 2001
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