I met Remi Gunn a few years back at Colonial Downs and sadly shortly after that she was involved in a very bad spill at Ellis Park and had to retire. Well one night on Facebook I hooked up with her for this great interview and here it is for your reading pleasure:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
RG: I was born in Tallahassee Fl. lived there until 20 and drove an 18 wheeler for 2 and 1/2 years then SC where I got first job with race horses then KY my first day at the races (to watch) was opening day Spring Keeneland meet. It just doesn't get any better than that. Keeneland was where I was Okayed to ride by Tommy Wagner just before he retired.
FOTH: Did you come from a big or small family and what sort of girl were you growing up?
RG: I was an only child and I was adopted. Daddy's girl and very spoiled.
FOTH: At what point did horses enter your life and what did you want to be when you were growing up?
RG: I was hooked on horses at 2 yrs. at Easter pony ride I rode all day. My dad went home and took a nap then he came back and mom went to take nap. The smell the squeaky leather I'll never forget. Couldn't take lessons until 4 yrs. old then got my first pony on my 8th bday his name was Pistol Pete he was evil he did everything he could to drop me every day you might say he was spoiled too.
I wanted to do anything that had to do with horses. I showed hunter/jumpers and did 3 day events I was in the Pony Club etc. showed horses until 18 yrs.
FOTH: What was it like for you seeing a horserace on TV or in person for the 1st time?
RG: 1st race I saw on TV was at a Derby party my parents attended. I was very young they were not horse people but my mom won the raffle and 2 days later horse was disqualified for bad test and I remember being very mad my mom didn't give me the money my horse had run second. Not sure of the year. Should look it up I don't think that happened too often in the Derby.
FOTH: At what point in your life did the idea of becoming a jockey pop into your head?
RG: Becoming a jockey was Bruce Snipe's idea. I was driving 18 wheeler hauled a load for him and he said if I ever wanted to ride to look him up, because of my size. Didn't take it too serious then, got in some trouble with the law ran for 2 yrs. ended up in Aiken and asked Bruce for a job. Found out I was pregnant and after my daughter Bethany was born I begged Timm Frommer and Cot Campbell for a job every day. I told them I'd work for free. Finally Cot said I showed up more than his help but it was Timm who hired me as a hot walker and he taught me how to break babies. He even let me bring my horse to his barn and re-break him without blinkers. Edisto Perry was terrified to see a rider on him. Got Perry from Bruce Snipes. It was an amazing job best horses in the country Claiborne etc. Ended up at Sany Cassette's for a while remember having to watch 15 minute steeple chase races way too often, moved to Florida with baby perry and weaning by triocala. Sent them to wooden horse stud and worked for Jr. Serna for a while then back to Aiken worked with Donny Burton he's the one who took me to KY and Keneland. 1st race horse I was on I knew that was what I was meant to do.
FOTH: How long did you gallop/exercise horses before you decided to become a jockey?
RG: Galloped 2 yrs. all the while wanting to be a jockey. My second daughter Stori's dad took me to bush tracks in KY and I won 8 out of 16 races including the Russell County Derby. Actually won that 2 yrs. in a row.
FOTH: How long did you gallop/exercise horses before you decided to become a jockey?
RG: Timm Frommer taught me to break babies and gallop. Learned to ride races at the bush tracks in KY I always picked boyfriends that could help my riding Stori's dad (Brian Douglas was Woody Stephens number one go to gallop boy he rode swaps etc. he taught me a lot. Donny Snyder taught me easier way to break babies and took me to Gulfstream where I got my first pari-mutual license. First 2 races were at Hialeah without a whip finished last then 4th went to Birmingham AL. won 3 in a row after Donny taught me to make a cross and switch sticks without dropping it or putting it in my mouth. Rode in back of van from Hialeah to Birmingham throwing crosses the whole way. I rode as Remi Snyder a few times then moved on.
FOTH: Did it feel natural for you to get up on horses?
RG: Looking back it was natural. Once my ass hit the saddle it was all good. I know a lot of people think jockeys plan how to ride each race but it never works like you plan.
FOTH: What one thing sticks out in your mind about learning to ride?
RG: I found it easier to let it come natural instead of trying to change my mind from what I planned. Of course I read the form so not to be outside of a horse that runs wide etc. and specially breaks how horses beside me broke in case any problem horses. I mostly rode my own horses and some for friends. Girls were not given the best horses then and I had 4 children. oh by the way Edisto Perry broke his maiden at Russell County won both derbys on him then went to river downs jock did exactly what I said not to do. That’s when I decided to hurry and get my license. Anyway Perry broke his maiden on pari-mutual track at Retama at the ripe old age of 10. Every time I got pregnant Perry got time off so forth.
FOTH: Tell me about your 1st race. What track was it at?
RG: 1st race was Hialeah I waved the bug. Rode Perry he ran last because Donny didn't get him on lasix and he bled very badly. same day rode Speedy Leah to 4th could have won but non-English speaking rider carried me wide and I kept telling him to get off of me but when I realized he didn't speak English I growled at him he stood up my filly was small and almost fell over in front of him once he took a hold of his horse.
FOTH: Tell me about what you remember about your 1st win. What track was it at and di you win by a lot or was it close?
RG: 1st 3 wins were at Birmingham Speedy Leah won allowance race almost midnight. By a length maybe then next 2 on Chastain (who I just buried here on my farm about 3 yrs. ago. He was my first foal I foaled. He won by 10 lengths very wide then Chastain won again from 1 hole still ran very wide by about a length. He was a horse you could not steer or he would slow down. But if you let him run where he wanted he would run all day.
FOTH: Did the jockeys get you good after the race and did you know it was coming?
RG: The jocks got me after my second win and got me good and no I was not expecting it. Lots of stuff going on there I probably shouldn't mention. I rode at all 3 Miami tracks, and Tampa. Churchill, Turfway and Ellis in KY, River downs, Colonial. Retama and Sam Houston in Texas. And of course Birmingham. And 3 or 4 bush tracks in KY.
FOTH: I met you at Colonial Downs a few yrs. back. How do you like the turf course there?
RG: Turf at Colonial was awesome only race I won there was on Betty Sue (horse I got hurt on later) she was running against the boys that night. Ramon Dominguez and I cussed each other all the way down the lane. It was on dirt however. I don't remember that race or the week before. My friend and golf buddy Mike Stout who drove the horse ambulance said I kept telling the EMT's I'm a girl. I don't know what that was about or if I passed out. At the ICU in Evansville, IN. they asked me if I knew what had happened and I said yeah I just won a race on Quick Draw Annie. I had a marble size piece of C-2 break off T-6 was gone spinal cord was completely severed and I had a hoof print around my right eye. Memory troubles still affect me a little vision got a little worse now I have to wear reading glasses. Made quilts for several years they were sold all over the country. In fact Mike Gill's wife bought my favorite one and I don't even have a picture of it. I'd love to see it again, it was called darting minnows. God saved me in a miracle on Aug 13th when they sewed my spinal cord together. I should back up a minute. My daughter Stori and Chaplain Tom Farley were great friends but I worked for myself and did my horses up in 4 bandages myself every day I was very busy so I would run when I saw him coming in his golf cart. In the hospital Ch. Tom and Mike Stout were the only visitors I remember. Ch. Tom said now you can't run from me. I loved him praying for me.
I had never been to church or ever held a Bible. The ICU team wanted to Life Flight me to Gainesville to Dr. Jeffery Henn to do the surgery so my family hauled ass to Fl. When Thank God Dr. Henn called and told them they couldn't move me or it would have killed me. Severed spinal cord and all. As I was going into surgery in Evansville Ch. Tom my doctor and Jesus were beside my bed Jesus was behind my head. I didn't look up but I knew he was there. When I got out of surgery my first words were to Tom I said "I've been saved." I've been excited about God ever since. I wouldn't go back to the fast life I was living (like a cat chasing my tail) for anything God has given me a peace that unless you've felt it it’s hard to explain. After God taught me to quilt I got sick after I got well I learned to drive and went to college for 2 and 1/2 years and became a member of the PHI THETTA KAPPA Honor Society. Had to stop when I became bed ridden 6/19/2010 bad bed sores from wheelchair cushion. Still bed ridden but I'm looking forward to some (as many as possible) speaking engagements. I've put together an hour long program have several coming up in Ocala. Most exciting thing going on in my life right now is I have been FB friends with Barry Irwin of Team Valor for a while. After trying several jobs from bed (research for an attorney, and a college math tutor) didn't pay much so I thought I better get back to what I know and I took a leap and asked Mr. Irwin to give me a chance to train a horse for him. Much to my surprise and delight, he agreed to send me a rehab horse as my test to become part of the team. Rehabbing horses is a specialty of mine. Once I have proven myself to Mr. Irwin he said it would lead to more. I'm so excited I can hardly stand myself. But while I wait for the perfect horse they decide to send me I will do my hour long performance at any church that will invite me. I have a beautiful 1/2 built website for my charity called "Hearts Of Prayer Everywhere.” The website is all lowercase and dot org. the initials spell hope which everyone needs.
FOTH: If a young girl wanted to become a jockey, what advice would you give her?
RG: Young girl wanting to be a jockey DON"T go to college and become a small animal DVM no one ever got hurt being kicked by a cat or dog.
FOTH: You told me your oldest daughter, Bethany is now a jockey. How did you feel about that when she told she wanted to ride especially seeing you had that nasty accident at Ellis Park? I assume you are worried every time she goes out to ride and how would you rate her as a rider?
RG: Well Bethany is no longer a jockey. When she was learning to gallop a horse she was galloping in a field in KY her horse slipped and she broke her neck. She was paralyzed for several days until the swelling went down then she could move everything Praise God but she wore a neck and head brace that looked like a radio tower. When I spoke with her while she was still in the hospital I said you're done riding right? When she said no that she was going ahead to get her jocks license I dropped the phone and we didn't speak for almost 3 months. Once the brace was off she moved to Cal. and didn't tell me she was riding she said she ran the shed for someone. She got pregnant and after my beautiful granddaughter Elizabeth was born she got her jocks license. Everyone kept this from me. After she moved to Louisiana she started riding races and I heard by accident a friend of mine called me to ask if I had seen her win the race. I texted her Congrats and from then on I watched in horror every race. She was very good a natural. She fell and broke her back (she can tell you about her career) then she got married and Monday Nov. 10th she had my 4th grandchild. Stori has a son named Alex and my oldest son Peyton has a 4 month old named Cameron. I have 2 girls 26, and 20 and 2 boys 19 and 17. The 2 boys are going to help me train here at my farm but not too sure about galloping. As you know if they are going to do it you really can't stop them. I said it before but Bethany was as good as any jockey I've ever seen. It just scared me to death too much to enjoy watching.
FOTH: Do you think you were treated fairly as a jockey in your career?
RG: Yes I made sure of it I started older than most jockeys start so leading riders or Stewards didn't bother me. As far as me and Ramon arguing it was more me growling and scaring his horse (very effective) and him bitching. But the stewards said they could hear us and to not do it on the front side. But I wasn't afraid to go through a tight spot but when a rider like Ramon intentionally tried to close the hole once I was committed I would growl and their horse would move out much to their dislike.
FOTH: Hardest thing about being a jockey?
RG: For me the hardest thing was weight. I lived in the sweat box. Now wouldn't you know it my bedroom is large but covered walls with cedar just like a giant sweat box.
FOTH: If you could change a few things about the sport, what would they be?
RG: National rules of racing and no medication and by the way I hate the two year old sales it’s too early and it fry’s their brain. Maybe starting 2yrs later in the year but now I sound like a hypocrite, because the opening day at Keeneland spring the two yr. old debut (best in the country) if it’s done right with the horses best interest first and foremost I guess, but most early 2 yr. starters don't last too long.
FOTH: Tell me about this farm you have.
RG: My farm "Gunn Farm Thoroughbreds" is beautiful when mowed and the trees are trimmed up 30 feet etc. but money is tight it was 70 acres with 2 houses one was 3/2 and 1/2 bath and the one I live in is 5/3 . I sold the south 20 acres with the smaller house. The 50 acres has an 18 stall barn and a 34 stall barn 3/4 from the shoot dirt track 1/2 mile turf course. The dirt track is the best surface anywhere in this area. It’s similar to Hialeah. Black loomy top soil. Horses spring off of it where most tracks in Ocala are clay sand mix which eventually separates and it’s like running on a beach, lots of leg problems. Our call letters in the DRF are Gnn. I have a yearling a 3 yr. old and a mare in foal to Macho Uno. I was his breeze rider when I worked at Adena Springs. Great job, excellent horses best care Stronach no matter what some may say takes the best care of his horses I've ever seen. He retires them and keeps them or re-trains as riding horses. When I was there we had a horse in our barn that had been claimed and Mr. Stronach claimed him back just to retire him. Too bad more owners don't care for their horses like that.
FOTH Remi thumbs up for the interview, any last words to wrap this up?
RG: Thank you Chris let me know if I talked too much.
FOTH: No and thanks for a great interview.
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