Courtney Hernandez is taking some time off to be a mom and I fired off some questions to her and this is what she said to them:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
CH: I was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up? What did you want to be when you were growing up?
CH: I did a lot of sports and activities with school growing up. I played softball until I was in high school and I danced at Jill Listi Dance Studio for 17 years. I grew up with three brothers so, my child hood was always fun. I wanted to be a nurse growing up.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up? What did you want to be when you were growing up?
CH: I was around the horse business since I was born because my father was a jockey. So, my brothers and I grew up around the race track our whole lives. It was great growing up at the race track because I was able to spend a lot of time with my family.
FOTH: How old were you when you saw you’re first live horse race and what did you think of it at the time?
CH: My grandpa and my father had a couple of race horses. When I was about 13 my dad and I raised a horse named Tribute to Monita. My dad taught me how to care for her and teach her how to become a race horse. I enjoyed the time I had with her and especially how much time I was able to spend with my dad. I stayed by his side every day. Soon after I turned 16 and I was able to get a license my dad let me start getting on her in the mornings. He would ride the pony and I would exercise Tribute on the side of him. I then began ponying for Keith Bourgeois in the mornings on a pony named Cutter that my sister in law Jamie Hernandez let me keep for a couple of years. I started exercising horses for Kearney Segura. So, I would gallop in the mornings and Cutter and I would pony the races at night. When I turned 19 I got my license to ride races.
FOTH: So take me through the steps of what led to you becoming a jockey and what was your first job at a racetrack or farm?
CH: Horses always were natural when it came to riding for me. When I started exercising them I always had my dad there to help me learn and get better each every time I would get on a horse. Some of the best advice that I was given was from my dad he always would tell me it’s better to watch everyone else around you and to always listen. Everyone got along with my dad so he has many friends around the race track and I always watched and listened to things he would tell me each and every day because you learn something in this business every day no matter how long you have been around it.
FOTH: How long did you gallop/exercise horses before you actually became a jockey?
CH: I galloped for four years and I ponied for 5 before I rode professionally.
FOTH: What did you parents think when you told them you wanted to become a jockey? Have they ever seen you ride over the years of you being a jockey?
CH: My mom wasn't very excited about me riding at first because I was always her little girl. So, I couldn't imagine what went through her head when she heard her daughter was going to become a jockey. She supported me every step of the way even though she didn't agree with it 100 percent. She always let me know how much she loved me and she just wanted me to be safe. My dad I think loved that I was following what I wanted to do and he was a huge support through my career but, I know he was a little scared for my safety just because he knows what kind of life a jockey has. They both watched me ride all the time. I also have to brothers that are jockeys as well Brian Hernandez Jr. and Colby Hernandez.
FOTH: You started riding in 2013. Tell me what you remember about your 1st race. What track was it at? Were you nervous at all and where did you end up finishing in the race?
CH: My first race was at Delta Downs. I rode a horse for Kearney Segura. I had been galloping the filly before so I knew her pretty well. I remember how cold it was that day. It was raining that day so the track was pretty sloppy. I wasn't very nervous because I knew the horse that I was riding. My dad came in the jocks room and checked on me and made sure I had enough clothes to be warm and my older brother Colby Hernandez was also riding at the same track so he came in to make sure I had everything I needed and to see if I was ready. We finished 5th that day.
FOTH: Tell me about your 1st win. What track was that at and did you win in a photo or did you win pretty easily? Do you remember what was going through your mind jogging the horse back to the winner circle to get your picture taken?
CH: My first win was at Delta Downs on a horse named Mission to Collect trained by Shelton Zenon. I actually dead heated on my first win. So, coming back to the winner circle I was a little excited but I didn't know for sure know if I won or ran second and as I jogged back to the winner circle it came up on the tote board as a dead heat and I just remember everyone screaming when they saw that we won. I remember seeing my dad and brother both in their silks in the winner circles and how proud they were of me. I could see on their faces and it was one day I would never forget because it was two people that meant the world to me.
FOTH: Did the jockeys get you good after the race and did you know it was coming? Have you had the chance to return the favor to another jockey that got their 1st win?
CH: Yes the other riders got me pretty good after my first win. They were waiting for me in the paddock with buckets of water and baby powder. We were able to get a couple of the other bug riders soon after that.
FOTH: Looking back, what was the hardest thing about becoming a jockey and back in 2013 and here it is in 2016, do you have any idea how long you will ride for?
CH: The hardest thing about becoming a jockey was probably my weight but, I didn't have the problem of losing the weight it was keeping it on. I was very small so a lot of trainers didn't care to ride the amount of dead weight I did have to carry. I was 80 pounds when I rode my first race. I recently stopped riding 6 months ago because I will soon be a new mom to my little boy, his name is Liam and he should be here on February 23. I would say maybe I would go back to riding but to be honest I am not exactly sure. I really want to take my time and enjoy being a new mom first and then I will think about. I for sure will keep in close touch with the horses even though I won't be riding.
FOTH: Looking back again, do you feel you have been treated fairly as a jockey your whole career?
CH: I believe everyone that becomes a jockey should know what kind of business they are getting themselves in to so I would say yes I was always treated fairly because I appreciated all the trainers and people that have helped me through my career.
FOTH: Does the thought of being injured ever creep up into your mind at all and have you been hurt at all in your career?
CH: The thought of being hurt didn't really phase me because I tried to protect myself as a rider. As far as riding certain horses and every rider should be smart enough to know what to ride and what not to ride but, sometimes it didn't work like that. I had a couple of minor injuries but nothing really serious. I had a couple of black eyes and concussions and I was flipped on by a horse in the gate and smashed my leg but no broken bones luckily.
FOTH: What tracks have you rode at so far and do you have a favorite that you have rode at? Tell me a little bit about each one.
CH: I have rode at Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs, and the Fair Grounds. My favorite was always The Fair Grounds because it was such a great track to be at. Delta Downs was more like a bull ring so it was a little more intimidating.
FOTH: Do you feel you have a certain riding style?
CH: As far as riding styles I would say the best thing to do is be smart and don't put your horse in any kind of trouble and try to make the best trip for the both of you.
FOTH: How blown away were you by American Pharoah winning the triple crown last year?
CH: American Pharaoh winning the triple crown was one of the most amazing race I have ever seen in my life. I think it is something that no one will ever forget and I was very proud of the horse for giving it his all. I actually won my first stake race the same day American Pharaoh won the triple crown so, it was pretty memorable day for myself.
FOTH: Take me through what a typical day is like for you these days.
CH: A typical day for myself at the time is getting up and going to the track with my fiancé Grant Bourgeois to help my family with the horses at the barn for Keith Bourgeois his father. At the time we are at The Fair Grounds running horses here. I have to stay on the ground because I am carrying our baby but, I still get to interact with the horses each day. I am currently working for The Fair Grounds in Group Sales, it is something very new for myself but, I have to say I really enjoy it.
FOTH: Is there any track that you have not rode at that you would love to ride at one day?
CH: There is a track I would love to ride at just to experience it and I think every rider does and that would be Churchill Downs.
FOTH: If a young girl came up to you and asked you for advice on becoming a jockey, what would you tell her?
CH: I would tell her if you truly love this business and this is something you want to set your life on forever then you go ahead and do it but, make sure you love it. Everyone that has fallen in love with the business understands.
FOTH: If you were not a jockey, what do you think you would be doing with yourself these days?
CH: Well I am for sure looking forward to becoming a new mom and I think I would probably be a school teacher.
FOTH: Where do you see racing in 5 years and do you think that racetracks have to now rely on casinos to survive as now many racetracks have casinos in them?
CH: I think racing 5 years from now will be different for sure but as long as all of our horsemen and people that are associated with the race tracks stick together it will progress.
FOTH: Do you think after you retire that you will stay involved in the sport of horse racing or do you see yourself moving on to something else?
CH: think no matter what I will always follow the horse races no matter what but, life takes us to many different things and I think it will come with time with what will do with my life and right now what’s most important is my family and our happiness.
FOTH: Courtney I am out of questions. Thumbs up for doing this interview and any last words to wrap this up?
CH: Thanks for the interview and good luck with the website Chris.
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