Jennifer Jennings is a young jockey that is riding the MD/VA racing circuit and I recently got her on the phone and here is what she said the the questions that I asked her:
FOTH: Jennifer I am going to ask you the question I start off all my interviewws
with, where were you born and where did you grow up?
JJ: I was born in Baltimore, MD and went to Mcdonogh in Ownings Mills, MD and rode some horses there I was in the Baltimore area my whole life.
FOTH: At a young age were you interested in the horses or was that something
that came along later in life.
JJ: Oh since I could I could walk I talked about horses. I rode show horses all my life. I just recently got into race horses like 2 years ago.
FOTH: What were your impressions the 1st time you went to a race track? Was
one of the trcks Laurel or Pimlicio?
JJ: I went to Pimlicio.
FOTH: Were you a tomboy when you were younger like most of the other female
riders I have spoken to?
JJ: No (laughs) I like pink and I like dressing up and I like doing my nails and girly stuff except when it came to the barn, I used to have my own horses and I would clean their stalls and that didn't bother me. When I wasn't at the barn I would like to get dressed up and go to the mall.
FOTH: When did you seriously start to give thought to actually becoming a jockey?
JJ: When I 1st started gallopping at Pimlicio, which was about 2 1/2 years ago, and I was there for a few months, and I was still doing show horses in the afternoon, and I had to make a decision cause I would go down to Florida and on the East Coast for horse shows in the winter and I ended up getting a job with D. Wayne Lucas in Kentucky at Churchill and I went down there and I worked for him for like 2 or 3 months and after Churchill it was either The Fairgrounds or Oaklawn Park and Wayne wanted me to go to Oaklawn Park and I didn't really want to go to Arkansaw so another trainer offered me a job for 5 months at The Fairgrounds so I spent 5 months there and then I came back and started riding for Steve Assumussen in the past year.
FOTH: Now you just mentioned some pretty big name trainers did any of them
teach you stuff as far as riding skills go and stuff like that?
JJ: Wayne was great. Wayne he taught me the proper positions to sit up on a horse cause he always said you never know who is taking your picture. He just showed me how to look good on a horse. He was just a cool layed back guy like there was days I would mess up and he was cool with it, he didn't lose his temper and we did a lot of breezing as he had about 91 2 yr olds at the time, but he was very particular about times, so I had this crazy clock in my head working for him.
FOTH: What did your parents say when you told them you wanted to become a jockey?
JJ: They are terrified and my dad is actually paralized from the neck down from a surfing accident so they are worried that I am gonna get hurt, but they do come and watch me ride.
FOTH: Looking back was becoming a jockey easier or harder than you thought
it was going to be and why?
JJ: It was a lot harder than I thought it was and it is still hard today. I have only rode 10 races so i am still working on it like crazy. I never thought I would be in the gym as much as I am and I never thought I would have muscles looking the way they do when I wear a strapless dress (we both laugh).
FOTH: Is the plan for you to just ride through your apprenticeship and then
see where that leads you or would you like to ride for a number of years?
JJ: Right now I am just taking things one day at a time cause I haven't even started my bug yet as I have only won one race. I am going down to ride at Colonial this summer and hopefully get some experience and hopefully towards the end of the year actually start my bug. We will see how it goes.
FOTH: Tell me a little bit about how it was for you riding your 1st race.
JJ: My first race was at Pimlicio it was claiming $4,000 and the horse's name was Dancing Gooda and it was for Dane Kabinski. I knew the horse pretty well cause I was gallopping for Dane in the morning. I wasn't nervous the whole day but I got nervous as soon as i checked and then I walked down the paddock and I was a little bit nervous, but once I got on the horse I wasn't nervous. I knew all the guys in the race and Jockey Jenna Joubert was also in my race and she really kinda calmed my nerves and showed me the ropes and once we got in the gate it was really cool and it was actually easier than I thought it was gonna be actually.
FOTH: Now I know you won a race. Was that at Pimlico too?
JJ: It was at Pimlicio as well and the horse's name was "Plaigerize", he was a horse that I got on in the mornings and he is my favorite horse of all time which is really cool and it was also my dad's 60th birthday. They were all there and they got in the picture. (very cool-chris) My dad was like "this is the best birthday present ever." It was awesome and I got hit with eggs after the race and all this other stuff that was not so fun.
FOTH: Now was this horse that you won on the favorite, a middle of the road
horse or a longshot?
JJ: He was 2nd choice. He paid like $9.80. Dane told me if I got the lead I was good to go just get her out of the gate as best you can and hopefully another horse won't come near him cause that is the way he runs. I got the lead and I looked back and I was all by myself (laughs) and I was all by myself the whole race.
FOTH: What was it like jogging the horse back to the winner's circle?
JJ: Oh it was so cool and I was so happy cause the horse is a really good lookin horse and my parents were there and it was such a cool winner's circle pic. I can't wait to frame this one.
FOTH: Take me through what you do in a typical day.
JJ: In the morning if I am gallopping for Dane I will usually get up on 8 or 9 horses. Recently I have only been gallopping for him until the break and then after that I will go out and breeze random horses for whoever needs a horse breezed. I just recently got an agent and we are going down to Colonial Downs. After the moring workouts I will go home and take my dog out and take him running at least 2 miles a day or else he will tear my house apart so that keeps me pretty active as well. (laughs) Then I would probably eat something and take a shower and go to the races. Even if I am not riding I will go just to watch and learn, the trainers, the horses and the track.
FOTH: No problems with your weight at all right?
JJ: No not all at all. If I have to do 100 I might have a little trouble, but I am pretty good.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when your away from the track?
JJ: I do some work on the Equizer a lot. I will do out and eat with my boyfriend and walk around town in Annapolis and stuff. I have my own horse at the farm that I like to go see that was a racehorse, but unfortuntaely he can't be ridden anymore he is too beat up and my boyfriend watches as I groom him (laughs).
FOTH: If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to become a jockey,
what advice would you give her?
JJ: I would say make sure you finish school first. I would stay in school cause in this field it is very competitive especially for a female and you are always going to want something you can fall back on and after you finish that I would say get your butt in the gym every single day and try and start working for a top trainer and you can learn a lot and get on some nice horses to start and they will show you the proper way things are done and take it from there.
FOTH: Jennifer I out of questions. Thumbs up for the interview and anything
you wish to stay to wrap this up the floor is yours.
JJ: I really don't have anything to say except I hope Matt wins the 2nd race today.
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