Jessica Rice

FOTH: It has been awhile since our last interview. What have you been up to the past few years?

JR: After I lost my “bug” here at Parx (aka Philadelphia park) in 2006, I took a year off and took some college classes at Bucks Co and got a real estate license with the then intention of going to Virginia and work for my grandfather, who was a broker and he was just opening a new branch in CT. No sooner than I completed my real estate classes, the market crashed in 2007. Then I went to West Palm Meadows, in FL and got an ex-rider job with Michael Matz and Barclay Tagg at the Palm Meadow Racing Trainer Center. The next spring (08) I moved up to Monmouth Park and started the meet as an assistant trainer for Greg Sacco. By the end of the meet I was riding races again. After the meet was over I went back to Florida. I started working at Ocala in and was breaking babies. I got some work done breezing 2 yr. olds at the sales at OB’s. A trainer I worked for in Ocala had a string of horses had asked me if I wanted to ride them. That was John Shaw and he is till this day one of my dearest friends. I spent about 2 years at Calder Race Course and then last yr. (2012) I went and rode the meet Colonial Downs till their meet ended in August. I went back to Charlestown for a few months before I came back here.

FOTH: Do you think when you started riding that you would still be riding these days?

JR: Honestly, yes. My mother was a jockey for 20 years and my father trained for about 30 years. My grandfather owned the majority of the horses that my father trained and my mom was the jockey. It was almost as if it was a way of life for me. I’ve never been interested in doing other things. At one point when I was in Florida, I started my own mural business. I also plan on writing a book one day.

FOTH: I know your rode at Parx/Phila Park back in 06 then became an ex-rider and now your back riding. Did you sort of retire or need a break from race riding?

JR: Both actually. At one point my old injuries were causing me so much pain I honestly thought I’d have to hang it up for good. I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to ride again and I would just have to deal with the pain. The reason I would just take off or take a “break” was due to the fact that the politics of the business left a sour taste in my mouth. I truly lovely and deeply love horses and didn’t deal with all the drama and had a hard time with horses being nothing more than dollar signs.

FOTH: I know you had ridden at Charlestown in the past. What is like riding down there and are the turns as tight as I have heard they are?

JR: Charlestown is my favorite track to ride at. I love going 4 ½ furlongs especially if I have speed. The simple fact that I learned how to ride there makes it feel special to me. When I left the bullring for the 1st time, I had a hard time adjusting to a mile long track. I was born in Charlestown. I lived there till I was like 8 and then moved to a family farm in VA. My mother and father continued to race there for their entire careers. My mother, being one of the top riders there, did a good job teaching me how to be able to break from the gate very well, which is a must at Charlestown. I learned how to gallop on a farm when I was 11 or 12 and when I was 16 I got my ex-rider license there. It being a bull ring was natural. I’ve always done well there, but it just a productive environment where I’d like to go with my career.

FOTH: Did you have to prepare to ride there differently than other tracks?

JR: No not at all. When I have gone back to ride in the past, it is like a natural feeling. Especially to ride a 4 ½ furlong race on a really fast horse. There is no bigger adrenaline rush.

FOTH: I know you went down to Florida at one point to ride and you rode at Calder. Was that the only track down in Florida and what was that experience like.

JR: Florida is like no other place. The 1st time I went to Florida I left Philadelphia with whatever I could fit in my truck. My parents had brought a house in Ocala, FL after they got out of the horse business. They had a brand new 42 RC that I could take down to West Palm Beach to live in for the winter while I worked at Palm Meadows. When I and my mother tried to find campsite relativity close to the training center, we were told that every campground in South Florida must be booked a year in advance. We had only one other option; a trailer park. I eased a corner lot against a high wall that iguanas would sun themselves on and eat sea grapefruit from the tress at the back of the lot. The purpose of the high wall was to separate the trailer park from the train station directly on the other side of the wall from my camper. It was also part of an overpass of i-95. The homeless people, bums and beggars never bothered me expect when they took a shot behind my camper and they wouldn’t even bother to dig a hole 1st! The big freight train rolled thru and shook my whole camper for 5 minutes plus. Then soon after I would hear “South Bound Train in 10 min” and every ten minutes for the rest of the day. I adapted well. The next time I went back to Florida I moved in with my parents and got jobs breaking babies. I loved it. I made great money without all the stress of being at the racetrack. The final 2 years I spent at Ocala, I worked for John Shaw. He remembered me from when I had the bug”. I think I rode one race for him. He said I was one of the best riders he ever had. He is the best trainer I have worked for. When I 1st started working for him, his trainer license was suspended for 2 years. He would get yearlings from the Keeneland sale, break them, and sell them for a profit. He liked how I could tell him which horses were good and which ones were bad. When it came for his suspension to be up, he asked if I wanted to go to Calder and I could gallop in the morning and ride in the afternoon. I was thrilled about the opportunity. I would go back and forth with him from Ocala to Calder and help decide which horses to bring first. After a while I wanted to ride more and Calder is a very tough place for a female to get mounts. So I left to go to Colonial Downs.

FOTH: Do you feel you have a certain riding style.

JR: Yes. Everyone does. But it has changed a lot over the past ten years. I’ve developed much better seat and I am able to finish strong. For example, a race that I won at Penn National on 06/06/13 for Phil Aristone, the win pic, I looked my mother going across the wire 1st.

FOTH: Looking back, how do you feel you did as an apprentice rider?

JR: I feel like if I knew what I knew now, I would have done a lot better. I know how I would have done things a lot differently and had a lot more success.

FOTH: Take me through a typical day.

JR: Alarm goes off at 4:45am. I make coffee for me my boyfriend. I look at the weather and I put on some mascara, blush and lip gloss and pick out my outfit for work and a bandana to match, the goggles, belt and t-shirt. I get to the track about 5:45am. I freelance from 6am to 7am and from 7a, to 8am I try and get on as many horses for Phil Aristone and then after the break (there is a 30 min break during training in the morning-cf) I help my boyfriend with his horse and whatever else I have scheduled after the break. When I get home, if I am not riding and it’s a nice day I go to the pool and get some sun. Then in the evening I spend time with my boyfriend watching movies till we fall asleep.

FOTH: Do you hate riding in the cold and how do you preparer for it?

JR: I don’t hate riding in the cold, but due to the serious of my injuries (the metal rod, the screws, the pins) the cold doesn’t like me, but I’m tough and don’t allow myself to use that as an excuse any longer.

FOTH: Do you have any idea how much longer you want to ride for or right now are you taking things day by day?

JR: I still feel I haven’t reached my full potential. I know I’ve only won 50 or so races, but I have always told myself my mother didn’t ride her 1st race until she was 26. She rode for 20 years and won 700 plus races. I feel as though I have a promising future and really taking off and great things are ahead in my future.     

FOTH: Tell me a funny jockey story.

JR: When I left Tampa to finish out my apprenticeship here at Parx, the girl riders here had a little “click”. Joanne Mcdaid and I had the same agent and she was best friends with Maria (Remedio) who had made me her enemy from the get go. They would put shaving cream in my boots and switch around my silks!!!

FOTH: Well let’s fast forward to 2013 and how is it being in the room with Maria nowadays and Shannon Uske as well.

JR: It’s great. I love them both so much. Especially Maria. The 3 of us started riding around the same time and I am so proud of both of them and all of their, well deserved success. Yeah we love to goof off and gossip and Shannon cracks me up because she will tell you like it is blunt and straight to the point. The 3 of us have been through a lot and learned a lot through the years.

FOTH: I know you mentioned before about possibly doing a website. Is that something you still plan on doing?

JR: Yes I still plan on doing a website. Facebook just attracts the wrong kind of attention. There are so many creeps that just want to bother me and I don’t have time for that. I’d like to have it as a pic portfolio, blog, paintings, poetry, etc. Also an email if someone wants to contact me for nothing other than business purposes.

FOTH: Have you had a favorite horse that you had ridden before and/or trainer?

JR: Yes. Her name was “Bar Bingo” and my dad trained her.

FOTH: Have you ever had the opportunity to return the favor when a jockey has had her/his 1st win?

JR: No.

FOTH: If a young girl came up to and said she wanted to become a jockey, what would you tell her?

JR: Get tough.

FOTH: They say Atlantic City Race Course has one of the best turn courses in the US. You rode there not too long ago. How was the turf course?

JR: I just rode the one race and it was pretty good.

FOTH: Is there any track or tracks that you would like to ride at one day?

JR: Belmont and Churchill Downs.

FOTH: What are some things you like to when you are not riding and do you have any sport teams that you like?

JR: No sport teams. I like paining and watching TV with my boyfriend.

FOTH: Any last words and thumbs up for this 2nd interview?

JR: (smiley face).

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