Janna Sorrells has been on my mailing for a long time and big dummy me finally got around to ask her for an interview and she agreed and big dummy me # 2 thought she was still riding and though some of the questions are about her riding currently, this interview still makes for a great read so this is her story. The pic with her standing next to a older gentleman was just after her 1st win ever:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
JS: I was born in Stockton, Ca. I mostly grew up in Lodi and Walnut Grove, Ca.
FOTH: Did you come from a big or small family and what sort of girl were you when you were growing up?
JS: Small family, I was an only child until I was 7. I was definitely a tom boy, no dolls!!
FOTH: What did you want to be when you were growing and did you have any love for horses as a young girl?
JS: I always loved horses!!! I loved all animals, always bringing a stray home at one time or another. I remember watching the Kentucky Derby; I was probably about eight and thought wow that would be cool. That was the extent of that since we didn't own horses and our family weren't "horsey" people!! I guess I really wanted to be a vet.
FOTH: Now at what point in your life did horses or horse racing start to become part of your life and do you remember seeing your first live horse race and what was it like for you?
JS: I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and my grandpa bought me a pony!! He was my best friend until my grandpa passed away and he was old. As I said, the first race I watched or remember watching was the Derby in like 78. I was emancipated a few years later and moved to Los Angeles, I went to school to become an Audio Engineer. I worked in recording studios, night clubs on the strip and traveled the states in a tour bus. I worked with a lot of great people, but by the time I was like 24 I wanted to pursue becoming a veterinarian!! So, I went back to school and was working as a vet tech. I'm going to try to make a really long story short!! LOL. Our horse husbandry class took a field trip to Santa Anita, it was amazing and I was hooked. Well, now knowing that anybody can go to clockers corner, I would get up at 4:00am go watch the horses, go to work from there and then to school. It was such an exciting yet peaceful feeling watching the horses as the sun came up over the mountains!! I had not ridden since my pony and went to work at the Burbank Equestrian Center in exchange for riding lessons. I BSed my way into a job at Berkley Bloodstock and worked sales prep. After spending many mornings at Clockers Corner, I became friends with David and Heidi Schmidt!! I see the next question will answer the rest of the story... LOL
FOTH: Now did you work on any racetrack prior to becoming a jockey like being a hot walker, groom or ex-rider?
JS: I got a grooms license through David and Heidi and worked for them in the mornings. I also went to their house in monrovia and David taught me the basics of galloping. At Santa Anita the barn across from them was Mike Puhich, we became friends and when David and Heidi ran out of horses I starting working for Mike. Walking hots (walking horses-cf), grooming and eventually galloping!! Lots of funny stories there, but this is an interview and not a novel!!
FOTH: At one point did the idea of becoming a jockey start to enter into your mind? Did you have a lot of support and encouragement from people around you and what did you parents think when you told them you wanted to become a jockey?
JS: I guess from the first time at Clockers Corner, I thought I am going todo that!! Mike Puhich was always encouraging and believed in me, also his assistant at the time Carlton Robbins! Ivan Puhich used to take me to the jocks room to ride the equalizer! I had a lot of support! My parents and I at the time were rebuilding our relationship and they were supportive, but really had no idea what it meant. At this point I quit school, I didn't know if I would make it as a rider or if I would even like it or be good enough but I had to try or I knew I would regret it!!
FOTH: What was it like getting up on a horse for the 1st time? Were you nervous or did it feel natural for you? Did anybody help teach you how to ride and looking back now do you feel that made you a better rider and what were some of things you were taught and who taught you?
JS: Both nervous and natural. I was mostly nervous because I didn't want to screw up!! I really didn't know what I was doing, in fact the first time I galloped for the outriders at SA, I was denied and heartbroken. A little more time and a lot more bs and I was licensed. You have to remember I didn't grow up with horses and really never rode until now and I was 26. So, I wasn't a spring chicken, but I wanted it and I wanted it NOW! So many people helped me and so much was just watching and learning. I was at the races every day! My favorite was Eddy D. I was always asking questions and picking peoples brain. Chris Loseth and his wife Tracy, Carlton, Sandi Gann, Ivan, Mike, Pepe Aragon, etc...
FOTH: What was the feeling like when you finally got your actual jockey license in your hand and how long did it take you from when you wanted to become one to actually becoming a jockey?
JS: It wasn't long; I know it should have taken longer. I think from the time I started working at the track from the time I rode my first race was about a year. The feeling? Amazing!!
FOTH: Tell me about your first race. What track was it at and what was it like being your jockey silks for the first time and were you nervous at all? Where did you finish in the race?
JS: The first race I rode was at Emerald Downs on a horse named "The Beer Runner" for Mike Pegram and Mike Puhich trained. I think I beat a few, I was tired and the whole race was a blurr!! LOL
FOTH: Tell me about your first win. What track was that at and what was the horse’s name? Did you win by a lot of was it in a photo and what was it like jogging the horse back to the winner’s circle and getting your picture taken?
JS: My first win was Harbour Park, which didn't really count. I rode "The Beer Runner" again and we won!! So fun, Kathy Mayo painted me with black hoop crap and had to drive back home like that because the jocks room shower didn't work! My first real win was at Emerald Downs for Frank Lucarelli on a filly named "Hey Call Me"!! I was last on the rail and weaved through to get up in time to win!! It was awesome!!
FOTH: After the race, did the jockey’s get you good and what did they get you with?
JS: Oh yeah!! Jockeys and trainers, water, eggs, shaving cream!! I still have pictures!
FOTH: What tracks have you rode at so far in your career?
JS: Emerald Downs, Santa Anita, Canterbury, Arapaho, Pleasonton, Vallejo, Santa Rosa, Ferndale, Sacramento Fresno, Golden Gate, Yavapai and Turf Paradise.
FOTH: What track are you riding at now and tell me a bit about it?
JS: I retired in 2006 after having my twins!! Being a jockey is full time, I didn't want someone else raising my boys, just to be clear I am not saying that other women riders shouldn't continue riding, this was my decision!! I also, would think that maybe I would have been more cautious. I don't know that for sure!
FOTH: Take me through what you do in a typical day?
JS: Well, now??? Being a mom is a lot harder than being a jockey!! Ha ha. I would get up early; my agent would have my schedule for the morning, work horses, and go to more barns to get your schedule for the next day. Go home, maybe nap, go to the jocks room, read the form, win a few races!!! Ha ha.
FOTH: What do you like to do when you’re not doing horse related stuff?
JS: Now my kids are my #1 priority and I homeschool. My husband trains, so between baseball, school and racing we are pretty busy!! When I was riding, it was pretty much all horse related stuff!!
FOTH: Do you feel you have a certain riding style?
JS: Oh, I don't know. I could usually get to the lead if needed or come from off the pace if needed, just depends on the horse, sometimes being a good rider is being a good passenger.
FOTH: How long would you like to ride for and do you have any personal goals you would like to achieve?
JS: I guess I answered that question. As far as goals when I was riding, I was enjoying the ride and loved what I did! I supposed had I been younger I maybe would have pursued the bigger dream! I had already travelled the world in the music business and now looking back as a rider I wish I would have let more things roll off my back and not taken them so personal!!
FOTH: Is there any track or tracks you would love to ride at one day that you haven’t?
FOTH: Is being a jockey what you thought it was going to be and what is the biggest thing that surprised when you started riding?
JS: It is a lot of hard work, determination, blood, sweat and tears!!! Ha ha.
FOTH: Do you think being a female jockey that you have to work that much harder than your male counterparts and do you think you have been treated pretty fairly so far in your career?
JS: Yes and no!! Sometimes I was and a few times not, but oh well!! I worked hard no matter what. I think I had to cowboy up more than most guys at first. I rode a lot that others wouldn't because they were half broke, or bolted or flipped in the gate, etc.. And did well with them. In time, earned respect and gradually got better horses.
FOTH: Have you ever had any injuries and if you have, what was the worst one and does the fear of getting hurt ever enter your mind?
JS:I was struck in the head working a sale, Mike Pegram bid on the horse and called the hospital to tell me he got him and he was going to name him "High Hard One" LOL I broke the orbital bone in my eye and didn't know it. I left the ER and said I just had a concussion, my roommate Justin Vitek took me home and I blew my nose and my eye popped out! Two knee surgeries, I broke my neck in a race in 2004. After the boys were born I went to galloping in the mornings, perfect for me because I could still ride and be with the horses and have the rest of the day with my boys. In 09 a filly flipped over on me and broke my back and pelvis in six places. I am still dealing with a chronic unstable fracture in my back and no longer gallop. I was never afraid to go back and ride after an injury.
FOTH: Do you think you will be involved in horse racing in one form or another or is when you hang up your riding boots so to speak you will move on to other things?
JS: Yeah, right now being a mom is a full time job and my husband trains so, we are still around the track and horses and I have many friends here that train, ride and gallop.
FOTH: I am all out of questions. Thumbs up for the interview and any last words the floor is yours.
JS: Whew, my fingers are sore and that was the short version!! LOL Thanks for what you do, you have done an amazing job and has no doubt opened more doors and has given people an insight of the racing world!! This has brought back a lot of good fun memories and I have made a lot of lifelong friends who have helped me in some way or another!! Thank You!! And by the way....No regrets!!!