Jacklyn Wyatt has been a subscriber to my site for quite some time and dummy me never interviewed until now and here is her story:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
JW: I was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up?
JW: I guess I would be best described as a shy, nerdy tomboy growing up. I was a straight ‘A’ student in school and was never really into anything particularly girly until I started to get older.
FOTH: What did you want to be when you were growing up and did you come from a big family?
JW: As a kid I went through a number of ideas of what I wanted to be and initially in high school I wanted to become a computer programmer so I could make a lot of money to fund my show jumping passion. I’m an only child and when I wasn’t at school or riding horses, I was programming on my computer (and started my online business when I was 15). But when I discovered Thoroughbred horse racing my mind was set on becoming a jockey.
FOTH: At what age did the world of horse racing enter your world?
JW: My parents used to take me to Flamboro Downs every so often from a very young age, so I developed a love for horses and enjoyed harness racing very young. But it wasn’t until I was about 11 or 12 when I discovered Thoroughbred racing and I immediately fell in love with it.
FOTH: Did you have a lot of close friends when you were growing up?
JW: I had a few close friends growing up but as I got older my online business, riding and eventually moving away to pursue my dream of becoming a jockey led to us drifting apart.
FOTH: So tell me a little bit at your 1st job at a racetrack and what track was it at?
JW: First of all, getting my first racetrack job was quite interesting. I had no idea how the racetrack worked or how to get started at all to become a jockey. One night, while my dad was commuting home from Toronto for work, Sandy Hawley was on the radio. My dad called in and eventually got through and was able to ask Sandy if he had any advice for me on how to get started. Sandy was incredibly helpful and told my dad to call him at work and he would see what he could do. That summer I finished high school and started my very first hot-walking job at Woodbine Racetrack for CC Hopmans Jr at age 17. I had to commute an hour from Brantford every day and I was dying to ride rather than walk, but I loved it.
FOTH: At what point did you decide you wanted to become an ex-rider and at the time was the thought of actually becoming a jockey enter your mind?
JW: Once I got my foot in the racetrack door and learned how everything worked, I wanted to start exercise riding. The whole reason I was there was to become a jockey so I was anxious to start getting on horses and working towards that goal.
FOTH: Did anybody teach you how to ride and did getting up on a horse feel natural for you?
JW: I had two fantastic teachers (Izzy Gisborn and Debbie Pearce) while I grew up riding hunter/jumper from about the age of 6. I have always felt that I belong on a horse’s back - it’s very natural.
FOTH: So how long did you exercise horses before you became a jockey?
JW: I was an exercise rider for about four years before I became a jockey.
FOTH: Now when you became a jockey, how did it feel finally having a jockey license in your hand?
JW: It was incredibly exciting to finally have my jockey’s license! My dream was about to become a reality and I couldn’t wait for my first race!
FOTH: What did your parents think about you becoming a jockey?
JW: My parents were very supportive of my jockeying career and still are – they come out to watch me ride as often as they can and you can always hear them cheering! The only thing they have stressed is that I ensure I don’t put my health at risk to make weight.
FOTH: Looking back, was becoming a jockey easier or harder than you thought?
JW: It was a lot harder than I imagined when I first watched a Thoroughbred race and thought to myself “that’s what I want to do.” There is just so much more to it than what meets the eye.
FOTH: Tell me about your 1st race? What track was it at and where did you finish in the race and were you nervous at all?
JW: My first race was at Fort Erie Racetrack aboard an old gelding called Russian First for trainer Sean Hall. The most nerve-wracking part of the experience was the fact that I had only ever been to Fort Erie once before – just to watch – and was really unfamiliar with the whole process and the people there. But everyone was fantastic and I was more excited than anything to get out there and finally race!
It was a whole different feeling and experience from riding in the morning, but it was absolutely exhilarating. We finished seventh in a field of eight.
FOTH: Tell me about your 1st win. What track was it at and did you win by a lot or was it close? What was it like jogging the horse back to the winner’s circle?
JW: My first win was at Woodbine Racetrack aboard Renga’s Girl for trainer Dan Vella. I absolutely loved this filly and had been galloping her nearly every day for about two years before I had the chance to ride her in a race. We were going a mile and a sixteenth on the polytrack and took the lead right out of the gate. Turning for home, someone made a move on our outside and went by us but Renga dug in and we took the lead back and won by a length and a half.
Words really can’t describe how amazing it feels to win! I was so happy, with an enormous smile that took a long time to wipe off of my face, and I took my sweet time coming back to the winner’s circle for our picture, enjoying every last minute of my first win.
FOTH: What did the jocks get you with after the race and did you know it was coming?
JW: Oh man, the girls got me good! I had a little idea that it was coming but I didn’t quite know they would do all the things they did! At Fort Erie I had seen a couple of people get nailed with a bucket of water or the hose, but the girls here didn’t mess around. I was thrown into a laundry bin, stripped down, hands tied, my back written all over in with permanent marker (which didn’t come off for at least a week!), eggs cracked over my head, buckets of ice dumped on me and then I was rolled into the showers where they turned on the cold and left me! It was quite funny and I finally felt like I was one of them.
FOTH: I know you are riding up at Woodbine now. What is the track like up there as I have never been there before?
JW: It’s a fantastic track and you should definitely visit it one day! I think the best part about Woodbine is the EP Taylor turf course. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I love riding on it with its unique turns and long stretch. It’s also great to watch races on since you can get nice and close to the action. The jockey colony is quite diverse and very competitive, which makes it a great place to learn, also.
FOTH: How long would you like to ride for or are you taking things like a week at a time so to speak?
JW: I’m hoping to keep riding for as long as I am healthy and able to do so. Not too long ago I thought my riding career was over, as I injured myself about a year after I started riding races. Doctors and physiotherapists were very frustrating and no one could give me a proper diagnosis. I fought for two and a half years until a surgeon finally gave me the right test and was able to diagnose my injury. After surgery in 2011, I was able to resume my dream of being a jockey in the 2012 season after a full recovery. I am incredibly grateful that I have another chance to do what I love and will continue to do it for as long as I can.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when your away from the racetrack?
JW: A lot of my free time away from the racetrack is spent working on my websites. I have been running Equination.net, a virtual thoroughbred racing simulation game, for over 11 years now, and also have a harness racing game of HarnessNation.com. I also greatly enjoy shopping and love listening to live jazz bands.
FOTH: Do you have any goals for yourself?
JW: I definitely have a lot of goals, some of which are quite lofty! For the most part, though, I want to give it everything I’ve got and strive to continuously improve myself. I hope to become a regular, popular rider at Woodbine and I would really like to be able to ride in some races at a number of US tracks….
FOTH: Would you ever want to come to the US to ride or have you already done that and what track have you seen on TV that you would love to ride at one day?
JW: I would love to! I am actually hoping to get everything sorted out so that I have the legal capability to do so in the next couple of years if the opportunity arises. I love to travel and I’d love to ride at a number of US tracks – Saratoga, Santa Anita, Del Mar, Churchill, Gulfstream and Belmont just to name a few! One of the first tracks I ever watched when I was a kid was Santa Anita. I fell in love with that turf course and would absolutely love to have the chance to ride on it one day.
Another thing I want to try one day is a hurdle race!
FOTH: Take me through what a typical day is like for you nowadays?
JW: A typical day for me last season (it’s our off-season right now, so things are quite laid back here in Ocala, Florida at the moment) was rather hectic. I was my own agent for pretty much the entire season last year on top of freelance galloping and riding races. I’d wake up around 4:30am and be on my first horse by 5:30 or 6:00 – sometimes I would take a horse to our quarter-mile “sand ring” before training would start at 6am. Most mornings I would be running barn to barn getting on anywhere from 9 to 12 horses and trying to do some agent duties as I went along. I would get done around 10:30/11:00am and would then make my rounds as an agent, setting up mounts and my schedule with trainers. If I rode at Fort Erie that day I would usually be on the road for the hour and a half drive there, otherwise I would head to the jockey’s room at Woodbine where I’d pull weight for the day if necessary. While waiting between races I would usually do some work on my websites, which would then continue when I would get home after the races (some time after 6pm). Then it’s off to bed to rest up for it again the next day!
FOTH: What is the worst and best thing about being a jockey?
JW: The worst thing has to be the weight. You have to be very careful about what you eat and sometimes your body just has a mind of its own no matter what you do! The best thing has to be winning. It’s just such a great feeling, no matter the type of race or purse, to be the one who crosses the wire first.
FOTH: Any last words?
JW: Thank you so much for the interview! I have been a long-time fan and subscriber of your website before I started racing and I’m excited I get to be a part of the interviews I’ve enjoyed reading over the years.
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