Sally Chappell

A friend put me in touch with jockey Sally Chappell and here is a phone interview I did with this great rider.

FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

SC: I was born in Chicago, IL and I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

FOTH: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

SC: I have one brother that is 2 years older than me and 2 sisters that are 8 years younger than me.

FOTH: What did you parents think when you told them you wanted to be a jockey?

SC: They were mortified. (laughs). I think my dad was happy. I mean he was thinking that was kinda cool. But my mom, no. She thinks I'm a beautiful rider and loves that, but she doesn't watch me ride at all. She has come out to the races a few times, but she is not into it at all.

FOTH: When did you know you wanted to become a jockey?

SC: The first time I ever thought about it I was actually about 15 and Julie Krone was doing an interview and I thought that was cool and that I was the perfect size, 5'2 and I've never changed. And my mom said I was too big to be a jockey and that Julie was small. So I thought I could do the exercising in the morning cause Julie was talking about that in her interview. My mom says "no no no, your too little for that. They have big people for that and little people to ride the races. Your in the middle you can't possibly do that." That was her ploy to get me away from race horses. Anyway it wasn't until I was 20 when I met my first husband that I thought about galloping race horses cause he worked for a quarter horse guy who needed help. So I started galloping quarter horses for Richard Huff in Texas.

FOTH: Did it feel natural getting up on a horse for the first time?

SC: Anything that had to do with horses with me as been very natural to me.

FOTH: Tell us what you remember about your first race?

SC: Last. (much laughter from both of us) I rode for a guy named Bobby Hammer at Remington and that is why my first race sticks out in my mind cause he apologized for putting me on this horse. It was opening day and my first race ever at Remington and he said “you’re going to run last and I'm very sorry, but this is a horse you can ride.” And we finished last. I remember almost everything about the race. I know more about that race than my first win.

FOTH: And that leads me to my next question. What do you remember about your first win?

SC: I remember when I won I kinda snuck through a hole on the rail and beat Dale Cordova who they teased big time after that the horse's name was J. C. Honey. That is all I can remember about the race. It was at Remington.

FOTH: Did you get creamed after the race?

SC: Yes. The boys were told there was to be no painting. I got mustard, ketchup, eggs and honey and all that kind of stuff. Ice water too. After I thought I was all in the clear, the girls came in and did the whole painting and shoe polish thing. Luckily I didn't have to ride another horse after my win. It took me many days to get cleaned up after that.

FOTH: How long have you been riding?

SC: I started in 1992. I was 27 when I started.

FOTH: Looking back do you think you were a good apprentice jockey?

SC: Yeah. I only had my apprentice license a short time. I got 40 wins pretty quickly. (when you start out riding you get a 10 pound allowance. After 5 wins, it goes down to 7 pounds. After 40 wins, you get 5 pounds for one year and then you become a journeyman rider-Chris) People used me back then so it was good.

FOTH: What are some of the tracks you had ridden at?

SC: Remington, Lone Star, Sam Houston, Albuquerque Park, Oaklawn, Blue Ribbon Downs and I know there are others.

FOTH: Do you have a favorite track to ride at?

SC: Well, I call Remington home. The people there are great. We have a great jockey colony at Remington and everybody gets along about 90% of the time.

FOTH: What are some of the injuries you have had over the years and what was the worst one?

SC: The worst one was when I broke my ankle. The only one that kept me off a horse and that was for 6 weeks, was when I was on a horse and the horse flipped over behind the gate and the horse landed on my ankle and broke it. I have gone over rails, under rails, broken ribs, but not one of them has kept me from riding.

FOTH: I know you have rode some quarter horses. How do you approach riding a quarter horse as opposed to a thoroughbred horse?

SC: Basically there is no strategy and you don't have to think about anything, but go, go, go. It is just fun. Zoom and that's it.

FOTH: How much longer would you like to ride?

SC: Till I can't. I have tried to retire for 2 years and it just doesn't happen. I guess it is because it is in your blood and you either have it or you don't. I don't know any rider that says they were gonna retire and then stays retired. I would say I have many years left.

FOTH: Do you have any hobbies or things you like to do when your away from the racetrack?

SC: I do triathlons and road races and stuff. I also work with wood. I do a lot of woodworking. I make ornaments and stuff.

FOTH: If a young girl came up to you and wanted to become a jockey what advice would you give her?

SC: Don't. Go do something else. It is a hard, hard life. If a girl lives through and keep going and everybody telling her don't see will be cut out for it. It is not for everybody. It is a hard life. Tough on your body, lots of hours. If you can handle it and keep going then all I can say is get on as many horses as you can get on. Get with good trainers. I also teach riding lessons and I had 2 that wanted to be a jockey. I brought them with me and they stayed with me for 2 days all morning, up to the jock's room and we had a spill and it introduced them to this is not some glory sport. They thought twice about it.

FOTH: Do you think female jockeys are not given their due respect in the sport of horse racing?

SC: Not quite so much anymore. I have a lot of people rather ride a girl rather than a guy unless the guy really has nice soft hands. I think it is really coming around. Maybe it is not a 50/50 thing yet, but it is much better than when I started.

FOTH: Take us what you do in a typical day.

SC: I am usually up at 5am and at the race track by 6am. I make the rounds and talk to the trainers. I do my workouts and I might check with my agent and he might say be here or there. I work all my horses first and then if somebody needs something galloped I will do that. Then it is home for a nap. I race all afternoon and then go home and do it again.

FOTH: Any other female jockeys you like or admire?

SC: I don't think there is one I don't like. Cindy Noll would be one I really admire. She came to Remington and started off really slow. Didn't take no for an answer. She is somebody I respect a lot. She was being told "They don't like girls here" and she would shoot back 'Yes they will."

FOTH: Sally I would like to thank you for the great interview. Any last words you want to say to wrap this up?

SC: No just thank for the interview and I think it is great you have a jockey website for us girls.

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