Cheryl Charlton

Cheryl Charlton is a jockey that has been riding for a number of years now and I sent her an email interview and here is what she said to me questions:

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

CC: Pomona, CA till I was 12 then moved to Nuevo and lived there till I was 18.

FOTH: Did you come from a big or small family and what sort of girl were you when you were growing up?

CC: I would say small. 3 other siblings but my older brother moved outta stated when I was young. I would say I was tom boy growing up.

FOTH: What did you want to be when you were growing and did you have any love for horses as a young girl?

CC: I wanted to be a jockey but never thought that wasn’t going to be possible and then I wanted to be a vet but I knew I wouldn't like putting horses down. And yes I huge passion for horses as a young girl. Got my first horse named champagne when I was 5.

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?

CC: Around the age of 14 and I don't remember my first live horse race. :-(

FOTH: Now did you work on any racetrack prior to becoming a jockey like being a hot walker, groom or ex-rider?

CC: No I got lucky and had to avoid all of that extra unnecessary stuff :-)

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?

CC: I was around 13 or 14 and was watching the Kentucky Derby on TV. I knew right then that that is what I wanted to do. Both my mom and dad were extremely supportive and are still to this day.

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?

CC: I don't even remember the first time I was on a horse. I was too young to remember that. I did actually take riding lessons I want to say I was maybe around 7?? I want to say 7 because I didn't have my pony thunder at the time and I got him when I was 8 I do think that it did make me a better rider because it was at such a young age that I learned how to ride and I think that's helped me over the years on these race horses because you are just so comfortable on them.

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?

CC: I was excited. It had taken me a long time to actually get to that point at least that's what it felt like. I remember Keith Craigmyle always saying don't be in a hurry you will know when you are ready. I think I actually finally got my license and started riding when I was 20.

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?

CC: Lol. I don't remember my first race. Haha. I don't remember the horses name or who it was for. ... I do remember being nervous though because I remember I wasn't sure when to go out or when to check.

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?

CC: All I remember saying was I win I win. Lol. Not I won I win. I had Keith pick me up and all it was I win. It was for Keith and the horses name was blended toss. It was an awesome feeling. And I won easy. Had the lead the whole way.

FOTH: After the race, did the jockey’s get you good and what did they get you with?

CC: Haha! Nope!

FOTH: Now I know you ride quarter horses. Don’t you think that is a bit dangerous and tell me a bit about quarter horse racing since I have only seen it on TY on occasion?

CC: I have only ridden a handful of them but the only difference is that everything happens faster. They leave hard and fast and instead of popping you up they go down to the ground like a vette. There amazing. Strong powerful. It's a blast. I wouldn't say that they are any less dangerous then riding one of these thoroughbreds though. All in all I'm sure driving a car could be just a dangerous.

FOTH: Have you ridden in any races besides quarter horses races and are there many female quarter jockeys that you know of?

CC: I mainly ride thoroughbreds. Quarter horses actually never caught my interest. It's weird. I grew up watching the Kentucky derby not Los Al's million dollar quarter horse races so I always thought that thoroughbreds is what I wanted to stick to. I never wanted to ride a quarter horse. Everyone would always ask me when are you going to ride one you’re so good out of the gate and I would always tell them no I don't want to quarter horses aren't my thing so no I don't really no anyone good who is a female who rode quarter horses. I just never paid attention to them until recently.

FOTH: How do you prepare to ride a quarter horse and I assume breaking out of the gate quickly is a must?

CC: I just think of it as riding a thoroughbred. No different.

FOTH: Do you feel that so far you have been got treated pretty fairly or do you feel that you had to work that much harder, being a female jockey, to get mounts and have trainers put you up on horses?

CC: No I have been treated pretty good actually. I don't have to work any harder than anyone else to get mounts. I got pretty lucky on that.

FOTH: Do you still follow other sports at all and what do you like to do when you’re away from the racetrack?

CC: I do follow baseball and football I don't know all the ins and outs but I enjoy watching them on TV and in person. I would say my favorite thing to do is go to the beach. I could never get tired of the beach at least during the summer when it’s warm outside. It's just sooo relaxing. I love hearing the waves.

FOTH: Where do you see the sport of horse racing going? Do you eventually seeing a bunch of tracks closing and just a few surviving in this casino/racetrack era?

CC: Oh yes for sure. You already have Hollywood Park closing so there goes one. I heard talks about Santa Anita as well. I no here at Los Al it's getting harder and harder every year to fill races. I remember when I first started riding it was full fields 4 days a week. Now it's 6 horse fields 3 days a week. So yes I do think some race tracks will be sold or what not. I don’t think it’s gonna happen in the near future no but hopefully if that time comes I will be done riding.

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

CC: Yes!! & it’s go go go.

FOTH: What were some of your favorite tracks that you rode so far and is there any track that you would love to ride at one day?

CC: I love Santa Anita. That is my favorite. There is just so much history there. There really isn't any track that i am just dying to ride at. I am just thankful that to be where I am and am ok with leaving it at that.

FOTH: What was the hardest and easiest thing being a jockey?

CC: The hardest thing being a jockey for me was probably when I was on birth control and my weight sky rocketed to the roof. Lol. No matter how healthy I ate I just kept gaining weight. The easiest thing is just having everything come so natural.

FOTH: Have you ever had any injuries and if you had, what was the worst one and did the fear of getting hurt ever enter your mind?

CC: Knock on wood I have only had a broken collar bone and that was bad enough. It's difficult doing things even the littlest things with only one arm. I wouldn't say fear entered my mind but you do know what you are getting yourself into when you sign up for this kinda job.

FOTH: How long have you been riding and how long would you like to ride for?

CC: I have been riding for about 5 years. I would like to have kids and a family so I guess that will determine how long I ride for.

FOTH: I am all out of questions. Thumbs up for the interview and any last words the floor is yours.

CC: This is an awesome job an awesome career and I’m very blessed that I am doing what I wanted to do. There is nothing better than winning. It's an amazing feeling especially when you win four in one night. This is my best year yet and so far I am the leading rider here at Los Al and I have a very good shot at becoming the first girl leading rider here ever. Just to know that is amazing. It’s a great accomplishment and I wouldn't want to be doing anything more then what I am doing now.

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