Cassandra Buckley

Cassandra Buckley is a young apprentice jockey riding down in Louisiana and I emailed her some questions and here is what she said to them:

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

CB: I was born in Pittsfield, Mass and lived there until I was 17 years old.

FOTH: What type of girl were you growing up?

CB: Growing up I was pretty shy, I loved to read and did really well in school. I also tried every sport imaginable from basketball and soccer to figure skating and cheerleading.

FOTH: Did you always have a love for the horses?

CB: As long as I can remember! I always told people that I came out of the womb wanting to be a jockey. Every book, movie, TV show etc. that had anything to do with a horse I was interested in and had to watch or have.

FOTH: What did you think when you saw your first live horse race?

CB: I don't remember my very first, but my dad used to take me to the Northampton Fair every summer which had some dinky little races on the weekends. Now looking back at it I realize what a circus it was, but back then it was the coolest thing to me. I loved watching the horses in the paddock before the race, I couldn't get enough. We would always sit right by the finish line, it was so exciting for me to watch them come racing by.

FOTH: At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to become a jockey?

CB: I always dreamed of it, but when I was 18 I remember watching Edgar Prado and Barbaro (bless his soul) on their journey towards the Kentucky Derby and I knew that I had to be a jockey. It was in my blood, I couldn't ignore it.

FOTH: Did you have somebody teach you how to ride and stuff and does it feel natural for you to get up on a horse?

CB: I went to the North American Racing Academy the very first semester it was open in 2006, but that wasn't for me. I'd been riding hunter/jumpers since I was 15 and after that I ponied in Kentucky. I stopped working with racehorses until November of 2008 when I got a job breaking babies and learning how to gallop in Louisiana. The desire to ride races never left me, and so I moved to the farm for the Winter then went to Louisiana Downs last summer and got a job galloping for Brian House. Brian really took me under his wing, and has helped and taught me practically everything I know about galloping and breezing horses. Riding's always been natural for me, and I've always been very determined and motivated it's just been a blessing having someone to really care and take their time to bring out the best in me.

FOTH: Tell me about your 1st race and were you nervous at all before it and where was it?

CB: My first race was on June 25, 2010 at Louisiana Downs. It was on a 1st time starter named Crimson Panchie, a filly I gallop every day for Brian House. I'm friends with the other girls in the room, and I was actually late getting dressed so I was rushing to get out on time and get pictures taken and everything so besides not having the time to be, I really wasn't too nervous until right before we went in the gates. She can be a little silly and so when she wanted to act up a little bit I had a few butterflies but as soon as we got in the gates that all went out the window and it was on. We ended up running 3rd. :) I was very proud of her, she did everything perfectly.

FOTH: Tell me about your 1st win and did you win by a lot or a little and did the jocks get you after the race and did you know it was coming? (if you don't have a win yet, skip this question)

CB: My 1st win was actually my 3rd start on July 4, 2010. It was a mile and 70yd race and I was on a horse named Handsomely, trained again by Brian. He paid $16.80 and I won by a neck. It was truly incredible. Coming out of the final turn I was 3 in front and wasn't really sure who was gaining on me so I'm just riding and riding and when we come up on the 1/16 pole the 11 horse with Patrick Valenzuela starts drawing up on my outside. He was rolling and I really thought he was actually going to get me and win. I hit my horse a couple more times and started yelling "Go! Go! Go!" then just hand rode him with everything I had from the 70yd pole and he dug in and pulled out by a neck. As soon as we crossed the wire Pat and I looked at each other, I said "Woohoo!!!" and he congratulated me and gave me a pat on the back. Of course he was the first one to get me on the way back to the jocks room with a face full of shaving cream! They got me good LOL but it was all in good fun, I was trying to sneak back in but everyone was waiting for me. I smelled like a giant hot dog by the time they were done with me. LOL

FOTH: So far do you think you have been treated fairly as a jockey?

CB: So far, yes. But I just started. I think people get treated differently based on their personality and their ability just as much as if they're a man or a woman. So I'm hoping that by being myself, outgoing and nice to everyone I see and my ability to ride well will dominate over any feelings of inadequacy towards women jockeys that an owner or a trainer might have and that they'll give me a shot if I'm the best fit for their horse.

FOTH: Do you ever have any problems with your weight?

CB: I don't have problems, I just have to watch what I eat when it comes time to ride. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, tuna and salads. I allow myself little treats though. I'm a chocolate fanatic! And I also go to the gym 4-5 days a week and do 30 minutes of cardio and different aerobics classes like yoga, pilates, zumba, belly dancing and water aerobics.

FOTH: With your races do you watch your race replays do you see what you did wrong and what you did right?

CB: I get a copy of my race and watch it as many times as I need to that night. I also write up a little report of my thoughts on either what I did wrong, right, could've done better, might want to try, etc. The stewards read it and go over my race with me and so does Brian.

FOTH: Do you have any short term or long term goals for yourself?

CB: Yes. Without goals, you have no motivation to push yourself. There's a little less than 3 months left of the meet at Louisiana Downs, so my goal is to win 25 races while I'm here. I'd love to be nominated for an Eclipse Award and win a stakes race while still an apprentice. Long term, Kentucky Derby of course. :) But I would absolutely be honored to ride in the Dubai World Cup someday as well.

FOTH: Is there any one track that you hope to ride at one day?

CB: Keeneland. I love Kentucky, my parents live there and that's where I have a lot of good memories from when I first came to the track. Keeneland is also just so beautiful, and everyone loves to go out to the races there and get dressed up and have a good time.

FOTH: What do you parents think about you riding?

CB: My mom was finally able to stop crying after I rode my first race, then I had my first win so now she's crying again! LOL They're very supportive, and very excited and proud of me. It was great that they were actually in town for my first win.

FOTH: Does the threat of being injured enter your mind a lot or do you just block that sort of thing out of your mind?

CB: I don't really think about it that much. I've been injured before, broken an ankle, and my foot, separated ribs, fractured wrist. But I've actually been really lucky that I've had some pretty awful looking spills and come out with little injury. They tell me I must be made of rubber because I bounce...a lot. As a rider, whether a jockey or an exercise rider you understand the risk you take. However, the love and passion for riding and the horse outweighs that risk and when that stops, that's when you should stop riding too.

FOTH: Take me through what you do in a typical day?

CB: I wake up at 4:!5 every morning, take my dogs out before work and get to the track about 5:15. Some days I go in early and help hot walk horses. I gallop between 5-6 a day, and work horses for whoever asks me. then I come home and take care of my 2 dogs and 2 kittens. I usually take a shower and a nap, then get up and go to the gym for a couple of hours and then go and work with my paint filly, Sonora. On race days I go in to the jocks room about 12. And I'm usually in bed by 8:30

FOTH: Is there any other jockeys or athletes that you admire?

CB: Edgar Prado, Laffit Pincay, Calvin Borel, Joe Talamo, Julie Krone...There are a lot of jockeys here in Louisiana too that have been very helpful in giving me riding tips and now, racing tips.

FOTH: What are some things you like to do when your not doing horse racing related stuff?

CB: I'm a girl, so, shopping!! LOL I also like going to the lake with friends and taking our dogs, and going to the movies and things like that. I'm also a bit of a clean freak so yes, vacuuming and cleaning my house is not a chore but something I do for fun. :)

FOTH: Do you think one way or another you will always be involved in horse racing?

CB: Definitely. When it's a part of you, there's no changing it. And horse racing isn't just a job, it's a life style. It's hard to do anything else and be happy.

FOTH: What is the feeling like getting up on a horse and riding it?

CB: There's really no other feeling like it. It's like coming home. Everything else, any stress or worry or bother on my mind just goes away. I'm truly blessed to be able to do what I love for a living.

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

CB: I would tell her that whatever she wants to be, to put her heart and soul in it and pursue her dreams. Don't let anyone else stand in her way or try and stop her and just always follow her heart.

FOTH: What tracks have you rode at so far?

CB: So far I've galloped at Louisiana Downs and Delta Downs and just ridden 3 races at LAD.

FOTH: Do you have a favorite horse or trainer that you have rode for?

CB: Well, Panchie is special because we ran both of our first races together...and Handsomely is special because we broke our maidens together. And Brian House is more than just a trainer to me, he's my mentor and really like my father.

FOTH: Cassandra I am out of questions and double thumbs up for the interview. Any last words the floor is yours

CB: Double thumbs up to you! I just want everyone out there, guys or girls to know that dreams do come true. If you want it bad enough, and are willing to work hard enough for it, the success is that much better than having something just handed to you. Don't ever settle for mediocrity and follow your dreams!!! Thanks for the interview!

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