Raina Covington

Raina Covington is a young apprentice rider based out of Philadelphia Park. I recently had a chance to get her on the phone for an interview and here is what she said.


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

RC: I was born in Meriden, Connecticut and I also grew up there.

FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up? I notice a lot of the female jockeys are tomboys. Were you one as well?

RC: I was a tomboy, but I was a little bit feminine as well.

FOTH: When you were younger did you know you wanted to be a jockey or was that the farthest thing from your mind?

RC: I knew I wanted to do something with horses and riding. I always had the idea that jockeys were like 4 feet tall. (we both laugh) I guess I'm not too far from that. I always thought I would be too big, but it worked out.

FOTH: What did you think of a race track the 1st time you went to one?

RC: I was very attracted to it instantly. I wanted to do this. No doubt in my mind.

FOTH: What event or events led to you becoming a jockey?

RC: I started galloping horses, there is no jockey school here so I kinda was trying to figure out how I would get into the field and do the business cause riding horses and riding race horses are 2 different things. The best way to do that is to learn how to gallop and learn how to break from the gate and breezing horses and I learned from there.

FOTH: Was it real natural for you getting up on a horse for the first time?

RC: It was easy and natural. I mean I rode bareback for years and years.

FOTH: Looking back was becoming a jockey easier or harder than you thought it would be?

RC: It was harder than I thought it would be. You are definitely using 100% of your body when you ride a race horse. When I was looking at it I was saying "ah I can do that" It is very difficult and there is a lot of fitness involved.

FOTH: What stuff were you taught as far as riding goes and did anybody take you under their wing so to speak?

RC: The very first trainer who ever really really helped me was Frank Posada; he is down at Calder. He taught me how to gallop on his pony, which was an ex race horse and I learned from there. He helped me get my license and then I worked for Frank Gomez.

FOTH: What advice would you give to a young girl who wanted to be a jockey?

RC: Tell her to have a lot of support from her family cause she is gonna need it. You have to be to be a person who is not insecure. You can't take things too personal cause it is not. You just have to keep learning from your experiences, but I would just go ahead and do it. Don't let anybody discourage you and don't let anybody tell you, you can't do it, your the only one that can tell if you can't do it or not.

FOTH: Tell us what you remember about your 1st race.

RC: It was Calder Race Course. I only ran the one race and then didn't run for months and months after that. The horses name was "Kathythetrainer" (hope that is close ha ha-Chris) It was a turf horse. It turned out the track was muddy and the horse finished back there, that is all I know. (laughs)

FOTH: Why was it so long in between races?

RC: I wanted to save some money and I went up to Ocala, Florida and I was breaking babies there. I wanted to learn how to break babies, I wanted to have that under my belt. I did that and you can make a lot of money (laughs) I also made a lot of connections. I met Bill Mott and I was with the best of the best down there.

FOTH: Tell us about your 1st win.

RC: It was The Meadowlands. The trainer was Jeff Correa. And the horse was called Monumential Vending and they came out of NY to ride in New Jersey. It was my 9th mount ever.

FOTH: What was it like going into the winner's circle for the 1st time?

RC: I was overwhelmed. I was like "oh my gosh finally." I couldn't believe it. I really worked hard for it and I was like "I really can do it"

FOTH: Did you get creamed with stuff after the race?

RC: I totally forgot about that. I was so happy and gloating over my win and then I got buckets of water, and cream and I don't even know what else is in that water.

FOTH: I know the jock's room has steps is that were they got ya?

RC: As soon as I got down the steps they got me. (we both laugh)

FOTH: Do you ever ask any other jockeys for advice?

RC: I always leave myself open to a lot of jockeys I respect here at Philadelphia Park. When I very first started I rode at Calder, then my next 3 starts were at Saratoga. Edgar Prado gave me some really nice tips and he is a really classy guy.

FOTH: What was it like for you riding up at Saratoga?

RC: I can't believe I rode there and it was my 2nd lifetime mount and I rode on the turf there and I finished 6th on a horse that had a year lay off. I rode a couple times after that and it was wonderful. I also rode at Belmont on the turf.

FOTH: What made you decide to make the switch from Florida to Philadelphia Park?

RC: I originally came up north because of my family. I wanted to be closer to them and at the time my grandfather wasn't doing so well. I was only seeing them once a year and that got to me. I just started riding in NY and then Gary (Yeager-jockey agent) called me to come down here. He called my many times and I finally returned his call and he said he saw me riding and he thought I could do well here so I took a chance.

FOTH: What do your parents think of you being a jockey?

RC: At first they weren't too thrilled about it and it was all negative. They were worried about me getting hurt, there were not many woman riders, etc. My dad was getting it from his friends as they were saying all the trainers are gonna hit on her and stuff. He was worried and he presented that to me to see how I would handle myself. They are happy now they are on board and they watch my races.

FOTH: Do you have any goals you want to accomplish?

RC: I want to be one of the women that wins 1000 races. I have very high goals and I have been riding all my life. I feel very comfortable on a horse and I don't have any goals and for me the sky's the limit.

FOTH: Any other female jockeys or female athletes you admire?

RC: I admire a lot of female jockeys. You got to admire Rosemary Homeister Jr. When I first she was a very kind person and she is just awesome. I can't say enough nice things about her. Diane Nelson was very helpful while I was in NY.

FOTH: How long would you like to ride for?

RC: Till I can't anymore (we both laugh). Till I'm arthritic he he. I guess into my 40's and I hope to make enough money to retire or something.

FOTH: Take us through a typical day.

RC: Well I wake up about 5am and get ready. Go to the track by like 6:10am, get on my first horse by 6:30am. Gallop some horses. During the break go get myself some hot tea or something. Get on some horses and then come home and maybe go jogging and then go to the jock's room and then I ride some more (laughs). Then I come home and have a soup or salad and then watch my races and I go to bed. It is exciting isn't it Chris? (big time laughter)

FOTH: Is there any hobbies or things you like to do when you are actually are away from the race track?

RC: I write a lot of poetry and I like to read a lot.

FOTH: So far have you gotten in your opinion unfair treatment from any other jockeys or trainers?

RC: If I have I am not aware of it. I'm not sure if it is because I am female or I am an apprentice. I have heard "she is not strong enough" before, but that is about it.

FOTH: If you were not a jockey what do you think you would be doing right now?

RC: I probably have a farm and would be breeding horses and selling them.

FOTH: Your boyfriend is a jockey. Do you ever playfully bust on each other if your riding in the same race?

RC: When I ride I ride against him like anybody else. (laughs). I ride to win and it doesn't matter who I'm riding against.

FOTH: Well I'm out of questions. Thanks for the interview I really enjoyed talking to you. Any last words?

RC: Just thank you and I think your website is a positive thing for the girl riders. Thanks Chris.

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