Danielle Sorese is a bug girl who was riding out at Hawthorne Park and she recently moved to CA and here is her story so far:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
DS: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up?
DS: Most definitely a tomboy. I was always outside getting dirty, skateboarding, four wheeling, stuff like that. When all the girls at school where getting into cheerleading, I played tackle football as the only girl in the league.
FOTH: Did you come from a big of small family and was there a lot to do for you where you grew up?
DS: My immediate family is pretty small; it's just my parents and my older sister. I always found something to do outside, and when I was 10 I started riding hunter/jumpers so I spent most of my time at the barn
FOTH: Did you always have a love for horses or did that come later on in life?
DS: Ever since I did pony rides as a child, I knew I loved them and knew I belonged on top of a horse
FOTH: What did you think of horse racing the 1st time you saw a live horse race?
DS: I don't remember the very first race I saw, as family trips to Arlington Park were pretty regular. I do remember always being so amazed with the racehorses though, like there was something magical about them
FOTH: Now at what point in your life did you know you wanted to become a jockey and at the time did you know what steps it was going to take you to become one?
DS: I remember the specific moment when I was 14, standing on the rail at Arlington, instead of watching the horses run by I was watching the jockeys and thought to myself "I can do that. That's it, what's that I'm going to do". I was absolutely clueless on where to start. I hopped on google, did my research and got in touch with a retired trainer, Les St. Leon, who told me what to do and what to expect. I started showing up at the track every morning, and jockey agent Oscar Sanchez picked me up, got me my first job walking hots (walking horses-chris) and the rest is history.
FOTH: So what was your 1st job on a racetrack and what was it like getting up on a racehorse for the 1st time? Did it feel natural or kinda weird?
DS: I walked horses and ponied a little for Dale Bennett, and learned the very basics of how everything worked in the mornings. I later on started working for Lalo Rodriguez, and he was able to take me on the track with the pony while I learned how to gallop. The racehorses are a whole different animal compared to the hunter/jumpers I've ridden but it still felt natural
FOTH: Now how long did you exercise/breeze horses before you got your jockey license?
DS: About 5 or 6 years. As anxious as I was to ride races, I wanted to be smart and not rush it. I also had some (non-horse related) injuries I had to take some time off for.
FOTH: Did anybody teach you how to ride and were you a fast learner?
DS: Lalo helped me out the most when I first started learning, and honestly I was a very slow learner at first. Something wasn't clicking and Lalo and I now laugh about how we both thought at one point I wasn't going to make it. I stuck with it though and it all started coming to me. I had the honor of working for Allen Jerkens, who was an amazing horseman and taught me a lot about riding, and horsemanship on the ground. I also want to give a lot of credit to Joe and Rosie Sharp (Napravnik), as they really helped me polish up and become a better rider overall.
FOTH: Now tell me about your 1st race, which actually wasn’t that long ago. What track was it at and were you nervous before the race at all? What was going through your mind in the jock’s room and then out in the paddock?
DS: I rode my first race at Arlington Park, which was a dream come true for me since I grew up going to races there. I actually wasn't nervous at all, just overly excited. I took my time to prepare for that day so I felt ready. In fact the only thing I freaked out about was in the post parade, I realized I forgot to zip my pants ha ha. Considering that was the most of my worries I think I can call it a good day. Everything went smoothly and my horse ran a good 3rd
FOTH: Now what were you feeling like back in the jock’s room after your 1st race? Were you just happy to get that race out of the way?
DS: Well as soon as I got off the horse my mom was there waiting for me and gave me a huge hug. She's been through the best and worst times with me throughout my journey, so it was a big moment for us. When I got back to the jocks room I was so jittery and excited, and just couldn't wait to be back out there. I wish I could replay that day over and over again.
FOTH: Now tell me about your 1st win. What track was it at and did you win by a lot or in a photo? What was the feeling like jogging the horse back to the winner’s circle?
DS: My first win was at Hawthorne, the day after Christmas. I rode Lee's Luck (we all call him Pot Roast), this little chestnut who wasn't showing much, but I started getting on him and he just liked me and ran for me. That day, I rushed him out of the gate, took him to the lead and just never looked back. We won by a couple lengths. I've become very attached to him so breaking our maidens together was awesome, and nothing can compare to the feeling of that first win. I rode another race later that day and ended up winning that one too, which was the icing on the cake.
FOTH: Now did the jockey’s get you good after the race and did you know it was coming?
DS: It's funny because I knew to expect it, but when the moment actually came I was so over the moon I was totally caught by surprise. I got buckets of cold water, then someone pulled my helmet off and I had eggs and baby powder smashed into my hair.
FOTH: Take me through what a typical race day is like for you these days?
DS: I get to the track in the morning, a little bit before training starts, and walk around the barns talking to trainers before I start working horses. After that I'll usually go for a run to get warmed up, grab a bite to eat and sometimes get on the equalizer. As soon as I get to the jocks room I really like to focus and get in my "zone" so I always listen to music to get myself pumped.
FOTH: What track are you currently riding at and tell me a bit about what it is like riding there. Is it day or night racing or a combo of both?
DS: I recently moved to California, where I’m breezing horses at San Luis Rey training center, Santa Anita and soon Del Mar. It’s been my biggest dream to be living here so I’m loving every second of it, and I’m very grateful to be getting on so many nice horses. They do day racing here and I’m hoping to make my debut at Del Mar this coming meet.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when you’re not doing horse related things? Are there any other sports you like or sport teams you follow?
DS: I'm big into skydiving; I have close to 300 jumps now. I love boxing, and had my first fight last summer. I don't have time to actively train now but I do plan to get back in the ring again. I also am getting more involved with doing stunts, I've worked on a few movies so far and am hoping to do more with that in the near future. The list goes on but basically I'm just a huge adrenaline junkie always looking for the next adventure.
FOTH: What did your parents think when you told them you wanted to be a jockey?
DS: They are very supportive in anything I want to do, I'm very lucky.
FOTH: So now what if some young girl, say a teenage girl, came up to you and said she wanted to become a jockey, what advice would you give her?
DS: Finish school and it doesn't hurt to have a backup plan. Be smart, be humble, work hard, and most importantly, listen to advice. You don't always have to take the advice, but always have open ears and be willing to learn and you will earn a lot of respect that way. Find someone trustworthy and knowledgeable to take you under their wing. But besides all of that, I say go for it. Life is too short to not follow your dreams.
FOTH: Looking back was becoming a jockey what you thought it was going to be and what was the hardest thing you had to go through?
DS: I didn't really have any expectations. I knew it was what I wanted to do and I was going to make it happen no matter what. I can't really say one particular thing was harder than everything else, but there have been a lot of downfalls, and it's a career that requires extreme dedication, but it's been so worth it so push through all of that.
FOTH: Are there many other female riders at any of the tracks that you have ridden at so far?
DS: There's one other girl that rides one here and there, but other than that I've been flying solo! Rosemary Homeister was at Arlington with me briefly, and she's a very respected and knowledgeable rider, so it was nice having her to mentor me
FOTH: If you were not a jockey what do you think you would be doing with yourself these days?
DS: There are so many things I'd want to be doing, but I'd most likely be pursuing stunts full time.
FOTH: Danielle I am out of questions. Thumbs up for doing this interview and any last words to wrap it up?
DS: Thank you very much, it was a pleasure!
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