Patty Head

Patty Head has been busy writing a book among other things and I thought it was about time for a 2nd interview and this is how it went:

FOTH: It has been a few years since our last interview. I understand you recently put a book out, how did this come about?

PH: This is my second novel published. I began writing while I was riding at Suffolk Downs in the ‘70’s. It was my way of getting away from the racetrack without actually leaving it. In those days, women jockeys didn’t dare miss a day at the track. The boys were always lurking, ready to steal our mounts.

FOTH: What is the title of the book and how long did it take you from when you 1st started writing did it take you to finish it?

PH: The title is FIXED. It took me 2 years to complete the novel. I still ride and train horses so I have only a couple of hours a day for writing.

FOTH: Now that the book is out, was writing it what you thought it was gonna be and what was the toughest part about writing the book?

PH: I knew what writing a novel entailed as this isn’t my first book. The toughest part for me is the third and fourth draft. I’m getting tired of it by then. The second draft is my favorite. The skeleton of the book is down on paper and I get to flesh it out.

FOTH: Tell my readers what the book is about and how can they order it?

PH: FIXED is about Andy Crowley, a young woman apprentice, struggling to make it in a hostile environment. Not only does she have prejudice to contend with but she unwittingly interferes with a major race fixing scam. 90% of this story actually happened to me. The names are changed, to protect me from the guilty parties but several of the horses that are featured are horses that I rode. They gave me permission to use their names.

FOTH: Are there any plans on writing perhaps another book? If you could sum up your jockey career in a few words, like for a book title, what would it be?

PH: FIXED is the first in a trilogy. My career in a few words? Perseverance, pain and joy.

FOTH: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise people?

PH: Horses are my second favorite animal. Kittens are my favorite—I can’t resist them. (I have 5 cats)

FOTH: Most racetracks are now having casinos with horse racing. Do you think that is good for the game purses obviously go up and all but do you think in the long run it can hurt as more people flock to the casino area than the racing area?

PH: I think casinos were a good idea a few years ago, to give racing a boost, but it’s time to move on.

FOTH: What was the last time you went to a live horse race and what track was it at?

PH: Two weeks ago. Hastings Park. I am part owner in a three year old gelding named Rompon.

FOTH: I asked you this before and I'll ask again, if some young girl wants to become a jockey, what advice would you give her?

PH: Work for the best trainer you can find and start at a training center. Most racetracks are hectic during morning training and not the best environment for someone just learning to gallop. And put together a fitness program. You need to be fit before you get into the saddle.

FOTH: Where do you think the horse racing industry will be in 10 years and then in 20 years?

PH: I’m hoping it will still exist but horse racing has a lot of cleaning up to do if it is to survive. Joe Drape`s articles in the NY Times has put the industry under a microscope. I don’t agree with the way Drape has slanted his articles and misinterpreted many facts but part of what he says is true. The racehorse must become our top priority, not winning money. I see fewer racetracks in 10-20 years but better racing—and most horses running longer than their 3 year old year.

FOTH: Looking back at your jockey days, what do you think was the toughest thing about being a jockey?

PH: Staying at peak fitness was tough. Just riding races didn’t keep me fit enough and I had to fit in other exercise like jogging and swimming. When you have to get up at 4 am every morning, there isn’t a lot of time and energy left over for extra exercising—and having some kind of a life.

FOTH: Do you think another horse will ever win the Triple Crown and will a female jockey ever win one of the 3 again?

PH: I have to admit I am no longer a fan of the triple crown. Too many top race horses have been sacrificed for a series of races that are scheduled too close together. It happened again this year with I’ll Have Another. But yes, I think a woman will win one of them, possibly the Belmont. It’ll more than likely be on a horse that is running fresh.

FOTH: I asked, would you ever consider coming out of retirement to ride in one of those Ladies Legends Race, with all retired female riders the day before the Preakness?

PH: Yes, I’d love to ride in the Ladies Legends Race.

FOTH: What is the funnies thing you can think of that happened to you or another jockey while riding in a race?

PH: In one race, when I broke out of the gate, I was broadsided by the horse on the left side and thrown out of the saddle and onto the neck of the horse on right side. The jockey kept screaming at me, ``Get off my horse, get off my horse! `` ``What do you think I`m trying to do!`` I yelled back. Amazingly, my right foot was still in my stirrup and my horse was running right beside us. I pushed myself up, swung back in the saddle, and rode the rest of the race. I actually hit the board.

FOTH: Do you ever sit back and think about your days as a jockey and if you do, what are some of the things you think about?

PH: I still remember mistakes I made that cost me the race. Funny how much that bothers me. But then I think about all the wonderful things that happened, the good races I rode and the great horses and people who made my career possible. That outweighs the mistakes.

FOTH: When you used to ride, did riding in the cold ever bother you and what did you do to prepare to ride in the cold?

PH: The cold was terrible. I rode at Penn National in the winter of `78. It was night racing. The track is on top of a hill which makes the wind feel like an arctic freeze. I remember one frigid night arriving at the starting gate with no feeling in my hands and feet. That part, I don`t miss. Suffolk Downs was day racing and slightly milder temperature. The only think I didn`t like there was riding in a thunder storm. I was terrified that lighting would strike as the electric gates opened and we`d all be fried.

FOTH: If you had to get up on a horse tomorrow and jog him around the track, could you do it with no problem?

PH: Absolutely. I could even breeze him.

FOTH: Besides being an author what are some other things you are doing with yourself these days?

PH: I have a QH and a Canadian and I am about to launch my career in Extreme Cowboy Races. What fun!

FOTH: Do you still any of your old jockey stuff, stuffed away somewhere like your whips, boots, win pictures, etc?

PH: I wear my boots, breeches, silk and cap every Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup day. I wore them just this past weekend when I did a presentation at the Lynden Horse Expo where I was fortunate to sell many copies of FIXED.

FOTH: Patti thanks for doing this 2nd interview any last words and congrads on the book coming out.

PH: Thanks so much for interviewing me again, Chris. I really appreciate it.

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