The Jockey Life: First Second Place Finish

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Friday, June 25, 2021

Mary ran the next two races of her career last weekend at 307 Energy Downs in Wyoming. One was on a Thoroughbred and the other a Quarter Horse. Here's how it went.

Last weekend brought another hot weekend of horse racing in Gillete, Wyoming at 307 Energy Downs. 

Thursday I hadn't found a sitter to take Ariel with me, so I was planning a weekend alone. I got Ariel dressed for daycare, and as we pull in she gets sick in my car. I started to panic because I had five horses I was named on for the weekend and now I have a sick daughter. I called her dad, Austin, at work to see what we could do. 

As a mom, the idea of leaving for a weekend nine hours away, the day she gets sick, felt selfish! I live two split lives. The one as a mommy and the other as a new rider trying to make it. I felt like I was being torn in two directions at once. 

After making some calls, I realized that unless I was physically unable to ride I had to be there or I would be hit with a fine or suspended. Austin, being the great dad that he is, is why I was able to go. He knew I've worked so hard to finally be living this dream, so he reassured me that Ariel would be okay and that he would take days off to be with her and that I needed to go and ride hard.

So late Thursday afternoon, I packed up with tears in my eyes, hugged my family and started the long drive. I got to my hotel at 1:30am Friday, caught some quick sleep, then headed to the barn early to gallop my mount for Sunday and get ready for my two races that afternoon. 

The team at Energy Downs was so excited to see me back again for another weekend of racing with them. My first race was on a Quarter Horse named SPRINKLED IVORY in the sixth race. We ran a good fourth. 

My next race was on a Thoroughbred named TOP HAT HUSTLE going five furlongs. The second horse and I were left behind the field, but were making up distance. Before we hit the turn, I realized the horse to the inside was going to take the turn wide. I had to decide quickly if I was going to go wide with him or cut behind and try to get a better spot on the rail, so I did. Hustle tried hard, but is a distance runner that just didn't have his motor going fast enough for five furlongs and we ran dead last. I was still grateful for my first Thoroughbred race. I got to really jockey my horse in the turn which felt great. 

Saturday I had Steve Newman's big red Quarter Horse, CHOICE BLUFF, in the first race going 400 yards. It was the big red horse's first race back since 2019. He broke hard and strong. He needed a little correction, but when I asked he really started running for me. I was riding hard and realized I wasn't getting hit with dirt! I peaked up to see where we were sitting and it was second! We crossed the finish line strongly in second place. It took the full length of the back stretch to get the big red monster stopped. He turned to the inside, stopped and stood so proud! I cried on his back. We pulled ourselves together and started back.

My valet, the nicest and most supportive person I've ever met, ran up to us and grabbed Red. I jumped off and he wrapped me in a huge bear hug! Congratulating me on such a great ride. I cried again with him, looking up at the board that showed the 3 horse in second place. That was me... CHOICE BLUFF and I had officially taken second place!

I made my way back to the jock's room greeted with high gives and the joke that it looked like I would be getting wet soon! (Just something done to congratulate a first win for a new jockey, water dumped ALL on you!)

The second race came and we had a first time starter. I was asked to ride. As a new rider, I felt and was told the colt needed a more experienced jock who would ride aggressively. Right now, it just wasn't me, so I had to reluctantly pass. 

The next morning, I woke up to a text that I had been pulled from race six after. I was very sad, but was able to get my first check ever made as a jockey and make the nine hour drive home to be with Austin and Ariel on Father's Day.

I can't thank the trainers enough that have taken a chance on me and Austin for helping live this dream as a mommy. 

I'm making plans for another weekend in the race saddle. I'm going to be visiting Wyoming Downs this week. I've missed that track and can't wait to see a few faces I've been missing!

Horse Racing Radar is proud to connect with people from all aspects of the racing industry. If you have a story to tell, please contact Valerie Mellema at [email protected]

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