Kristina Kenney is a rider I saw riding at Turf Paradise and while she was recovering from a recent injury I did an email interview with her. Sorry some of her answers are in caps and others aren't ha ha.
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FOTH: I know you are out with an injury now. How did it come about and when do you think you will return to racing?
KK: IT WAS JANUARY 10TH AND A HORSE BROKE DOWN IN A RACE IN FRONT OF ME AND IT FELL IN FRONT OF MY HORSE. MY HORSE TRIPPED OVER THAT ONE AND FELL HEAD FIRST AND ROLLED THREE TIMES, AFTER HE LANDED ON ME. I BROKE 2 RIBS, FRACTURED PARTS OF MY SPINE, LACERATED MY LIVER AND COLLAPSED MY RIGHT LUNG. I SHOULD BE ABLE TO RETURN WITHIN A WEEK OR TWO FROM NOW.
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up? Do you have any brothers or sisters and if so what do they and your parents think of you being a jockey?
KK: I WAS BORN IN PHOENIX ARIZONA AND THAT'S WHERE I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AND GROWN UP. I HAVE 2 BROTHERS, JOSHUA AND KEITH. STEP SISTER, HEATHER AND STEP BROTHER DEREK. MY PARENTS AND FAMILY SUPPORT ME...MY DAD LOVES THAT I RIDE, MY MOM LOVES IT BUT WORRIES A LOT. MY BROTHERS...THEY LIKE TO WATCH AND SUPPORT ME. THEY ALL JUST HOPE I DO NOT GET HURT AGAIN.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up and did you know at a young age
you wanted to be a jockey?
KK: I WAS A TOM BOY, FOR SURE. I RODE QUADS, DIRT BIKES, AND HORSES. LOVED TO WORK ON CARS WITH MY BROTHERS. I NEVER WANTED TO STAY CLEAN AND WEAR DRESSES. MY BROTHERS WERE HEROES TO ME AND I ALWAYS WANTED TO DO WHAT THEY DID. I DIDN'T KNOW THAT I WANTED TO BE A JOCKEY AT A YOUNG AGE. IN FACT, I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT WAS WHEN I WAS YOUNG. I WAS AROUND 16 WHEN I STARTED TO THINK ABOUT RIDING, BUT MY DAD TOLD ME NO BECAUSE IT WAS TOO DANGEROUS. I ALSO NEVER THOUGHT THAT I WOULD BE ABLE TO MAKE 110 LBS. BUT THAT CAME TO BE EASIER THAN I THOUGHT. AS I GOT OLDER, I MENTIONED IT TO HIM AGAIN AND HE THOUGHT ABOUT IT AND I GUESS WE MADE AN AGREEMENT. I RIDE HIS HORSES AND BE AS CAREFUL AS I COULD. SOMETIMES BEING CAREFUL DOESN'T ALWAYS WORK.
FOTH: Do you play many sports when you were young and were you very athletic?
KK: I WAS VERY ATHLETIC WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. I PLAYED ON A SOFTBALL TEAM. I ALSO PLAYED ANY OTHER SPORT I COULD GET MY HANDS ON. I LOVED BASKETBALL, BUT I WASN'T THAT GREAT. VOLLEYBALL...JUST ABOUT ANYTHING THAT INVOLVED SPORTS WAS FUN FOR ME, ITS JUST THAT SOME OF IT, I WASN'T THAT GREAT AT.
FOTH: What event or events actually led to you becoming a jockey?
KK: ONE DAY I WAS WATCHING THE RACES AND I TURNED TO MY DAD AND SAID "DO YOU THINK I COULD DO THAT AND WOULD YOU LET ME" HE SAID "YES, I THINK YOU COULD DO IT, BUT ITS VERY DANGEROUS" THE MORE HE THOUGHT ABOUT IT, THE MORE HE WAS EXCITED ABOUT IT AND THAT'S HOW IT CAME ABOUT. I LOST THE WEIGHT THAT I NEED TO AND I WAS OFF RIDING RACES. I WANTED TO RIDE BECAUSE I WANTED TO SEE IF I COULD DO IT AND IF I COULD DO IT I WANTED TO KNOW IF I WAS ANY GOOD.
FOTH: Tell us all about what you remember about your 1st race...name of track,
horse, where you finished etc...if you remember and were you nervous at all?
KK: MY FIRST RACE WAS MAY 3RD OF 05' AND I RODE A HORSE FOR MY DAD, NAMED ZYPHYR COVE. IT WAS THE LAST RACE OF THE DAY, GOING 6 FURLONGS AND THE PURSE WAS 4,700. I WAS VERY NERVOUS AND MY HEART WAS POUNDING OUT OF MY CHEST. ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS, "JUST MAKE IT AROUND THE TRACK WITHOUT FALLING OFF OR GETTING ANYONE ELSE HURT." THE GATE FLEW OPEN AND MY HORSE BROKE ON TOP, THEN AROUND THE TURN I WAS STILL SITTING IN THE FRONT, THEN DOWN THE LANE I TAPPED MY HORSE ON HIS NECK WITH MY STICK AND HE WON BY ONE LENGTH. HE PAID 23.00 TO WIN, 10.60 TO PLACE AND 3.00 TO SHOW. I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT, I HAD WON MY FIRST RACE. IT WENT EXACTLY HOW I WANTED IT TO IN MY DREAMS. IT WAS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE, MY DAD COULDN'T HAVE BEEN MORE PROUD. MY MOM (PEGGY) AND MY COUSIN (WILLIAM) WERE THERE TO SEE MY VICTORY. AFTER THE RACE, THE OTHER JOCKEYS SPRAYED ME WITH ICE COLD WATER AND THE HOSE. I DIDN'T EVEN CARE, I WAS SO HAPPY I COULD HARDLY STAND MYSELF.
FOTH: Tell us about your 1st win. What track was it at and did you get hosed
down with water, ice, etc., after the win?
KK: MY FIRST WIN WAS ZYPHYR COVE, AT TURF PARADISE.
FOTH: Looking back do you think you are a good apprentice rider and did you
feel you improved and learned something new every race?
KK: I HAVE UNTIL THE END OF THE SUMMER UNTIL I AM A JOURNEYMAN. I AM LEARNING THINGS EVERYDAY AND I WILL CONTINUE TO LEARN. I DON'T THINK THAT YOU STOP
LEARNING IN THIS BUSINESS. YOU CAN ALWAYS TRY NEW THINGS AND BECOME MORE AWARE OF WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU. I FEEL I HAVE IMPROVED A LOT FROM MY FIRST RACE, YET I STILL HAVE MUCH MORE IMPROVING TO DO.
FOTH: What tracks have you ridden at and what has been your favorite one so
far and is there any track you would love to ride at one day?
KK: I HAVE ONLY RIDDEN AT TURF PARADISE AND YAVAPAI. I LIKE TURF MUCH BETTER BECAUSE THE PURSES ARE HIGHER AND THE TRACK IS BETTER. MUCH MORE PEOPLE AT TURF THAN YAVAPAI. I WOULD LOVE TO RIDE IN KENTUCKY SOMEDAY. IT IS BEAUTIFUL THERE AND THAT'S MY DREAM TO DO THAT SOMEDAY. THIS SUMMER, THOUGH, I WILL BE AT PRAIRIE MEADOWS AND CANTERBURY. I HAVE HEARD GOOD THINGS ABOUT THOSE TRACKS, SO I HOPE I AM NOT DISAPPOINTED WHEN I GET THERE.
FOTH: Do you have any special moments in your career that have stuck out so
KK: MY SPECIAL MOMENT WAS WHEN I WON MY FIRST RACE AND WHEN I WON MY FIRST STAKES RACE AND WHEN I WON ON A 50-1 SHOT. THOSE WOULD HAVE TO BE THE BEST MOMENTS THAT HAVE STUCK OUT FOR ME, BESIDES WINNING RACES FOR MY DAD. THAT IS THE ULTIMATE SPECIAL MOMENT. MY DAD AND I SHARE A LIFE TOGETHER THAT MANY PEOPLE DON"T GET TO HAVE. HE IS SPECIAL TO ME AND I WILL ALWAYS CHERISH THAT WITH HIM.
FOTH: If some young girl came up to you and said she wanted to become a jockey what advice would you give her?
KK: I WOULD TELL HER TO MAKE SURE THAT IT'S WHAT SHE WANTS AND TELL HER TO BE STRONG AND NEVER GIVE UP.
FOTH: Do you ever get recognized outside the track and do you think in your
opinion your good rider?
KK: I get recognized at off track betting places a lot. Especially after I was in Yavapai. I think I am a good rider, but I have a lot to learn still. I am trying to absorb as much information as I can when it comes to learning something new about the trade.
FOTH: Any other female riders or athletes you admire and do you think you have
been given a fair shake by the owners/trainers so far?
KK: I admire all of the famous women riders before me and i hope that i can become what they are some day. i think, for the most part, that i have been given a fair shake by owners. i am sure that there will be times that i feel they are not being fair, but for now I haven't encountered too many people that didn't give me a chance just because I was female.
FOTH: Take us through what you do in a typical day.
KK: I get up at 6am, gallop some horses for my dad, and work some horses for other trainers. I leave the track to go to school at ASU west till 11am, then I go home. If I was riding right now I would be going from school to the track to ride till 5pm. Then I would head to school at 6pm and get out at 9:30 pm. Finish up homework and do the same thing the next day.
FOTH: If I could let you go and ride at any track for one day where would you
like to go and how about 1 race you could ride in?
KK: Del Mar because I have heard that it is the best rack around. And if I had to pick one race I would like to be in, it would be the Kentucky Derby. Of course, who wouldn't want to ride in something like that?
FOTH: What are some things or hobbies you like to do when your away from the track?
KK: I love to ride my GSXR600, go to the lake, mall with friends, play pool, and hang out with friends and family.
FOTH: How long would you like to ride for any do you have any short term or
long term goals for yourself?
KK: I would like to ride for as long as I can. My long term goals is to become a good rider and finish my teaching degree in this next year.
FOTH: Were you taught a lot of things are far as riding goes or did you learn
a lot on your own?
KK: I learned a lot on my own. I had been galloping horses on the track for 5 years before I ever thought of riding. So when I rode my first horse I knew the basics. My dad helped me out a lot as far as trying to tell me what I needed to do and improve on, and the riders in the room always helped me out when I had a question. So overall I think I learned a lot from everyone around me that wanted to help me out.
FOTH: If you had the power, what are some things about horse racing that you
would change for the better?
KK: I would make the weights a few pounds higher because I hate seeing all these jockey purge and do weird things to their body to maintain weight. I also think that before someone becomes an apprentice, they should be MADE to go to a school for it. They need to learn to ride in races before they come to a track.
FOTH: Have you ever had any problems with your weight and do you ever see that
being a problem?
KK: I HAVE NEVER HAD ANY PROBLEMS WITH MY WEIGHT, I JUST HAVE TO WATCH WHAT I EAT. FOR EXAMPLE, I DON'T EAT ANY FAST FOOD, JUST HEALTHY THINGS LIKE VEGETABLES AND FRUIT. I DON'T EVER SEE ME WEIGHT BEING A PROBLEM, ITS PRETTY EASY TO KEEP IT WHERE I NEED IT.
FOTH: When your riding days are over do you think you will still be involved
in the sport like being a trainer or something?
KK: I WILL ALWAYS STAY IN THE SPORT SOME WAY OR SOMEHOW. I MIGHT JOIN UP WITH MY FATHER AND TRAIN HORSES, MAYBE EVEN OWN A FEW OF MY OWN.
FOTH: Have you ever been taken off a horse by an owner or trainer strictly
because your a female rider?
KK: YES I HAVE, BUT IT WAS ONLY ONCE OR TWICE. HE TOLD ME THAT HE WASN'T SURE I WAS STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD THE HORSE BACK. SO I ASKED HIM, "WHY DID YOU PUT ME ON IN THE FIRST PLACE THEN." HE DIDN'T HAVE MUCH OF AN ANSWER. IT DIDN'T AFFECT ME THAT MUCH THOUGH BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN ANYMORE AFTER THAT.
FOTH: Any last words to wrap this up? Thanks for the interview.
KK: I don't know what else to say I hope you got everything
that you needed from me and thanks for the interview.
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