Sidney Underwood is a retired jockey who rode races from 1985 until 1992 when a horse racing accident left her sadly paralyzed from the waist down. She also trained horses from 1997 till 2005. This is her entire story, and even though she goes off topic at times (due to her excitement), I am printing it in its entirety:
FOTH: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
SU: Huntsville, Alabama.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up?
SU: I saved 20.00 a week to get to $1000.00,and gave myself 2 weeks to find a galloping job. My first grooming job was at Laurel for Gino and went on for a year. Larry Horning, Steve Brown in AC (Atlantic City Race Course). Flint from KY, because I went to him for a week to be a groom (which is how I got the Brown job.) He’d give me 1 week off in June, and I’d be a groom. He had 40 head, but no grooms willing to go to AC. Then I left my horse tacked up ready to breeze. When 10:00am rolled around, Steve said, Where’s Ruport? He forgot and blamed me. I was the one who got FIRED....girls get screwed even when all is in place! first lesson learned!
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up?
SU: I was raised Church of Christ, Baptist x100...hee hee. My dad would say our prayers every pm at bedside. At end, I would pray, please god, let me wake up a boy!
FOTH: Were you into horses at a young age? What did you think of horse racing the first time you saw a horse race?
SU: That’s sooo funny, I never saw a race except the triple crown on TV (3 stations) black n white, 11” TV. But, I rode pony jumpers. My mom says my first word was pony. I can still quote ”little black pony” any way. I had no idea 9 races ran every day all over the place. We, Alabama, thought only triple crown ran. That’s it... until I moved to Chicago at 18.
I drove an 8 horse trailer and groomed for the richest guy in Chicago. He hired me at an Atlanta A rated horse show. We went to an Arlington “jump off” in the infield the day before the Arlington Million Race. I was holding 6 jumpers sitting on the rail and realized, at least 12 Mexicans were looking at me, around corners under sheds. Finally, 1 guy gets the guts to up to me and ask, “How are u holding 6 big ass horses, relaxed and waiting, and dirt on the rail like I’m bored out of my mind …of course, I didn’t understand? That was my job!
FOTH: So when exactly did you know you wanted to be a jockey, and did you know what it would take to be one?
SU: I groomed for about 18 months. I expected it was different than jumpers. My 1st day on the job with Louie Gino. I’m hot walking a $5000 claimer, (tighter than an eight day alarm clock (u could not pinch his skin), a groom asked me to hand him a brush in front of tack room. So, I put lead shank on the ground, walked in got brush, handed to groom, he said, “where’s good parts”, I said,” I left him right here, ” you can imagine how that went over 2 hours later. So called ”good parts” wasn’t that great in my mind. I thought you ran in a circle. When you jump, you have to know take off landing leads.
So, the track seemed like a bunch crazy’s to me, “all you have to do is run in a circle, how hard could that be?” Oh, I would learn the hard way! Believe it or not, that 1 month was even crazier than 1st day! (hard to believe. But so true!)
I was sent out in rain, it’s thunder and lighting, “to pony, yes, “good parts”, once the wrong way. But bare back at Laurel Park, I didn’t even know what ponying was, so off I go, bare back (he didn’t want his tack ruined, and realized; I was stone cold stupid to racing. I made it with no problems. Thanks to chasing cows at 13, on bare back. I felt safer bare back, strangely. Then, Louse was afraid of a new 2 yr old that came in. So I get to “gallop”, he did what I refer to as “the wave” he would take. Stride as if a small jump was under him every stride the whole mile and ½! I thought it was a blast! When can I do that again!
I then let him go for a year due to “LUV”. It was supposed to be 1 week. Then I had enough save that $1000.00. Went to Ocala, FL, cause, back then everyone said, “if you truly want to learn go to farm!” So, off I go and I walked in, and SO DID GOD! I went to farm I was sent to, he said, “I’m sorry but I only breed, WTF, I started crying, he said, ”well I could send you where I send mine to be broke! I smiled and said “yes, yes. Yes” and was hired the next day by Wayne Fesmire. He started Frankie Lovato, and steward in CA, but I can’t remember his name. I was his 3rd. He taught for a period to 2 others. We’re eclipse award winners. So for a ok to hire a girl and under contract was a way big deal. He eventually sent me to Charley Baddley at the new Garden State Park. (where I worked from 1985 till it closed in 2001-chris). Another thing I never had a girl in my shed!
Darrel Mchargue. He adopted him at 14. So, he could go to school. But, 1st he had to gallop 10. Then go to school then gallop when he got him. Then he had to change diapers of 2 babys under 3 ½. That’s who taught me. Wayne “the man” Fesmire! Work you to the bone and then some. But by god I’d never been ready if it weren’t for him.
FOTH: So at what age did you know you wanted to be a jockey and did you know what you would have to do to become one?
SU: I was 19, and that was it. At the track as a groom. Imbesi, said he’d let me go to his farm. I was grooming for him at AC. Then I got fired. He said I rubbed a horse that had gone to the saddling area 4 X’s, but flipped. So, he never made it to a race. I had been taught how to walk a horse while being “tacked on the walk”. I added a few little secrets to that and he ran and won by 5! He then made me put a sweat bandage on him, after the race. I didn’t agree. But did as told. He also said leave bandage on 2 days! Well when I took bandage off, he had a tendon! So I was hosing when he walked up. He said ”that’s what I like to see, working before being told!” Then I showed him why I was hosing, the tendon! He was known for beating the boys in shed! He told me that that $10,000.00 claimer was worth more than me and any member of my family. You do not tell, a southern girl THAT! I threw saddle at him. Begged him to hit me, “I’ll own 7 Up and sell to coke! He yelled at me all the way to kitchen. Calling me every curse word in the book. I could still hear him yelling as kitchen door closed! So, I got job with Mr. Flint (from KY) went back too AL. For debutant Ball. Planning to go back to track. But fell in luv for a yr. working as budget person for $7.200,000.00 apt. complex being built. Then, after taking $20.00 a week out of every check I had, I had a $1,000 must get. I got it. Packed my lil Vega, drove out of town and headed to Ocala, FL, giving myself 2 weeks to find job on a farm. That’s where Wayne Fesmire’s Farm. Got the job in 3 days. I told him right then. Don’t waste my time or yours. Let me know if I can be a JOCKEY! So, he did I was there about 1 1/2. Then he sent me to Charley Baddley in GSP. It had just opened!
FOTH: Now how quick did you take to becoming an ex-rider and then a jockey? Was there any particular thing you struggled with early on?
SU: Well I got to gate of GSP. Asked for Charley, he came and got me in track. I was told what dorm I’d be in. Also, got unpacked. I got to gate about 3 pm. I was to be at barn following am at 5. When I left the farm the last day. I had to gallop this horse, “Handsome Answer”, he ran off with me. He shipped out back to track. That evening. I said Thank you god, and good riddance!
I get to Charley’s barn on time. He looks down shed, and said OO here get him ready (tack him up, I see a head poke out, Oh shoot, is this a bad joke, there’s that fluffy forelock and cute little 1/4 horse face, yep, Mr. “Handsome Answer”! So I get ready Charley always walked out on pony w/ all his horses. But he was responsible for controlling them. Even, if he had a strap on them. (I’m talking if my horse got ahead of him pony style, he wouldn’t pull them back. Any way we how to training track. He says jog 1 backwards. Then 3 times around. I get the jog. Turn in, start the gallop and each turn got faster and faster until total dead run. The outrider started after us. Every time the outrider would reach. He’d slow down then dark and take off again. Finally, we were caught pulled up. Charley totally, went off on outrider,” saying “don’t you ever pick this girl up! She will lean to hold em”. With many extra $&$& words.
Well, this horse is what I called, a tree trunk neck, he didn’t bow his neck when u rode him. So, you couldn’t win by strength. I finally figured out on main track. Just literally had reins dangling, set my hands on his neck. When we’d start off he’d dive at bit. But, I had reins to loose for him to feel a pull back. So, he’d open gallop a few jumps then say. OO well she’s not gonna play my game. At wire I’d stand and sky him to outside rail and 980% of the time all went well. Although a few times he’d get 2 miles. LOL.
We, shipped over to Phila Park (now parx racing-chris) when it reopened (that was when they didn’t run against each other cause Robert Brennan owned both). Charley Baddley never had a girl even hot walk, or work for him ever!! (he was one of those who said, ”girls and wheel barrels don’t belong on track, kinda guy) So, for him to start me riding, grooming, walking. I even had people on track saying how could you work for him?
I worked, 5-2. 7 days a week.
But the farm I came from was break 18-22 horses a day, tack em, in tack, bath , and do fry legs up 6 days a wk. for $165.00 a week.
3 days after I started w/ Charley, he said u’ll get $150.00 a week... I stood my ground, I said, ”sorry sir, I appreciate the opportunity, BUT HELL NO! Not a penny less than $200.00!” He was so surprised I stood up to him. He thought a minute, which made me think, I have no job any more...but he said,” Well ,OK” I was dumb founded!
I will say that the 1st 4 trainers I groomed for prior to riding, I was being asked and at times sexual favors, to keep my job. Charley was and is a great respectful man.
A hard ass. But very kind once he realized. I wasn’t going anywhere! As long as I had a real chance, to learn, and being the very last of old school way of learning, “ Ground up learning!” (did u know 98% can’t put even polos on a horse properly!?) 1 day I breezed with Tony Black, and Wilson was coming off broken foot. As we walked back from breezing the set. He told Rick and Tony I was an aspiring jockey. He turned to both and said,” Until y’all say you will ride a race with her, she will not ride one!
He, Charley, had a super 2 yr. old that won the Kindergarten Stake race, Rick had ridden him. And he was the one who was scared I get 1st call on all his horses. He was a big problem! What he never thought about was Charley was an excellent trainer, he never rode 1 person on all horses. They don’t all get along with all horses! It was lined up 7 months in advance that I would get Allen, Ricks agent, was to be my agent when I started. Rick even agreed. But when I started riding Rick was leading rider. He said hell no, guess he was scared of little ole me....
The funniest thing that happened was when I went to get my gate card, Charley made me go by myself to line up time and ask... I was terrified! Rusty took full advantage of my fear, in jovial way.. Asking me, so I hear u want to ride? Do u really think u can, do really think your ready,... after 40 mins. I got a yes! I actually took my “wonder” horse Handsome, whom by the way was bred to be a stake horse. They had Angle Correa (spelling) ride him, tried a machine, everything. He would lay off the pace then turn for him and stop.
So, when I go to gate to get card. There were 4 stake horses in there with me. I was going 5/8’s. Handsome dusted them like he was just galloping along! When Charley walked me back, as after every breeze he’d ask how fast did u go? I said 59 and 2. He saturated yelling Secretariat couldn’t do that, quote, “we get to gap and I was 2/10ths off”. I was still berated for not being exact!!
Handsome Answer, is a story on its own. I did end up riding him on my 1st race, Charley told me over and over I’d ride 100 races before winning, as not to give him a bad name for “givens” winners. Trainers would come to barn, ask Charley can I ride there horse....His 1st? Are they sound, “oh yes”. 2nd? Do they have a shot? “oh yes”. The answer was nope! My 1st race was on my man, with no whip, he won paid $168.00!
Charley was pissed, in the pic he showed he was like a proud dad! Then he put me on 1st time starter. Ran 2nd, then another 1st timer who ran 3rd and paid 28.00 the 2nd paid 18.00. That’s when he said 2 things. “You don’t get to ride Hansome back, he thought he’d win again, and I guess it’s time to get an agent. He had found out by then Rick wouldn’t let Allen take my book. Which bit Rick in the ass! Charley was hopping mad for 7 months.
It turns out Handsome Answer only ran if you didn’t even have one in your hand. So in the form there was a * saying no whip. From the day after I won! I did get to ride him. 3rd time 1-2 every start with ME!
Men jockeys and agents were my biggest problem once Charley came into my life. He Truly adopted new. I ate w/ his family dinners his wife was and still is sooo kind to me! We’re even supposed to go to SD to move cattle from summer to winter field through town beat a train, very excited!
FOTH: Did you have anyone specifically teach you how to ride besides all what you just said to me?
SU: Last thing. In Phila Park the men’s stepping room butted up to girls bathroom, the guys got busted for drilling whole in the wall. Then they tried to do the same. In ceiling of bathroom they fell though!! BWAHAA. Ok I’m done sorry I get very excited talking about the old days footboy!! Yes, the Ast. Trainer Debbie at farm and MaryAnn Alligood! She watched EVERY replay of my races w/ me. My 1st 6 months! And I was leading rider. Julie Krone did nothing. But me and Mary Ann had same agent. Soo we were kinda thrown together and the only other girl rider. Krone could not buy a mount at Phila Park. Then she left for NJ. So just me And Mary!
I did ride jumpers since I was 8. So, I only needed to learn the rules. Mostly! And breaking 400 yearlings. Gave me an excellent way learn the minds of horses!
NO ONE WANTS TO HELP GIRLS. IN THE “80’s”. So thank god for Mary Ann to help another girl! Kudo’s to her and her kindness.
FOTH: So let's move on to your first race. How long did you gallop horses before you were named on a horse?
SU: Oh, I forgot the year. I was galloping and I also ponied almost every race for Donna after am work was done! That was the most helpful thing I think for racing! Seeing all the gate stuff happening. All crazy horses all the good and bad riders. Also, checking equipment and track vets. I rode my 1st race was the 4th I had run out of room to go back and pony. We had tried to plan my riding career to start at 1st of yr. as to give me the best chance to get 1 true whole yr. to b 1st girl to win eclipse award. It was the 1st time $ overrode actual wins. I never kept up with all that, I was just tickled I was to being paid for what I loved more than life itself. My agent Danny was the one that told me, ”oh by the way. You have to be somewhere for leading apprentice.”
So, answer about 1 year couple months. Ride 1st race. Lost 10 lbs. Rode 1st. On 10/24/84 started 7 lbs bug 2/3/85.
FOTH: So what do you remember about your 1st race? What track was it at and who was it for and where did you finish?
SU: I won at Phila Park for Charley 4th race of the day. And no whip. It paid $168.00.
FOTH: What was it like for you in the jock's before the race? Were you nervous? Did you have any family there?
SU: No family, they were all in Alabama. Nope never nervous. Only 2 times I was nervous in my whole career! 1st time was the day after my 1st spill. I was laying behind the lead horse on the rail, right before the race when lining up to go in gate. Mike said, “hey everyone, this horse is got a huge chance of breaking down, please watch out for me!” He was right, going into 3/8ths pole his horse snapped in 1/2. I rear-ended him. He was able to veer out holding horse up. And jump. Meanwhile I clipped heels went down got run over by 3 horses separating my sternum and cracking my pelvis. I got 1 day off! That 1st race back ALL jocks in race are all by the door. I said looking into each person’s eyes, please I’m just back from 1st spill ever. Please at 3/8’s pole. Be nice, damn is someone didn’t shut me off! I was back. NO PROB! I talked to my family maybe every 3 months. Like the 1st check I got $5000.00 for - weeks work! Sister and brother came to visit. Once and mom and dad came once. To visit.
When, I was getting ready to ride 1st race. Krone and Maryann. Showed me how to get ready, like wearing boys jock underwear! And hiding hair. So no one from behind, could tell your a girl when riding! Pants are see through! So we adapted! Never ever let them know ANYTHING! They were hardest on us. To the point, even if a trainer gave you a shot. And men box you in. Trainer would say, if u can’t get along, I can’t use you!
I don’t count consign off out of gate. Soo I had 2 spills in my whole career! 2nd was my LAST!
FOTH: So what was it like jogging the horse (your first winner) back to the winner's circle?
SU: Surreal. When Handyman (my nick name for horse) didn’t stop at 1/4 pole. And kept going fending off horses coming at him! I thought at 16th pole, he might win?! Then we at wire, I was like. I’m still in the lead. He wouldn’t let any horse pass him even galloping out? Here a horse NO ONE COULD GET TO WIN AND I WIN W/ NO WHIP!
So, coming back after win was SOO UNBELIEVABLE! ALL pony peeps were cheering, the outrider acted like I was a derby winner! Bring me back. Because the horse was so proud of himself! He acted like it was the derby. Prancing an acting like he was god gift! Soo funny! He so posed in win pic. It’s like the whole backside was going crazy! He should have paid more. But 1/2 the backside bet 2 dollars across the board!
Then the stewards called down to the room saying I bet no be “blueinged or dis clothed”, so everything in room kitchen was poured in me. Krone got me 1st acting like she was drinking from hose! Charley was proud poppa. And telling me how the hell did I do it? I literally smiled for a month. That was my 2nd mount!
I swear these kids today, private school over indulged! My cousin thinks he’s soo wronged cause my mommy and daddy didn’t leave him $800,000 dollars. When he’s been in jail longest 4 yrs, beat his mother up. Stole everything she had.
I got 3 riding lessons for my birthday when I was 8. Mom thought that would end. The “I want a pony” WRONG! I worked every weekend. From 10. Until I was a jockey. To be w/1,000,000.00 kids. I had to braid, clean there stall and borrow there cow ponys to even go to a show! Super pissed me off! I got paralyzed due to lighting! And you wouldn’t give your big toe for what I settled for. I settled for, due to foreclosure!
This what I did Saturday! I’m still smiling. We got up to 48 miles an hour! Awesome! I pretended I was race riding. Whipping driving switching sticks! Heaven! My lil brother is my hero. Always helps me do little stuff like this!
FOTH: Did you know that the jockey's were going to get you and did you ever get to return the favor in your riding career?
SU: I thought so. We did it 16 years ago. Nobody noticed. Until his wife said. You haven’t since 1st time. Nope, “WELL THAT SUCKS” me yep I know. My sister a billionaire and doesn’t think about little things.
Sad really, to not enjoy those unforgettable moments?!?!
Delaware was FULL OF GIRLS 3 beds 13 girls. We slept like kittens. The girls room was the $$$ counting room. Maybe 10’ wide and 20” long. Delaware is the old black room for film. That’s what we lived in. At every track a closet! I tried to help a few. They were headstrong. They had the toad paved for them. Kinda hard to help, but I always tried.
FOTH: I'm gonna mention some racetracks, tell me what you remember about them.
Garden State Park:
SU: LOVED with all my heart!! Fair good real girls room. We never had lbs. quick loss But GSP. Had the only hot box . At Phila Park we had a whirlpool do u know how many passed out concussions there were trying to make weight?
FOTH: Philadelphia Park, now Parx Racing?
SU: Well, That was home to me!! Just 2 gals, same agent. We were once again like kittens! Only Mary Ann was five ‘. I am 5’2” that’s 7-10 lbs. different. So a whole pizza delivered made me have bad bad bad habits (lasix, heaving) but still HOME!
I went to Jockey Jeans there about 5 yrs ago. There was a huge line for little ole me to sign my name! Way home! In addition, it was Mary Ann’s only ridding spot. Which made it even more home!
FOTH: Delaware Park?
SU: Yep funny story. I kept asking a couple of girls (there were a ton of girl riders there). Any way they would say yes they’d meet for a drink after races. But no one ever showed. It took over a yr. for me to figure out. Most were gay with VERY jealous girlfriends. I’m not homophobic at all, I just didn’t know. He He. How that got me I’ll never know. I guess because fans thought me and Mary Ann were. But we were not. Just had same agent and we both said, ”Yes we’ll ship to ride, but will not drive!” So, Danny would have someone drive us....hence we were always together! I liked Delaware, right before I had my spill. I was going 3am’s a week. To ride Delaware and AC. I had just gotten Johnathan (Sheppard-chris) to let me ride for him.
FOTH: Atlantic City Race Course?
SU: The night I went down I won the 4th race on on “Pray For Me” and that tied me for leading rider. The next race the 7th, I was fixing to win it. As soon as that thought went through my head, I was landing on my head breaking my back in the center of turn for home!
And yes, the 1st hit, I flipped in the air, my hand grazed my leg, my hand felt leg. But leg did not feel hand! I was conscious the whole time. I only flipped 3X’s. You know the saying, it’s not the fall, it’s the abrupt stop, that gets you! My only other spill in 3000 races. I flipped a 16th of a mile. That’s when you rarely get seriously hurt.
FOTH: Holy toledo. Did you ride Monmouth Park or NY at all?
FOTH: Memories of those 2 places please.
SU: I rode a race the day I went down. At Monmouth. NY I usually declined due to horse had no shot and it cost $300.00 just to ride a race. I trained NY a lot! I had the # 2 filly in NY for the year.
Monmouth I shipped in a lot in 90-91. Because I rode for a trainer that had nice babies. It was nice. All were nice. Once again, tiniest jocks of them in all places I rode. It was originally the pool equipment room. Krone ruled. But was very welcoming. We couldn’t get to kitchen due to set up. With men, so we had to knock on screen door. Where they took food out to pool for men and they thought we were a pain in the ass!! They made sure we knew, they didn’t like serving us. But KRONE!
Delaware was THE MOST GIRL FRIENDLY OF ANY PLACE ON EAST COAST!!
Calder was girl friendly, but there were only 3 of us.
I think Delaware had no choice due to 13 girls were full timers. And that’s when it was VERY run down and lowest purses anywhere!!
It was the landing place for men and women who had hit BOTTOM rung of riding career...
FOTH: What other tracks did you ride at?
SU: Penn National, Pimlico, Churchill Downs, Keenland, and Cincinnati.
Only 1 race at Keenland. I galloped for Sam Ramer, on the intentions, (was told in phila, if come u come with us, you will ride for me! I did until Keeneland opened. I was told NO GIRLS RIDE HERE (This is the “real deal”!?) 19 day meet. What a white male JOKE! They didn’t even ride Hispanic! Did u know Pat Day went to NY to set up shop, yet couldn’t by a mount. He was used to KY. All white, the type you could take to dinner after you rode race and not draw attention. Riding in Kentucky was the craziest place ever! Yes, when televised races. They ride regular. But there daily racing was like galloping. Kinda like I ship in. 1st day, watching a race waiting to ride. I’m talking to TV. Saying to the 2 leading horses turning for home. I said “yeah, now take em wide, drop and u got it. (hung out to dry) all eyes stopped dead on me. Jaws on ground. I said “what”. I was informed, NO NO NO, you will get days? WTF, u can’t race ride? Nope! But say your on a horse with speed that stops, you could yell “inside rail!” They would actually move for you! Way weird! But easy! By the way. I forget the tracks name in Cincinnati? (River Downs-now called Belterra Park-cf) Turfway is the track in KY.
Same stewards at Turfway, Churchill, and Keeneland and the track in KY where they run in summer. Only saw that place it was worse than CT. When it was at its worse!! Trained a lot at Charlestown. Made great $$ and they adored me!
FOTH: What track do you think treated you the fairest?
SU: Philly and AC. Only because of who started me. And the respect of EVERY LEVEL, from pony peeps, to trainers, to office, to jockeys. They respected me because I started in 80’s (when partying after races. Was basically a requirement) but before I ever rode a race I had this thought in my mind, “I was going to always leave jocks room dressed as a lady. I’ve been a tomboy my whole life. But I thought if I could always look like I was “THE BEST” then people would think I was. It did help a lot. No T-shirts or tennis shoes ! Always hair done, and make up (very little) and NO “slut wear”
A running joke in the room! So, yes to this day. My era of people still there.
Also, I stood up for myself, when someone tried to tell the “Sidney STORY, That would be, OOO, when she was a bug, I didn’t know she was a girl, I said put leading bug GUY up on entry.... I would STOP them in their tracks in front of ALL, saying that wasn’t your story! It’s a well-known NY trainer and a few others, that happened to! And until I got to stall for meet said trainers. They’d literally be in shock when a girl showed up. I called everyone out on there crap! 😅🤣
I actually would go to office. In addition, help do paper work. Just to help friends. As well.
FOTH: So now a lot of jocks, when they lose the "bug" their business goes down. How was that for you when that happened?
SU: When I lost the bug. I lost only 1 trainer! And he only had 10 horse tops. It didn’t anything but the 100 to 1 shots with no shot to even hit the board. Goose still had 1st call Glen Hill, 2nd and Orseno 3rd.
What stopped my career in its tracks was Birmingham opening. I was born and raised in Alabama. They were begging me to come down! They even made fake paper, sent to my agent.. Headlines read:
“Hometown girl comes home!” I said “no hell no”.
After 3 months Danny, was trying to get rid of me any way (I didn’t know at the time. He had picked up a horse for Mary Ann. That broke down. Breaking 6 vertebrae. So, she’s out for months and he’d NO intention of taking her book back. He found being a girl agent you had to really work. So, now he has another girl journeyman. So, getting to Al. Was all he wanted. So, he finds out Sal Campo was taking whole barn to Birmingham, he went every day to get Sal to take me. Of course, since not 1 person, grooms, riders, no one would go. So having a rider he’d have 1/2 problems gone. So after 3 months of calls from the president of Birmingham Turf Course. Swearing they’d get me an agent, mounts bla bla bla I finally agreed. What was his name, from Md. his father a big wig in Md, it was his 1st big wig job damn.
He died of cancer after Birmingham. Anyway I got there 2 months early to lay ground work. I was on 19 radio shows, for the track, and still being 2nd leading girl rider in country to Krone. And still in top 10 overall. I did 17 news articles and 11 TV interviews.
I was getting on minimum 12-18 horses for Sal a day. Free! And hitting barns. I knew no one else and no agent ever came so I get an ex-jock to try and cover whole track. Turns out he knew a lot of trainers. (many from Louisiana ). I walk in barn to find my so called agent and there talking about when he rode for him. I walk up. Waiting, not to interrupt, finally trainer says can I help you, I look at agent ,”like well tell him”. I finally tell him I’m a jockey. Then, I try to talk business, nope, blank stare. So, 3 days before opening day, Billy Fox shows up. I walk in Sal’s barn I’m there to find out about the 6 horses he’s supposed to enter opening day, (which by the way I had gotten 6 tables reserved for family which none had never understood what I really did for a living).
Sal says, “Oh I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Since Billy’s here he’ll be riding opening night. You ride 2 the next night! So, I sit at table with my family trying to be so happy and explain what’s going on. My grandmother leaves table and is in tears saying people sending hard earned money. She raised 4 kids.
When her husband dropped dead at 39 of heart attack. Put them all through college. And of course.
Never missing a Sunday at Church of Christ!
So, I gave Sal a bill for all the horses I galloped and left 3 weeks later. Had a great agent work in Miami 2 weeks before I got there. I rode 1st day I got there for leading trainer. 4 mounts. 1st day! All, was going great! I rode everyday the 1st 2 weeks. But, the humiliation of Birmingham in front of my whole family. That really screwed with my head.
The agent I had in Miami. Was Sanchez he brought Alex Solis and Edgar Prado over to USA. We took Edgar to english every Tuesday and Thursday. Same with Alex. He taught them to read talk all in English. And since he was also the colors guy, he knew all. He would NOT leave Miami. That’s why no one ever knew about him. With such great jocks and teaching. He said he hates coats. Won’t wear one he he. But my mental got the best of me. So I started partying. Orseno and I had lived together for 1 ½ years. But, he wouldn’t get divorce. So getting away from that as well. I even knew his wife. Very nice. They were just permanently separated. So, we bought a Porsche together. I had it in Miami. Pretty easy to have friends with a car and great standing at time. But I f**ked up, it was so easy doing well there. I had never been a jock that didn’t do am work. Even did mine and Mary Ann’s because she couldn’t hold a dog from a bone. When it came to galloping. So as bug. I’d catch all my work and her’s. I guess it all caught up to me, but I’d seen all these other jocks not work in am and thought, hey they did it, why not me? I’m not that person! I’ve always loved even the hard work. But, Danny had put 3 yrs. of work on me. Into one! But, still my fault for my 2 yr. slow time. Then I figured it out! Go to Miami every winter with my fiancé and live there. Then be back for summer racing and my house in AC and Phila. Worked great for 7 yrs.
FOTH: Tell me some of your funniest jockey stories on or off the track?
SU: As we all walked back from race telling our owner/trainers what happened in race at GSP. I’m done walking behind Krone. Her horse had bolted on final turn for home. I saw what was coming so I try to get on her outside to help her.
She’s telling them how the horse wouldn’t steer and was totally out of control running straight for the barn threw hedge. When she was done talking. The owner with a 100% truth, well why didn’t you just use your left rein? (she was totally standing up, only pulling left rein)!
Her reply, was “oh, I’ll try that next time”, with a stone straight face! And me blowing my race trying to use my horse to keep her from not getting killed! (I did get a tongue lashing from my trainer), but worth it. We were crying we were laughing so hard in the room!!
Another one is on Jersey Derby day. I had a pink skirt I was getting ready to walk out of room. When Mary Ann said,” u have panty lines” I’ve never worn a g string underwear. But Mary only wore them. So, I tried every pair of undies I owned. Nope, “nope that won’t do”, so Mary says here wear my g string. I put them on and Mary walks in and is laying on floor laughing her ass off. I couldn’t figure out why. Finally, when she gets her breath. She said, as I’m picking and pulling trying to make it comfortable, “SIDNEY, you have the top on the side”!! Hell its 3 strings, how do u tell? I lasted maybe 1 hour trying not to pick that string out of my butt cheeks. I just took them off in the 7/8th pole watch stand. Nice and BREEEZEY NOW!
FOTH: That is too funny. Now did you have any really serious confrontations with one of the boys?
SU: Not the boys but MARY ANN, yes. I only dated tall bigger guys ( not buff, super hot, so not my type) like Orseno. Was the shortest lightest guy I ever went out with. Little meat on the bones and usually 6’. O, and 10 years older.
Anyway. Mary Ann only dated, skinny, short , and young (she was 32 the day I walked in room the 1st day, I was 21) so, it’s 7 months later. Brandon, a new jock in town was 18-19, she had gone on a few dates with him. I came into the room went to sign in and Brandon was there. Struck a conversation, apparently, had not done his homework!! As I told you, I made a speech over jocks room loud speakers, saying hate short skinny now go about your business don’t bug me! So, he ends by saying, ”hey you want to go to a movie or something , I said thanks but no thanks.
I get in girls room and Mary Ann is beaming, saying “I think I’m falling in love, my reply was , Girl you, better pull up, (we always talked in racing terms no matter the subject!)
Well, I thought I was doing the right thing. By telling her, he had asked me out. I had said NO and she knew he wasn’t my type, but no good deed goes unpunished. She’s 2 inches shorter than me. But she grabbed me by the front of my shirt picked me up against the wall and threatened to kill me, for messing with her guy! WTF. Well I learned my lesson. Never open your mouth!!
Another funny one. We had back then what we called “BAT BOOTS”. It’s a bar that goes across door jam. And then boots you put on with a hook on front. You hang upside down. Great for back and exercise. So every time I’d do it, I would do some sit ups too. Which in order to get yourself down you have to do sit up to get yourself down. Every time Mary walked by she’d bump me making me swing. Then laugh because it’s hard to stop. Then I was really spent at end of the day. Hanging. I said hey Mary come help me down. She laughed and said “being late to the bar you’ll be buying your own drinks!” Turned around and shut lights out and left. Now I’m yelling for my valet, or anyone to help. Then I started getting mad. The longer this went on. The less strength I had. I did finally get down. But, when I walked into TGIF, she’s telling anyone that would listen. How I was still hanging!
Always tons of gossip, pranks, foolishness in the room. It’s like having 50, 3rd graders in a room for 8 hrs. Everyday. You know 1 thing very interesting I found out? When a man has trouble at home. They ride worse. They allow it to interfere into every aspect of their lives. While girls use it to get more into your work. To escape to problem. I won so many races. Just by knowing who was having trouble! Get them talking about it, while sitting on bench waiting to go down to ride! Works every time! There also very grumpy and bad mood, which is bad when dealing with animals that are very sensitive to human interaction.
FOTH: You rode in over 2000 races. What are some of your personal favorites of them?
SU: My 2 ALL TIME FAVS
CAMOE CENTERFOLD: a mud/turf horse that could truly run 2 miles with a 100% with 3/8ths run at end!! (do/did you know how many horses can TRUELY , run 3/8’s a mile at end of race,...? .01 0/00
Almost, equally loved “Casino Action”, a dirt turf 5/8’s to 7/8’s horse. Off the pace or on the pace. Double bowed horse. He had 1-1/2 year off. And owners insist he run again (nice ole stake horse) nobody would even breeze him. Barbra Rush trained him. We did great together. I trusted her and the track vet would come by in am to check. She say you want me to jog em? He’d say no, is Sidney riding. She’d say yes. He’d say ok and walk away. We started at $5000.00 claimer (Barb told owner. If I do this. You can not raise him. Do you understand? Of course, bunch of bulls**t. So I win, he’s back in for $8500.00 (Barb: On that’s it) he wins then this goes on to $10,000 then $16,000. Now I ride him in a handicap race on turf 5/8 in AC. I went absolutely, maybe, 1/4 width of a wide on turn. It was a photo finish I was 2nd. Computers had just come out “to the very rich” owner gets on line. Finds out, if I hadn’t gone wide? (he’s got a double bow on left leg a little ankle on rt. Ankle your gonna tell me a horse equaling the track record can make a turn any tighter safely?). So they fire me and there’s 20 agents trying to take my mount (to this day I’m furious!). So I’m in the barn a week or so later and the owners show up. So I leave. They had the nerve to say to Barb, she was very rude to us! And then Barbs mad at me!???
Any way I won 7 on “Casino and With Cameo Centerfold” is the horse I galloped 6 months as 2 yr. old before she ever ran. I taught her class. When I started her. She wouldn’t go the wrong way. It blew her mind to see horses coming at her. So I walked her the entire mile wrong way about the 3rd week. I would stand her in for up to 20 minutes. I watched Billy Mott do this at Gulfstream Park. He would use his pony to calm the antsy horses until they would stand still calmly. She was always tight behind. (at least 3 times a week someone would tell me she looked to be tying up. I’d say, no that’s just her. So, I’d jog her a mile every day then turn around and gallop a mile. At 1/2 mile pole, I’d ask her to lengthen her stride. At 3/8, I’d ask just a little more. Everyday 6 months. I was out of town when she ran 1st race for $5000.00 maiden. 2. I then rode her 56 of 57 starts I don’t think she was ever off the board (unless on dirt). Loved mud or turf. I won on her the day before my spill she won. She never won again. I don’t think she hit the board even.
I bathed her, trained her, did her legs. Everything, I wouldn’t leave for Miami until I rode in the van with her to farm to get turned out for winter. As well as casino. They actually paid my way. The 2 of them. Every summer. I had many others. But they were mine and they were solid. Winners at heart, which you can’t breed I found out!
Goose had an old guy same thing old stake horse. He would run down so bad it took 4 weeks to heal. He walked into all 4 races I rode him. In 1 win picture you can see blood literally pulsing out of ankle. Soo loved him! Another track record.
I remember EVERY race I ever rode. If someone just gives me a certain bit of info. Then I replay the whole race in my head!
FOTH: What was the biggest long shot you brought in if you remember?
SU: Well 1st race was $168. But, there was one for $170 or something. I’ll look through pics. I also have all but 15 of my win pics. Mary Ann taught me that trick. Always ask for picture while in the winner’s circle. The photographer hears it. There happy they say yes. They hear. And there delivered to u in the room instead of hunting them down!!
FOTH: What went through your head when you heard of first, Garden State Park closing down and more recently Atlantic City Race Course?
SU: GSP broke my heart. My house was 2 blocks away. I watched the dismemberment brick by brick! AC only running 2 weeks to 1 week to 72 hrs. All just to simulcast. Basically was dead to me the second they quit running on dirt! Super sad!
FOTH: Have you ever gotten into an actual fight ever in the room?
SU: My 1st jockey fight. I was not even aware I was being targeted. You see, in a race there’s only ONE way to get away with it. If you want to get someone you wait until your next to them in the gate. Everyone out of gate has 1-2 jumps to straighten there horse. So, all u have to do is pull rein ever so lightly toward either side taking the horse out. Then straighten up and go on your way! Jimmy for a month kept doing this to the point I had trainers threatening to fire me. When I explained, They said,” if u can’t get along that’s your problem!” So, I used to have Monday night dinners at my house. ( southern pork chops, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes ,and of course corn bread) a new girl from Md. moved in. We got along so I started inviting her. At that time you were not allowed as jockeys to marry or live together why I don’t know. (if I was living with a jock I’d take even more pride in beating them!), but they, whoever they were thought it would lead to fixing races. If u did marry a jock or trainer, you couldn’t ride against them. If trainer, you had to ride husband horse not any other against. Crazy huh? So, back to Jimmy, the girlfriend (which I didn’t know). Was meeting a trainer at my dinners then going home with him after. Jimmy thought I was covering for her!! So, I went off on him in the room. I marched in he was buck ass naked. Which, helped a lot. He sat there dumb founded in front of the whole room. While I told him to keep his d**k away from me which means in the gate!
The of that problem, He He (that’s what buddying up to clerk helps) he had a perfect view of all men jocks!! The second time I fight with jock was in AC. Shawn, had a beef with Buddy Winnet. Instead of taking to anywhere but track I was at the 1/4 pole 4 horses nose and nose. When the outside horse just hung a left putting all 3 of us in only enough room for 1 horse. I was on the rail (I had blue and yellow silks on) so did Buddy. Shawn thought I was Buddy and was trying to put me over the rail! I was on the best horse. I had to back out of the position hang a really quick right to get to outside and ride my ass off to come back running for photo finish. All to be 2nd!! I’ve never been been sooo mad! I almost jumped him galloping back! But I said NO. That’s not lady like. I had seen Krone get in fights it made front page news. Not good publicity! I yelled at him the whole walk through tunnel and 1/2 way through the saddling ring I took my helmet off to beat the shit out of him but instead. I threw it at brick wall of girls room. Which I found out next race. It had cracked the helmet! (I played softball state champs in 9th grade!
The idiot could have killed 3 people and wasn’t even positive of right person, and what about the 2 other totally not involved people! It pisses me off footboy thinking about it! That’s why when I did get paralyzed (this I indecent happened 3 wks prior to my spill). So, when I did get hurt and it wasn’t a rider error I wasn’t mad.
FOTH: Now obviously I have to ask you, sadly, about this spill/accident that ended your riding career. What do you remember about it and what did people who witnessed it tell you what they say and what track was it at?
SU: I remember EVERY SECOND! My horse, “Doug O Knows”, was a 2 yr old 17.2 hand goof. I galloped him every day for 2 weeks prior to race. He had broken his maiden in the 2nd race a few weeks earlier. (2nd race is NOT dark yet. So he had yet to really run in dark). The trainer I think Mr. Powell was his name. He had 10 horses, 8 of which were really nice, so as u know you gotta ride the crap to get to the good. That was my hope. I had galloped for him before we were good friends. Each day on training track, he’d duck at a shadow of tree. Every damn day. I started taking a stick. It didn’t dawn on me to say anything to trainer. As far as equipment stuff. Also, he was old school, like my 2 prior, trainers that started me. (u aren’t taken very seriously if u make a suggestion on tack and I didn’t think it was life threatening) turns out. I don’t think any equipment would have changed out come! (opposing lawyers made me watch 2 hrs,19 times every angle, so I’m positive of what happened now) it was raining off and on all day, but the dirt track at AC was an AWSOME surface!
I rode the 1st race at Monmouth, then just went on over to AC (atlantic city race course-chris), rather than drive all the way back to Cherry Hill, NJ. So knap time at AC. I was to ride the 4th and the 7th. I rode the 4th (on Pray For Me she won, which tied me for leading rider. (Also, a reason I took getting Para better than most, I went out on a good note!) I get to saddle area, and I’m an instruction jock. ( due to a talk from Glen Hill after my 1st race, he said ,” If u follow instructions it’s not your fault if things go wrong) So, Paul the trainer, says and I quote “I want you to cut this horse a new a**hole, from the get go”. That’s not my style at all. But, he said so. I’m in the 2 hole. The one horse had scratched. So as we wait for all loaded, my horse had all 4 feet in stalls of each side. None in my stall! We started and I was yelling “NO BLOSS NO BOSS!” He took it any way! So my horse got left in gate by more than 15 lengths. So, I went to whip as told, he changed leads 19 times before 3/8 pole (the race was 6 furlongs) there were 8 horses in race ALL spread across track so I stay in my 3-4 horse off rail. Making it two 2nd place before hitting 3/8s pole (pan view as I went up rail, Menotti Aristone was interviewed as saying, ”when watching in real time, I was saying , to TV, Sidney NO, he thought it was a tight spot...it WAS NOT, it was room for as we say, a Mac truck, meaning 4 horse spaces wide easy, Mennoti, went on to say, as we watched replay we saw he had broken “flat footed” then making his way to the lead, he did had plenty of room and every right to be there!” So, I had gotten to a nice spot so I figure give him a breather around the turn and I can when this race toooooo, boom on my head!
I had obviously noticed the horse changing lead multi times. But, I thought he was just a big chicken going on the inside of other horses, being green. But, it turns, out there was a shadow of the rail. From the gate to the 3/8s pole that’s what the horse, was trying to not step on what looked like to him a ditch. In the dark. (that was our lawsuit, when we asked for blue prints. Surprise, NO light sheet exist, according to them!) They had not adjusted lights since they built the place! Just think, ALL those Nor’easters and your telling me those lights NEVER NEEDED to be adjusted! And no blue print sheet to go by STANDARDS?
Anyway, I had just let horse relax, were a nose behind lead horse, they went 21.3 1/4, that means I went 20. Making up 10 lengths to get to lead! When all the horses came down going into turn to save ground it made my horse have to step on shadow so he just did not push his front feet down at ALL. Just tucked them up, Hitting nose 1st. Which as u may know. Most horses in spills, tuck head be it on purpose or reflex, then that sends jock flying into air rolling for literally 16th of a mile at times. Instead of that, when he hit head 1st I felt the slightest bobble. So I pulled against the reins which made me go head 1st into dirt like a knife! I only flipped 3 X’s landed on my back spread eagle, right at rail. So no one ran over me! Thank God. When I hit across the back of my head and shoulders, I flipped as flipping my hand grazed my leg. My hand felt leg but my leg DID NOT feel my hand... So as I’m flipping 2 more times. I already knew my outcome!
Those watching race, even track announcer, didn’t see me go down! That’s how fast it happened! The call was,” and So-in-so, pulling up sharply! That was to NOT RUN OVER ME because he was dead last and didn’t see spill. I just appear at his horses ft! Thank God he was able to go around me. My horse flipped 2X’s long ways and gallops away. Needing 5 stitches on ankle. So, now to get my to Thomas Jefferson Hospital (in downtown Phila, PA top 5 in spinal cord injury) well there was a tornado watch So NO helicopter!!! I had to get to any hospital, I was in shock. They didn’t know if I had internal bleeding (they did not make vests mandatory until following year, not that it would have helped!!
Side note; the gate crew and ambulance were at scene almost at the time I stopped rolling!! And most of the whole gate crew was super close to me I used to cook for them for Monday night football! Every Monday! I broke Bug’s finger when he gave me his hand to ask if I was ok! I had NEVER broken anything in my life.
Only a week before I went down a girl had a horse flip over on her and 1st person there was amethyst Ryan, she was telling me, “She knew it was BAD, when she heard ,the “broke bone whimper!”.... what, what’s the broken bone whimper?!
She said, it’s when u break something and you can’t even cry!...all you can get out is a whimper!?
I thought of that story, the second I heard it coming out of my mouth! Then, due to Friday night in AC. All ambulances were busy. The track ambulance had to get back to races. Because NO race can run w/ out one in sight!! So, they just run by door of track doctor. To check vitals. Menotti got in ambulance for a second to see how bad (very close friend!) I don’t remember ride to the Podunk hospital they had to drop me off at, while trying to find a way to get me to Phila. That’s when I vividly remember being 1/2 in and 1/2 out of ambulance the ER nurses heard on radio I was coming. They outside waiting, not to take me in, BUT TO REFUSE ME! So, there I lay on stretcher, nurse not letting stretcher out and ambulance men trying to push it out while arguing, they can’t take a case that serious! What seemed like an hour. Finally they took me in. Racing resumed and I lay in hospital I swear I was the only person in whole place. I see a X-ray in corner of my eye. Which is way bad. However, I convince myself it must be someone else’s ... Everyone I know that was a jock had had a broken back with multiple broken vertebrae! They all rode again. Soo I kept telling anyone that would listen no calling my family. 3 hours later the hospital was full of jocks and friends that were at track that night. I made a joke, telling Paul I’ll miss work in am. Don’t fire me. No one laughed. Danny Lopez was who I was living with at the time. They called 12 times, he said ”I’m sleeping”?? Over and over. Finally 9 hours later he shows. Yet, I’m still in AC. They finally, they get an any ambulance from Phila to come to AC pick me up and drive me all the way back!! Apparently, Fridays are not when you need to get hurt BAD! Also, Danny, had a baby 9 months to the day, with a f**king hot walker! He came to see me every day I was in hospital until the day I was sitting in a chair (on the 10th day) and then I never saw him again. Thank god, he had told me. We would be married and I would retire when AC closed in August. Then pregnant! NOT. I think being paralyzed is way better then being left by a dickhead cheating Italian with a child to care for!
By the way, hot walker got $100,000.00 to walk away with baby and disappear! 3rd one he did it too!
Anyway my real man, Jim Pinkston, Neil Howard assistant, I had been with for seven years. I always said I’d never cheat. So, when I went to lunch with Danny I called Jim, and said I’m going on a date. I never cheat. Thank god he truly loved me. Was staying at my house taking care of my dog and at hospital everyday.
5 months in a body cast. 3 months in rehab. Until your cast comes off, you can only learn so much about being paralyzed when you can’t touch anything, but head and arms!! My sister did move up there for the 2 months I was “healing” for cast to come off! Now there is a ton of LMAO stories! My sister used it as. A full on party down time!!! She’d never seen how track works when not working. And it was early 90’s.
FOTH: Do you replay the race in your head a lot?
SU: Not so much anymore. I have crazy dreams. That the only time my legs work is in a race. Then as I’m galloping back I worry how am I’m going to get off. Everyone will find out I’m a paralyzed. The other really crazy dream I had, was the only one way my legs work is if I had roller blades on. So in my dream I figure I’ll just buy every color and nobody will notice.
Also, when I 1st got hurt. I’d wake up from walking dream and be so pissed! Then, I embraced it. I also always dream I walk , but as of about 10 yrs. ago there’s a wheelchair in the corner or in my peripheral vision...
I really NEVER THINK ABOUT! Since the lawsuit got over. So, finally my thoughts of it! I think of the good times. If I do think of it. I run through it. Second by second as not to forget even a millisecond of it!
FOTH: Well that’s good. Now when did you toy with the idea of getting back into racing and becoming a trainer?
SU: I took Trainer test at GSP in 94. I never had any intention of training, I was gonna take slow TB’s and make em show horses when I retired. But since, was retired by others. I wanted to stay in the game. So, even though law suit was dragging on and on, Jim was supposed to meet with me in August to start our team up to train. He had gone to rehab for drinking. My spill really pushed him way over the edge. He already drank too much. But, when he went to work for Mark Henning, about 3 months in, he and Mark were standing on rail in CA watching horses. Jim had an orange crush can he left to walk horse back. Mark went to have a sip a 7am. It was straight VODKA! He gave Jim a leave of absence to go to rehab. He ended up back at home Henderson Ky.
So with Jim’s name and my and his expertise, he literally trained Summer Squall! We thought we could get owners. I’d train and “entertain“ he he. He’d ast. train, but he died in a car wreck. Fell off the wagon. Hit a Mac truck 80 miles per hr. In Celica Truck at a stop. Snapped neck and severed heart artery at same time. So, I had to wait until 1997 to start training! I gave myself $20,000.00 to start my business. If I used it I’d quit. I hired Barbra Rush as my ast. She taught me everything. Just having to find a saddler I trusted was the only thing different from me training. And any other trainer. I probably did more than most top trainers in a country. If a baby was going in ice 1st time I did it. I made all feed so NO positives !!
I had to pay NY HELP prices. Because at the time. I could do Budweiser Flu!! No shows were not an option!
I made $60,000.00 in 3 months with 2 horse. I claimed 1st horse. Won on the run back. Ran two, 2 weeks later. But, original owner was also breeder. She offered to buy horse back, plus $2000 I said no. Claim her. But know about the unwritten law of claiming a trainers only horse. Add para trainer to that. The owner couldn’t find any one to claim off me. So she had to go get her own license!
I then took my now $15,000.00 I made on claiming her for $5000.00 J bred. I claimed Stokes Stake. From Ramous. He used to say hi every day. Stokes ran a bad 4th for $8000.00. I claimed and ran him back for $10,000. He won! Ramous never spoke to me again! Some hispanics don’t like women showing them up.
I thought training would be so different from riding.
WRONG! I was back in the boat of no women trainers! Unless I owned my own. They all saw me do great. But would only send me already broke down horses. They won’t ever give u the good ones.
FOTH: What was it like winning your 1st race as a trainer and what track was it at?
SU: It was Meadowlands. And the announcer made a big deal of it. And the paper happen to be there so they interviewed me with a mic. To public at The Meadowlands. It was like my 1st race! Only better. Once again, a not supposed to happen. But nope, as Dusty Nathen called me, in the Philly Inquirer (newspaper).
SIDS Miracle! Happens again. Every horse I claimed the 1st 3 yrs. on the raise run back won!
FOTH: So I am gonna assume you preferred being a jockey over being a trainer?
SU: By far. I’ve never ever had more self-inflicted. My forte was getting in a horse’s head. Even riding. But you get 10-19 races a week to win. As a trainer it could be a month. You put all this work in and some horse gets beat at the wire by one horse because he’s styling. I actually called everybody to make a saddle light enough for me to ride!
My saddle almost weighs more than me! NJ is the only place you can train and ride your own. (in delaware you can own/train and ride em-Kirsten Swan does-cf) I was told by stewards. “they couldn’t stop me from going out on a pony. But they damn sure weren’t gonna let me ride a race” unless it was a 1 man/ women race!
I used as think about each horse I trained and how to mentally enhance their lives. A happy horse is a winning horse! 24/7 in a stall. I was raised on show horses. They get turned out. We trail rode my trainers required. So, I sent my TB’s on “trail rides, and making them happy. In return. They won or ran their best. I remember my 1st owner. Another trainer laughed and said good luck and meant it.
The horse had 0 biers # I’m not kidding and he ran long. I ran him he was I think 78 to 1. He ran a great 2nd. Got a 68 biers!
Trainers especially the “big guys”, basically train. Everyone the same way with the exception of filly’s (female horses). Because they demand a different way. Gentler kinder touch like a fine wine. I personally hated filly’s. Probably because we’re alike! But like my man Glen said, “you can hit a woman once, you might hit a woman twice, but you’ll never hit a woman 3 times. Very true. For a woman, speaking from experience!
I learn from Rick Wilson and I forget the other guy’s name (a leading rider). He ran second and just beat the crap out of that horse after the race galloping out! I was about to, oh it was yank that f***er off his horse. And I was just ponying!
With all this whip, riding a horse out to the end. This is what’s up against now.
# 1: whips are not made to cut, leave a welt. Their meant to take by surprise , yes it stings. But more surprise than cut, may I add a plus.
1a) Once u hit a horse 3 X’s. 1st, it’s where you hit. For example, if u hit a horse in the flank that’s super sensitive, you never hot there! There’s no faster way to stop a horse ever.
There’s so many trainers that have never ridden a damn pony at a carnival. Yet there gonna tell me what to do? Once again only on the track!
When I got paralyzed my mom if she had it her way, I’d be traveling the world going to every or any faith healer or any new procedure any one has come up with. I told her,” when there’s a cure for paralysis, their not going to keep it a secret! It will be all over the news, meanwhile... I’m going live life/have a life! Not to mention, I don’t have the money “Superman” had to add a wing to a hospital, so he could keep his secret! He was doing cocaine when he went down head 1st over a jump.
Also, his trainer, had him pay $70,000.00 for that horse whom was very well known for refusing jumps! My nurse worked there. When he came in. It was a hospital not even on map. For spinal injures! Until he paid for the wing. To be close to home. In upstate N.J. (got the whole inside scoop. As long as I kept my mouth shut. But now he’s gone and wife. I think it’s ok to tell you!
I think the name is Kessinger, not sure.
FOTH: Now you were a trainer from 1997 till 2005. What event or events led to you stopping training horses?
SU: I found I could 3X’s $ for house. Property taxes $4000.00 a yr. and help got worse and harder to find! I had horses in tack on the wall at 7. They weren’t getting out until 9:55! It was giving me an ulcer and they weren’t even good!
Soo I come home for thanks giving and my brother in law shows me this farm he got in auction for $140,000.00.
20 acres 4 bedroom 2 full baths. Hand built in 1919! I saw great potential. I had 4 super KY breds. Working 5/8’s in 59. Under wraps! So Churchill is 4-1/2 hrs away. And filly’s I thought they’d really do well. All had a meeting with all owners.
I owned 10% minimum of all horses in my barn. So I had more control. I get here and everyone, even my partner backed OUT!! I spent $180,000.00 to make TB farm. And then they call saying “you buy me out”??!! I didn’t have any $ left! Partner, Jone Barone, lil weasel, been in the biz for 14 yrs. Never won a race until I started training for him. He talked my owner out of coming changing trainers. They never won. Hell they only ran 2 races then retired (and were talking 2 yr olds!) So what was gonna be racing with a side of handicap riding turned opposite!
I at least got to be with my Dad the last 2 yrs. of his life! My sister started late having children. She wanted me to be a part of their lives, because my house in NJ sale fell through on move here. So, I could have gone back. I just felt this is where god meant me, to be. Racing help was truly driving me crazy. The last 5-6 months before moving. I don’t think I slept a full night. Worrying about John’s crazy screaming. About things totally out of my control. He was having family problems and couldn’t keep the 2 separated!
He actually told me, “While still married he got a (office/apt) to find a girl friend?!”
Bat shit cray. When I took on new owners from claiming. I always bought apart so I made more $ not just 10% and got a cut rate for day rate. Which they loved. Then, when I started getting nice babies, John seemed to get jealous his job with owners was only for gambling. I have NEVER gambled and all owners do and want to try and mess with pay off. I’m not going to cheat! My horses paid decent prices 8.00 or more. Not bad without trying to hide or misuse of drugs which I was pushed constantly to use ( EPM). I did research extensively. There no set dose for a horse. Many trainers were using it I knew not to claim from. I got 1 by accident, he seemed messed up. So, I went to trainer I claimed from. He said for 3 months they thought he had pneumonia, then 2 other misdiagnosed? So I sent him to swim (my go to when laying up a horse) he actually had a heat stroke swimming ??!! It took 28 jugs to save him. When all was said and done “Gator” ran 1-2 every start for a year!
FOTH: Did you have a favorite trainer to ride for, a favorite horse you rode, and favorite horse you trained?
Fav Trainer Goose ,Charley
Fav. Horse Cameo Centerfold
Fav trained horse. Stokes State
Charley left Philly a year after he started me. But Goose in all the races I rode, he never gave me one direction! He never got in 1 win pic. His daughter was in EVERY PIC!!
FOTH: Now do you follow the sport much nowadays?
SU: Not at ALL. People always call me for Kentucky Derby every year. I don’t even know who in it. I’m good friends w/ Shug and his wife. So I get pics of their nice horses. My gang is old now. So, I don’t hear much. Ross Pearson talks to me a lot. And I hear about Orseno from Stacy Prior. She still works for him and Bobby Ann Hawthorne/ Barb her mom. That’s about it.
My hubby would love me to train again. But, no good trailer and rider. Also claiming I’m out of the loop. You need to know what trainer’s are dopers (even just steroids). If there on them and I get them. If they r getting monthly injections and I get them I don’t use. If u stop them. They’ll drop like flys!
FOTH: So when you rode races, obviously tracks were way more crowded with fans/people than they are nowadays. Is there any possible way to bring more fans back to racing?
SU: Even when I left in 2005, you could roll a beach through the grandstand and not hit a human thanks to call in betting. Philly got on top first. Then simulcast was barely keeping it going. Then casinos seem to have brought purses back, but getting people on site? They need to get more family friendly. To get new life. Like Saratoga?!
FOTH: Are casino's a must for racetracks, not the few A plus ones, to survive?
SU: I think so! It’s the only reason Parx still exist. I was shipping to Charlestown. To make 3 times the money!
When I was still a groom at Atlantic City, the ast. trainer said he couldn’t believe how bad attendance was! And that was “1981”. Then when I started training, everyone, that had been around a long time, thought we would be just “a” tracks. At this point nobody had seen the casino affect yet. Phila Parx had just started the phone betting. It was very successful. Old timers through NY and California and KY would be only live racing would be around. By this day. Back in early 80’s...
FOTH: Did you ever ride female riders and if so who?
SU: At 1st nope. Crazy I know. At the time I wasn’t a fan of the few that were riding. But after Felix let 2 horses nail him on wire, I also used them “the way I was !” You gallop em, you ride em. Lisa (Dellipaoli-chris) and I did great together. Also, I found it very hard to get respect, even though my 1st year all we did was win or run 2nd?? They wanted to ride their race! Like I said, ”I had head case, horses!” They all had little issues. That meant the difference in win or 3-4th!! I never looked at the racing form as a rider. Except the far right side. Where, comment was...such as unruly start or bolted or left in gate. That it. One night I walked in Meadowlands, Julie and Diane Nelson we’re studying the racing form. I said so what ya see?
Their answer, was, your going to get in the way! I laughed,.. I also won!!
Since I claimed, I usually let rider that rode them for other trainer ride them back!! They knew the horse. I didn’t ask ?’s I just said in paddock, you know them, ride em like you own em. Then I’d change riders. Due to attitude, even though horse was way better in my barn. They never came by to say hi. Nothing. Just expected to get mount! That pissed me off! I like riding hungry riders. Like I rode Krone once, she felt she couldn’t win so she pats me on the back and says “don’t worry, they’ll win back???” What the f**k. I just spent $600.00 to preface and ship. And I don’t get a check?! I was fuming. So I never rode a top 10 if I had a choice again! I want you to get on my horse at least once. To know there quirks! I did like Tony Black always! He never lost his heart! Still!!❤️🦄❤️🦄
FOTH: I assume being an ex-jockey, you can tell when a jockey has ridden a bad race.
SU: Ooooo yes footboy. Like the horse I keep coming back to, my jock knows he’s on the best horse, he’s got perfect outside post. All he has to do is stay out of trouble, you would think, but when he’s at 16th pole and styling. He never checks. And is 3rd due to 2 f***in horses nail him! I’ve never been so mad in my life. He won 7 in a row and then this. Can you say, your fired? Letting jocks ride back a horse that I claimed (because they knew better than I) but it took only that 1 race even though they won on the raise. I got no respect. No agent came by. To stay on horse. No jockey saying thanks? It blew my mind. The disrespect was mind blowing. I think I got more respect riding, but I always, even a scrap I win on and payed double digits. I took bagels and coffee to any and all! As thanks to hot walkers, grooms, and last trainer It was so funny. The most appreciative of all was Glen Hild’s wife, because she was he was cheap. She said,” WE Soo luv when you ride us!! You always bring us coffee (she was blown away that I’d buy for whole barn!” So super sweet! He made so many millions, and lost so many millions,... 🤣🎉
I would give direction for any situation (drove all crazy) I finally learned to say to my “ I believe in you jocks”.
Which was, when I get crazy, just say, OK , Sid I get it!!
Because the race I got paralyzed on ,when he said Bert em to front, I normally would have known I broke way off make little runs down backside, and give breather on turn. Then make one run for home! That’s actually my Forte! I rode a race for Haines Rimer. W/-0 lbs bug. He gave me instructions, that the horse lived for the inside rail, well, horse didn’t get best break, I was on inside of gate. So, I broke. Just sat, circled field on the outside. I won coming from behind! He actually said in interview, I guess I have to tell her what rail I’m talking about? He F***in won. From last and on outside. So, he didn’t know his horse the way he thought! To have a $5-8000.00 horse that can be VERY, on lead, off lead, and now he found out he could be last to 1st for 1st time ever!! But he just had to put me down even though I won due to gate problems. Not me. You would think he’d be happy to know a $5-8000.00 claimer could be anywhere and win! THATS UNBELIEVABLY RARE!
FOTH: Best race you ever saw a jockey ride? Who was it and why was it so impressive?
SU: Well, THE WORST I ever saw was Shoemaker (Billy-chris) on “Ferdinand” in Derby!! Sesawing the horse going into 1st turn. Where the horse could not see head straight in the air! If u ever watch wild horses running. They don’t droop each other. They have to be able to see.
It’s human nature to say, ”grab a left rein, crank there head totally to left. Now they can see there going to run right through rail. I used to pull then let go off and on. To let horse see what’s coming. Of course your 1st thought is jump. Until u look down and see how fast and hard it would be!
Let’s see BEST, I’d have to say the Allydar , at 1/4 pole clipping heals jock helps keeping him up and comes back on to a photo finish. Can’t remember who rode him. I think it was Allysheba! Yes that’s who I was thinking of!
My all time FAV jockey is Laffit Pincay Jr. and Angel Coradro. Mike Smith too all were class through and through. Since I left in 2005. I really didn’t pay attention. Chris Antley. Was a GREAT friend of mine. He’s in my win pic. Running second! He’s standing straight up looking over at me,” as if to say, how the hell is that horse the winner! And a top jock ever too!
Great hands and loved horses. Lots of men start hating horses. As time goes by. Like Rick Wilson, Jake? They retire and never touch a horse again.
FOTH: If some young girl asked for any advice on how to become a jockey, what would you tell her?
SU: Go see Frankie Lavato. He’s got a jockey camp. Julie Krone even gone to help. I’d go in a minute. But this COVID19 stopped that idea. I was going to go this past summer.
He invented that practice horse!! That’s how Krone, became a MUCH STRONGER, rider. She ordered the 4th one. I think. She practiced 1 hour every day. There amazing. The neck moves like a horses. Teaching you to hand ride much better. Now there super for handicap riding. He makes pony ones horse. And all between! Super cool!
The guy that helped me (forget his name, a Hispanic guy ruled off for life. He lived in Cherry Hill. I’d go to his house and sit on back of couch. Using a phone line as reins. While he coached me.
I’d get to know her. Then I’d see how tough she was! They will break you, if you believe their crap. I’ve seen sooo many mental issues. Eating disorders and add low self-esteem, then they get suicidal, drugs, alcohol, etc. You have to be way tough, even now!
FOTH: Over your career did you have many regrets?
SU: Just my failure to take advantage of my Miami time! Not doing the am work, super hard, was a truly stupid thing to do, especially being taken very seriously when I got there. Riding every day the 1st week I got there! When I got back to Phila Park Joe Bravo was just losing his bug. He was thinking of going to NY. I sat him down and told him,”under no circumstances do you leave here for a whole year. For a whole year” It was so we could find out if he could do fine without the bug. He took my advice, and did well. For quite a while. Everyone has dry spells. No matter who u are. Did you know Pat Day went to NY to ride and couldn’t get a mount! He went back to KY. Where they thought he was god. Krone’s 1st try in Ca. She came home in 3 months. Same story.
FOTH: In 10 years do you see just a handful of tracks left?
SU: Yes, really now with this covid19. Those with casinos will make it, but little $ from horse gambling. Most from the contracts horseman made. To get casino moneys. In order to have casino on their property!! Look at Phila Park. They had call betting FIRST, and simulcast, and they only let simulcast had to be a dining room setting. NO OTB’s yet they still almost closed. Until casino. Now Charley Harvett, called me just the other day. Saying $23,000.00 purse and 40% in PA. Breds! That was a stake race when I left!
FOTH: So now what are you doing with yourself these days?
SU: I’ve got 6 cows (beef), but all hand raised. I even can brush them. So if something comes up wrong, and no vet calls. We only have an app. Vet. Although I think new vet would come for horses emergency and a 27 yr old 16.2 reg. Palomino , and a lil paint pony. That’s 5ish. We got her from Auburn shelte ( found walking down highway with her 16 hand broke gelding), my 2 gals I taught as kiddos (twin got them there 1st real horses, even paid $300.00 for 1 because the 1 Lil girl got “ full body” shaked off horse, breaking her elbow, after 3 surgery’s “.
She was absolutely LOVED HORSES, but so scared, I used my horse a handicap service horse, to get her courage back! It was so funny, Jim the horse was a lazy boy. But when rider just walks, he’d do anything. He so loved her, he would do barrels, lil jumps, because he knew, all he’d have to do was walk it!! He He (I had a 16 yr. old boy come out autistic). Mom thought it would help him learn to drive. He was about 5’.11” at least 180 lbs. he’d wear a zip up hoody in middle of summer? But when I was teaching him to groom, he went to pick hooves, he would sit down cross legged UNDER Jim!!?? I’d say no no no, but he’d sit!!? Jim would be so, so careful. Not even get flies off legs or tummy. I would have to saddle myself!
So I hunted down a walking horse saddle. Due to light lbs. and 17” no matter, butt size he would fit!? Anyway, Adyson, my gal at 13 was in love with Jim. And flourished, meanwhile sister Matty, was my lil Indian!! She’d ride my green broke 2 yr old mustang 1st generation mustang. And ride the hide off em! Anyhow. My lil chicken, loved her own new horse and now NO ONE else can even work with him.
Now she’s got this super nice highway horse and they knew I needed a pony. And gave her to me. She’s in her 2nd yr of equine college and a vet and a vet tech for summer. Matty’s doing same vet tech in summer not sure her major. Funny how the “natural”, has just luvs her goats and mule. Yet my chicken is breaking horses!! I’m like a proud mom! I usually have 2 to 4 private lessons (handicap students per summer) $65.00 per hr. Twice a week and pool cleaning and dog training rich spoiled dog training.
I’m a huge ceaser melan person and now natural horsemanship person.
Turns out Wayne, the farm I learned track breaking. He used many of the, all to new, way all those years ago. But my body, has gotten tired of arms being legs! My femur is broken in 1/2 rt. At knee, 6 yrs ago. Is still broken (called non-union fracture. If I fall wrong, it could hit femoral artery! So my usual falling, crawling acres, flipping 4 wheelers, and backing my 4 wheeler electric chair into pool is now a bit more complicated !! Also, 2 pressure sore surgery’s have presented, quite the problem with hubby is gone 16 days straight per month!
By the way, we nearly got divorced over cows! I didn’t spend $19,000.00 for perfect TB fencing to be chopped, demolished by damn cows. Now I’m stuck with em due to market. Don’t get me wrong, I so love you baby everything. But, as I tried to explain to him, sun up and sun down, is not a saying, as a farmer. You can’t be a full time pilot (16 days gone 13 home) and be a farmer. We cut our own hay. It’s crazy and never ending. We have been married 10 yrs. I’m Oct. and he’s really pushing it. The house was built in 1910!! On the books as 1940. That’s when it got water and etc.
Have you seen the movie “MONEY PIT?” That’s my life. I have to have electric. chair to do barn work and not get stuck. Ha Ha. I did finally get help 4 years. ago. Thank god. But doesn’t know much. But great come since for equines.
You know, I had to actually had to learn, to be a backyard horse owner!!?? I treated every one like TB’s! There still, spoiled rotten. 4 fans per horse and 2 huge fans. They come up all day. Then go out at night. Bathed almost everyday, cows no fans. But moved to hay 24/7 feed and grass. I know crazy town for sure. But tons of work. Stalls to clean. I didn’t even know I could clean a stall!!?? It started with 5 gallon bucket…then I remember to old timer way on track see 4 oat bags together, so I bought tarp that size. And cleaned all 4 stalls (had 4 at that time and no help) I could clean stalls and drag out to pile. But couldn’t empty tarp. So I paid a gal in way to work to pull and dump tarp $15.00 for 3 minutes work! Now I’m able to use muck bucket. All alone!! Amazing, that saying, the mother of necessity is invention. I learned 1st hand.
FOTH: What track or tracks did you wish you had a chance to ride or trainer at when you were riding/training?
SU: California. East coast was like home. For me. California would have been neat.
FOTH: Do you still even watch the races when they are on TV?
SU: Yes, I want to see if my peeps win. Seeing Kenny win yesterday, I laughed so hard. He’s in Kentucky now. When I was riding he lived above the barn at Penn National with a girl. We went to “The Club House” the bar everyone went to after races in ACRC. His girlfriend was puking her guts out. I was holding her hair when the door opened. Of course we couldn’t close stall door. He sees she had no underwear on under skirt. So, he started letting ANY GUY, look for $5.00!!!?? To see him all holier than thaw, bugs me!!
Oh I forgot to say earlier, my all time favorite type horse to ride, is a horse that comes from behind and the longer the race the better!! Sneaking through on the rail and that explosion of run!
Asking for help is my biggest problem. I’ve crawled 10 acres, but never asked for help. I had to ball for help. Tonight. I was, in tears at the thought. I just can’t ask!
FOTH: Most under rated jockey you saw riding?
SU: Andrea Seafelt! She is AMAZING!!
FOTH: When you look over your whole racing career does anything stand out to you, not counting your accident obviously?
SU: Equal amount. Wayne Fesmire and Charley Baddley. I would have not had a racing career without those 2 men backing me.
FOTH: Speaking of weight, what are your thoughts of the weights on riders?
SU: Since they let BOYS, start riding at 16, they don’t stop growing til 25. I’d have to say. They should up the pounds. The UK has been higher than US for years. So, think 114. Could be the lost pounds. Frankie really takes on eating disorders at his camp! Girls tend to start later and most have some college where boys don’t even finish high school.
FOTH: Are jockeys as a whole some of the most under appreciated athletes in sports?
SU: Absolutely. I know it’s 90% horse AND 10% jock. It seems a jockey is the most important in the highest level and lowest level. Because there the most even in horse to horse racing. Julie Krone once said she’d rather ride anything than a $5000.00 claimer because it’s much harder.
FOTH: Do you think they should focus more on making the jockey's more the stars than the horses since they continue to ride year after year as opposed to the star horse who retires after his Triple Crown/Breeder's Cup run?
SU: Yes!! Look at Calvin. He was never heard of until he rode Triple Crown. You could tell by his style of riding he had ridden MANY “cheap” horses. You can’t just pick up the form. To ride a cheap horse you need to know them. Since 99% of girls only get to ride the cheap horses. I was flown all over the country just to breeze a turf stake horse. Because nobody could get him to breeze. But me? I wasn’t allowed to ride in race. Also, if I started a baby and they went on to be nice I was taken off for a top man jock to ride!
Also, Owners want a leading rider, but a good trainer knows not all fit ALL horses. But, owner, tends to win that fight. Then blame trainer, trainer blames jock. As you know everyone, blames the next person. Instead of saying maybe , there over there head. I actually had an owner tell me,”You must run horse for a purse of $10,000.00 or MORE!” He’s a $5000.00 claimer!
FOTH: So I guess the sports of kings is just a distant memory except for a couple days a year.
SU: Yuppers. I miss it terribly! The friends and horses! The daily tasks! At the end of the day. Way more great days than bad, like things that you love.
FOTH: Sidney, it has been a pleasure talking with you about your riding and training days, so thumbs up for doing this interview. Any last words to wrap this up?
SU: “Footboy” it’s been a joy reliving my glory days, hee hee. It truly feels like it was yesterday! Speaking of which. JJ Graci used to call me “Underwear” (original like I didn’t hear that my whole life in school) he would always come running to me, when they needed an interview on the fly! He knew I’d do it. So, I’m riding a horse named “Back to you on all Fronts” footboy!! “Naked Thoughts”, prior to cameras he kept saying it. So, cameras on, he says it on national TV! I died laughing on the spot. He never lived THAT DOWN, Footboy!!
On a final note, RACING NEEDS MORE LIKE YOU AND YOU BETTER NOT STOP KISSING THOSE FEMALE FEET FOOTBOY LOL!!