I have known Shannon Uske for quite some time now and since her interview on my page is from a few years back I asked her if she would interested in doing a new one and she agreed so here is what was said between us:
FOTH: I know you are far from old, but how many more years do you see yourself riding and after you decide to retire from riding do you see yourself being involved in the sport for a long time to come?
SU: I plan on riding for as long as I can. I don't know how many more years it will be, but I definitely won't be retiring anytime soon. I think I will always have something to do with racing. I love the business and horses.
FOTH: I know you are pretty much bouncing around from Parx Racing to Monmouth Park now and Penn National on some nights. Do you like night racing at all and do you have to prepare differently to ride at night and do you pretty much prepare the same way when you are getting ready and you’re up in the jock’s room?
SU: I love night racing! I miss the Meadowlands meet. For me, the mornings are the worst. Not that I don't like to work, but I don't think I'll ever get used to getting up so early. The preparation is the same for me as it is in the afternoon.
FOTH: What is something funny that you have seen go on in the jock’s room or something that you saw that still make you chuckle a bit and are you a bit of a practical joker up in the room at all?
SU: I'm not really a practical joker in the room but a lot of funny stuff happens there. I can't tell you how many times I've fallen on the floor because one of the guys pokes me or grabs my knee because I'm so ticklish. They all think it’s so funny.
FOTH: Take me through what a typical day is like for you nowadays?
SU: A typical day for me now is get up around 5:30 to go to work and always stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way because I need coffee and something to eat to wake me up since I am not a morning person. I get on horses and walk around to see people until about 10 when the track closes. If I'm in an early race, I'll usually go to the jocks room when I'm done work. If I'm in a later race, I'll go to the mall and walk around and shop for a while then go to the jocks room. Shopping is much more fun than sitting in the room with nothing to do, especially in the winter. During the summer, the jocks room at Monmouth is nice because we have lounge chairs where we can lay out in the sun and relax. The beach is also only a mile away so I can go there too if I have a lot of time before I ride. When I'm done riding, I'll get dinner.
FOTH: What are some things that you like to do when you’re not doing racing related things?
SU: Obviously shop lol! I have my own horse that I ride. I used compete in jumpers before I ever raced; now I just jump my horse for fun. I like to go out to clubs with my friends, but I don't have a lot of time for that because I have to be up early almost every day. I like to play Wii when it’s cold like now. I play Wii Fit, EA Sports Active, and Champion Jockey the most. It’s fun and not a bad workout! When it’s warm out, I usually find other stuff to do since it’s nicer to be outside.
FOTH: So far what has been your favorite horse to ride and as far as racing goes do you pretty much do as the trainer wants you to?
SU: I have a few favorite horses, but Lilah really stands out because I won my first race ever with her and wound up winning 7 total on her. She was a great mare to be around and a lot of fun to work with. As far as the races go, I always try to do what the trainer would like, but when the gates open plans can change quickly if a race doesn't set up as anticipated. Then I just try and put the horse where they feel comfortable.
FOTH: What injuries have you had so far and what has been the worst one you have had so far?
SU: So far I've hairline fractured some ribs, which really wasn't bad and I only missed 2 days of work. I dislocated my shoulder a couple of times which had to be repaired by surgery. That one was bad because I wound up missing almost 8 months total because they tried physical therapy for 2 months and then I went back to work, and started having problems so they had to do surgery and it took 5 1/2 months before I could race ride again. It’s been great since though. I also fractured c-4, 5, and 6. I was very lucky though with the way I fractured it. The doctor's told me, "If you're going to break your neck, that's the best way to break it.", which may sound messed up but it’s true. That was probably my worst injury though because of the concussion I had with it. I felt the effects of it for almost 6 months.
FOTH: Do you have an agent or do you pretty much do everything on your own and what are some of the trainers you are riding for nowadays?
SU: I currently do not have an agent. Right now I am riding a lot of horses for John Tammaro as well as horses for Kevin Fields, Mike Mullin, and Ralph Riviezzo.
FOTH: Is there any track that you would like to ride at one day that you have not rode at yet?
SU: I would love to ride a race at Santa Anita because it looks beautiful on TV and everyone says it’s nice.
FOTH: Which do you prefer the dirt or turf or do you like both? Speaking of turf, do you think that Atlantic City Race Course has the best turf racing and is it as good as advertised?
SU: I prefer whatever surface the horse I'm riding has the best shot to win on, Lol! I do think Atlantic City has a great turf course. I wish we ran on it more. It doesn't tear up the way other courses do, although we only use it 6 days a year so it doesn't really have a chance to get torn up, but it’s really a great course. I hope they decide to give us more racing days there.
FOTH: (funny question and please give a funny answer) Speaking of Atlantic City do you have any special plans for me down there in 2012 lol and do you remember what you had me do down there last year as it was quite comical?
SU: You'll have to wait and see what 2012 will bring to the AC meet! Every year there is quite comical if you ask me!
FOTH: When I say the words Monmouth Park what comes to mind and for somebody who has never been there before describe a bit what it is like there?
SU: Summer racing is what I think of. It’s so nice there. There are a lot of nice horses there and good horsemen. The people there are friendly and it seems hard work pays off there. It’s a great track for people to go to. It has something for everyone, I feel. They have family fun days on Sundays so kids have something to do like face painting and pony rides. The picnic area is always packed and they have many events over the summer like the seafood fest, which I love! LoL! They have good competitive racing too. There's plenty outside of the track there too. Long Branch Pier is a little more than mile away. There's a nice beach there with good stores and restaurants. I love Monmouth, but I also grew up watching racing there.
FOTH: When you decide to stop riding would you ever consider being a trainer or an ex-rider and do you think one way or another you'll be involved in the sport of horse racing all your life?
SU: I guess I will decide that when the time comes, but I am sure I will be involved someway. I love horse racing and everything that is involved with it. I feel so lucky that I don't have to work behind a desk like most people.
FOTH: Since you are from NJ do you go down to the Jersey Shore much in the summer and what is the best and worst part about living in NJ?
SU: Of course I go to the shore in the summer, although I like going to the boardwalk and clubs better in the winter when most of the guidos are gone. For the people that watch Jersey Shore on MTV, that is not what people from NJ are like, but that's what Seaside looks like all summer. I think the show being on TV has made it worse because more people are looking and acting like them! I like living in NJ because there's a lot to do here. There are the beaches/boardwalks, nice malls, Great Adventure, NYC is only an hour from my house, and it’s easy to get to many racetracks from here. I also don't have to pump my gas and there's no sales tax on clothes. I think the worst thing is traffic. No matter what direction I'm going, if it’s close to rush hour there's no way to avoid hitting traffic.
FOTH: Looking back what was it like going out to Canterbury Park and riding out there for I think was one year and what led to you going out there and did you enjoy your time there?
SU: I was at Canterbury for 1 summer. I really liked it there. I met some of the nicest people I've ever met at any track there. The horses were well cared for and people gave me a chance there. I really liked it there, other than there was no beach. Everyone hung out at the lake and I could never get used to that. I will not go in a lake with algae and stuff floating around. I went there for a change and to go somewhere different where girls would get a chance and I could break away from being known as "the Chief's girl". I love the Chief and working for him, but people here looked at me like I was just his stable rider and didn't seem to think I wanted to ride outside of his barn, so I left to go somewhere where I could break away from that perception.
FOTH: I know I asked this before, but I'll ask it again, if a young girl wanted to become a jockey what advice would you give her?
SU: I would tell her to be ready to work hard and that she has to be mentally tough because it gets frustrating and difficult at times. It’s not an easy business for anyone.
FOTH: Tell me a good funny jockey story and do you like to pull other pranks on other jockeys when you’re riding much?
SU: Sometimes we pull pranks in races like smacking each other’s butts in a race if we're battling for last. Joe bravo was the 1st to do it to me. I just laughed when I saw it was him. Sometimes we bet a soda when dueling for last as well.
FOTH: Do you ever take a week or 2 off from riding to recharge your batteries so to speak and if you do what do you do, just not accept any mounts for a week? Have you ever gone much on vacation?
SU: I'll take a week or 2 off from working in the am usually right when Monmouth closes to get refreshed and some rest. I still ride the horses I'm named on in the afternoon. I don't want to turn down business and risk losing the mount. I’ve gone on vacation when I've been hurt because I can't work then anyway.
FOTH: Do you ever get nervous before a race and do you ever get recognized much outside the racetrack?
SU: No I don't really get nervous before a race. I get more anxious sometimes when it’s a horse I'm looking forward to riding. Once I get on them, I stay calm. If I’m somewhere where there's gamblers, I might get recognized, but not when I'm out in general. People will recognize me by name when sometimes though.
FOTH: What are your favorite foods that you like to eat?
SU: I like to eat a lot of fish. I love sushi, stuffed lobster, grouper florentine at this place by my house. I like to eat Italian food that has a lot of cheese like baked ziti as well.
FOTH: For those who don't know explain why it is harder to get mount once you lose your "bug" and explain what exactly a "bug" is.
SU: A bug is an apprentice rider that gets a weight allowance based on how many wins they have to encourage trainers to ride them. Some trainers really like riding bugs because their horse carries less weight and bug riders will just let horses run instead of thinking as much as a journeyman may; Journeyman tend to ride with more strategy. It’s harder to get mounts when you lose the bug because you are now carrying the same weight as riders with much more experience and some trainers have riders that they've been riding for a long time, so when you lose the weight advantage, they go with their regular rider.
FOTH: (another funny question) Do you ever get tired of putting your thumb up for a certain somebody who shall remain nameless?
SU: Not really although it’s hard to put on a smile with a thumbs up sometimes after a race doesn't go as I hope. I think that person can tell when I don't feel like posing for a thumbs up, though.
FOTH: Shannon I am out of questions. Thanks for doing this 2nd interview and any last words.
SU: Thanks for your support over the years and I am sure I’ll be seeing ya around.