They used to say that horse racing is a man’s sport, but woman like Dee Curry prove that thought to be completely wrong. Dee is a horse trainer over at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA and here is here story:
CF: For those who don’t know tell me and the readers of this website exactly what a trainer is and does.
DC: The Trainer is responsible for the preparation of the horse for racing. They are responsible for conditioning and care of each horse. They hire a staff to care and feed, as well as exercise the horse.
CF: How did you get started in the racing business and around how long have you been involved in the racing business?
DC: The best way to learn about the business is to start at the bottom and get hands on experience. It is a trade not easily learned by reading about it. Like a Chef, every trainer has different techniques and sometimes trial and error is your best teacher.
I started out as an exercise rider working for many different trainers. I also groomed, and then was an assistant trainer. I absorbed all the different techniques that different trainers used, and then created my own.
CF: When you first started in the horse racing business, was the goal of becoming a trainer what you had in mind or did that come later?
DC: When I first got involved, I never thought I wanted to train. That came later when I got the opportunity to train for a friend. I planned on training for a short time. The hours are not easy! It's been 15 years and I've been able to make a comfortable living. I had the 3 year old of the year at Philadelphia Park (now parx racing) in 2009.
CF: I know you have to take some type of test to become one. Tell me and the readers of this site what exactly is in that test and looking back was it a harder or easier test that you thought it was going to be?
DC: The test was not that hard. I had already taken the assistance test and knew the anatomy of the horse. What I had to learn was more about the rules of racing and how to enter in the right races.
CF: Now do you feel as being a female that you had to work that much harder being a trainer to earn the respect of other trainers, owners, jockeys, etc?
DC: This business is still a male orientated sport. At Parx I definitely had to earn the respect of others. The hardest is earning the respect of owners who will support your business financially. Many times I have gotten a young horse, got the horse to race, even win. Then the horse is moved to a popular male trainer because the owner thinks the horse will be successful. That never worked out for them. I guess when the big owners start trusting women trainers; we will see a Derby won by a woman trainer. We won't get the opportunity unless that changes. The big money owners tend to not hire women as trainers.
CF: Take me through what a typical day is like for you.
DC: I get up early and start getting horses to the track as soon as it opens. I get on my lead pony and sometimes lead horses to and from the track. I usually train young horses, so my lead pony is a big help. My grooms prepare the horses to go out, and my hot walkers cool them out when they come back. While the horses are out of their stalls, the stalls are cleaned, water buckets cleaned. After training I go over what leg work I want done with my grooms. Some horses legs get iced, bandaged, etc. I prepare the feed and add the supplements. At this time I usual go over what horses need to be shod with my blacksmith and what horses need vet work with my veterinarian.
At this time, I head to racing office and enter horses for races coming up. While I am there I visit the tack shop where I order my supplies, get shavings and feed. The next day, we do it all over again!
CF: What has been your favorite horse that you have ever trained?
DC: I have had a few really nice horses. I've been lucky. Cheeksnpeanuts was a great filly that I won a few stake races with. I trained all of her foals as well. She was an amazing runner and Broodmare. I ran 3rd in the Cotillion with her filly. My best horse was my own horse. His name was Neeyo. He was 3 year old of the year in 2009.
CF: Are there any other sports that you are a fan of and if so which ones and why.
DC: I'm a big sports fan. That's probably why I love horse racing. Football is my favorite. It is a lot like horse racing. You can't make an athlete but like a coach, when you are giving great athletes to train/coach, nothing can be more exciting than to see your horse/team win!
CF: Do you feel that being a trainer and just working in the horse racing business in general is only for a certain percentage of people due to the long hours and stress that the job can bring at times?
DC: It takes a special group of people to do this business. It's stressful because people tend to judge you as a person by how many races you win. And the hours are not normal! Many trainers do not give their staff a day off, ever!
CF: How much longer do you plan on being a trainer or do you just kind of take things week by week so to speak?
DC: I don't know how long I will continue to train. I have cut my business down from 20 horses to 12. It can be very tiring, but the love for the sport does keep me going. The winter months are the hardest. Competing with the weather can be very difficult!
CF: Do you feel that you have been treated pretty fairly as a trainer over the years?
DC: I guess I have been pretty lucky. I know my actions have kept me treated fairly. I am pretty strong willed and don't back down. Kindness can be a sign of weakness but at the same time I try to be as classy as I can. My goal is to treat my owners with honesty and respect and if that's not good enough, so be it. I've proven I do know what I am doing in this business, if that's not good enough, so be it. All I know is I sleep good at night knowing I do my best every single day.
CF: Have you ever had people tell you over the years that horse racing “is a man’s game” and if so, what have you told them in response to that?
DC: If they haven't told me, I've told them! I smile and keep doing what I do. That bothers people more. When I first started training I had 3 horses. The first horse I got claimed from me, the trainer told me women shouldn't be training horses. That was 15 years ago and my credentials now, are much better than his ever were.
CF: Dee thanks for your time any last words to wrap this up?
DC: Thanks for telling my story. For all the women out there in this business. Be strong and just be the best you can. By doing that you will prove yourself without saying a word!