Women Sport Report Feature Jockey Maria Remedio by Chris Forbes
When most athletes retire from any sport they are involved in, 99% don't ever unretire and try to come back to the sport they previously played. Most just ride off into the sunset and carry on with their lives. Some end up staying involved with the sport they formerly played in the form of being a TV announcer or getting a job with ESPN or any of the many sport networks that are all over cable TV.
Well I am here to tell you a story of a jockey that retired in 2010 to become a mom, a mom of 2 kids who came back to the sport of horse racing after being away from the sport for 2 years and since she has come back to ride, she has been putting up some incredible numbers.
There are currently in the US a total of 1623 that are jockeys that are riding in races today and Maria currently ranks 105th in purse earnings for the year of 2013.
Being a female in a male dominated sport is not easy. You have to have mental and physical toughness to be a jockey otherwise you will not be in the sport a very long time.
Now for those who don't know exactly what a jockey does here is exactly what a jockey does:
A jockey is someone that you pay to ride your horse (owner/trainer) in a race.
Normally a regular sized human is too heavy, so a jockey stands in for you.
Most are anywhere from 5'0" to 5'5" tall and weigh between 105 to 120 pounds.
Well this jockey's name is Maria Remedio and here is her story.
She grew up in Wilmington DE, and was pretty much a tomboy growing up. She has 3 brothers and 1 sister. She attended Hodgson Vo Tech High School where she wrestled for the boys JV Wrestling team; she wrestled at 103lb. weight class and logged a 9-3 record. She also joined the boy's lacrosse team and became a key player. She also became a member of the US Girls Wrestling Association and won individual titles in Pennsylvania, Washington DC Virginia and placed second and they wanted her to be on the varsity team, which she ended up declining to do.
As far as being a jockey, the thought did enter her mind at a young age. She had always lived on a farm and from day she started riding as soon as she could sit in a saddle. She competed in Western Gymkhanas: barrel racing and speed events. Her mother (patti remedio) quotes "We knew we were in trouble when she would come out of the ring and say "I need a faster pony!"
Her step-dad (trainer) had her on thoroughbred horses at the track at age 14 galloping race horses. He would tell her to "put your goggles on keep your head down and don't talk to anyone on the track". For the next 41/2 years she rode any horse anyone would let her ride. She rode amateur flat races having to make weight (130lbs) by soaking her saddle towel with water and hiding rocks under her saddle.
That is when the actual thought of being a jockey entered her mind. For the next 2 ½ years she exercised horses to get herself familiar with becoming a jockey. (Every jockey, before becoming a jockey is what is known in the racing industry and an ex-rider. It varies from person to person on how long they do this for).
She did most of her exercising for a trainer named Graham Motion who she ended up riding her 1st race for at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. When asked what her thoughts were on her 1st race she said it was a rush, but not mind blowing and she liked it a lot. She said the jockeys up at Monmouth Park were good to her and helped her out as much as they could before and after the race.
Looking back, she said becoming a jockey was harder than she thought it was going to be. She actually ended up going to New Jersey, to Monmouth Park. She said that everybody knew her at Delaware Park, but Delaware Park you have to go through all these steps to get your jockey license, so she ended up going NJ for her boss. At Delaware Park she had to take a couple tests and they had her coming out of the gate so she says in the long run she had to work extra hard to get her jockey license.
Maria's first win came on her 19th birthday, October 20, 2004 aboard "Semtex Sally" for trainer Paul Layton at Penn Nation. She said it was mind blowing and she won the race by 9 lengths. She was actually kidding when she said, "if I don't win this race I am never riding again". The jockeys got her good after the race pouring 3 buckets of water on her, shaving cream, powder and eggs. (It is a ritual that has been going on in thoroughbred racing for many, many years when a jockey wins his/her 1st race the other jockeys get him/her with various items, such as above.
Well after her 1st win in 2004, she pretty much rode full time, mostly riding at Delaware Park and Phila Park (now called parx racing) in PA. She also rode out of town to such tracks as Laurel Park, Pimlico, and Monmouth Park. At time she said she wanted to ride for 5 years and well that turned out to be not the case so to speak.
In 2004, she rode in 45 races for the year and won 4 races and had 3 second place finishes and 5 thirds.
Well in 2005 was pretty much her first year as riding as a full time jockey as she rode in 634 races and winning 74 of them and had 87 second place finishes and 73 third place finishes.
In 2005 also became an apprentice jockey and for those who don't know this is what an apprentice jockey is:
An apprentice jockey is a race rider who has ridden less than 40 winners or less than two years since first having been licensed in any racing jurisdiction, and who otherwise meets the license qualifications of a jockey. The apprentice has to ride in three races before he can carry a whip. In the racing program a 10 pound apprentice would have this symbol (***) next to his name. The apprenticeship of an apprentice jockey shall automatically terminate one year from the date of his or her fifth winning ride, or on the date of his or her 40th winning ride, whichever comes later. No apprenticeship shall extend for more than two years from the date of the fifth winning mount, except for good cause the Board may extend the termination date of an apprenticeship or amend the conditions under which the apprenticeship is granted.
After she lost her "apprentice" title she became a "journeyman" jockey. A "journeyman" jockey is horse racing term for a jockey that has lost his apprentice.
At the end of her full first year as riding as a full time jockey as she ended up riding in 634 races and won 74 of them, had 87 second place finishes and 72 thirds.
Now while she was an "apprentice rider", she suffered 2 pretty serious injuries. One was a broken collarbone and the other was a broken foot. During the time of each injury she was not riding and was doing rehab to get back to the races.
In 2006 she also had another full year of riding under her belt as she rode in 533 races and she won 64 of them and had 70 seconds and had 78 thirds. On October 25, 2006 she won a horse her mom trained up at Penn National.
In 2007 she had her biggest career win to date (excluding 2013) as she won 91 races from 530 mounts, most of them at Parx Racing (aka Phila Park). She also had 70 seconds and 73 thirds and her purse earnings were almost $ 2 million dollars that year and besides the 2 pervious injuries as mentioned above she doing really well. She was also invited by Parx Racing Trainer Herold Whylie to go to the West Indies in Jamaica to ride in a jockey challenge where there were over 16,000 people in attendance. The challenge down there actually had 6 out of town jockeys and the rest was local jockeys and there were 5 races in the challenge and you just picked at random which horses you rode. She is not sure who won it, but a bunch of her horses ran good as she had a 2nd and 3rd place finish and this was the first time she had ridden out of town so to speak. She was the only female jockey in the race and they had a big crowd because there are no female riders down there.
She also won 3 Grade 1 Stake Races at Delaware Park, which was very special for her as she grew up in Delaware.
In 2008 she had another outstanding year as she rode in 403 races and won 71 races and had 59 seconds and 47 thirds for another year of almost $ 2 million dollars in purse money.
In 2009 her first child, Caleb Dominic was born October 21, 2009. At this point in her life she wanted to still ride, but she was planning to ride part-time. She only rode in 55 races that year (09) and won 4 of them. In the time she was pregnant she never got up on a horse and after being away for almost a year, she went and went to Parx Racing where she got up on 6 horses in the morning and said felt good, but the next day she was taking Ibuprofen to take away the pain!!!
In 2010 she mostly rode part-time as she juggling life as a mom and being a jockey. She rode in 65 races that year and won just 7 races as juggling her life as a mom and trying to be a jockey was starting to take its toll on her.
See, when you are a jockey, your typical day is getting up at 5:30am and getting to the track around 6am when the track opens for training, exercising and breezing horses. (this is to get horses that are going to be riding in a week or so ready to race). You do this till 10am or so and then if you are riding that day, you go home for an hour or so and then head back to the track to ride races.
Now another thing I would like to add to this story is that the name of the game in horse racing as far as a jockey is, is to won races. If you are not winning races then your days of being a jockey may not last long as the only "guaranteed money' you get is $ 100.00 mount fee. You also have to be 100% dedicated to being a jockey and this is one sport where everything falls upon your shoulders as you are the only one up on the horse and if you start slacking off you can easily be replaced by another jockey.
In August of 2011, her second child "Arabella Danette" was born August 9, 2011. 39 days after giving birth by cesarean section she thrilled her mom by winning on her horse King Kobe at Delaware Park. I was at the track that day that she won that race and believe me for a jockey, after being away from riding for so long and then going through what she did, to win a race less than 40 days after giving birth, is an incredible story in itself.
In the fall of 2011 Phila Park put on another female jockey challenge and after it was over it was decided that she was going to be moving up to NY to live with her fiancé at the time, jockey David Cohen. A few days after the challenge, she, after much thinking decided she was going to retire. She was going to put family 1st and with her changing locations, riding in races was just not going to be a good fit for her now.
She told me when she went into the jock's room with her valet a few days after deciding to retire and to go clean her locker room out it took her quite a while to clean her stuff out. It was very emotional for her as riding was her life and David at the time said she could always go back to riding as nothing is set in stone. She also said to me that there were no second thoughts with her decision and she knew what had to be done. She says she almost shed a few tears on her way out the door.
Well she went to NY and tried to be a stay at home mom, but the staying at home all day wasn't agreeing with her so in around 2012 she decided to move back to Bensalem, PA to resume her riding career. She wanted to look the best she had ever looked during her riding career. With her not being up on a horse for nearly a year she told me that it took her much longer to get into riding shape and she this would be her last chance to ride as a jockey.
Things have obviously had changed with her being a full time mom, but she has the full support of her mother, family and friends to make it work.
She is having her best year as a jockey and she rides with a ton of confidences and puts in 110% effort on every horse she gets on.
On March 16, 2013, Maria was involved in a spill in which she was thrown from a horse she was on and took off the remainder of her mounts that day. The next day she ended up riding her 3 mounts and she won the very last race of the day and then the next day, she won the first four races on the card, making it 5 wins in a row for her, which is quite an accomplishment.
At the time of this article coming out she is fast approaching 400 career wins and as far as how long she plans on riding for, she told me she takes things now day to day. I am sure for the rest of the year (2013) and beyond we are going to be seeing her in the winners quite often and you can bank on that. I have been around the sport of horse racing for over 30 years and she is easily one of a kind.