One of the world’s top jockeys, and the former star of Animal Planet’s JOCKEYS, races for the first time at Del Mar this season.
Chantal Sutherland and friend
How did you get into jockeying in the first place? I became a jockey by hanging around horses. My dad was a thoroughbred owner, but he was completely against me becoming a jockey because of the danger. My first race was in 2001. I started to win races and that changed his mind a little bit. He still isn’t really into me being a jockey, though.
What does it feel like being on a horse going that fast? It is very exciting! It’s like being in a really fast car with someone driving out of control. It’s exhilarating and breathtaking. It makes me blush. It makes me giggle.
What does it feel like to win? It’s a thrill. The horse can hear the crowd and so can we. It gives you tons of energy to hear the crowd cheer.
Tell us something about horses that we don’t know. A lot of the fillies are temperamental and nervous. They are anxious. You can’t boss them around. They have a mind of their own. The colts are playful and you can be more aggressive with them as a jockey. You need to let them know who’s boss so they respect you. They have short attention spans, like men … little to none.
Do you have any pre-race rituals? I have to read my form and I spend time relaxing. I have to be alone and I do the race in my mind with all the scenarios that I think will happen. I put on my happy smiley face for the crowd and owners; when I get close to the gate, I put on my game face.
This is our jobs-themed issue. Any cool perks from horse owners? My favorite thing is when the owner gives me a $100 win ticket and I put it in my boot.
About the Del Mar match race you’ll be competing in against your ex-fiancé, Mike—what made you say yes to that? (Laughs.) I said yes because I can’t believe Mike said yes! Seriously. It’s going to be a lot of fun. His forté is match racing—that’s how he learned to ride. He’s pretty sharp and knowledgeable about it. He taught me everything I know about match racing so it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens.
We’ve read that you’re the Danica Patrick of horse racing. Shouldn’t she be the Chantal Sutherland of Indy racing? I think it’s funny. It’s nice that people compare me to her. She’s very popular.
What wins stand out to you? My most memorable win was the Santa Anita Handicap this year. I won on Game On Dude. It was my first Grade 1 win at Santa Anita. The purse was $750,000. It’s a funny story—I had never been on Game On Dude before. I got the mount because I could do the weight of 115. Bob Baffert’s wife, Jill, kept telling him to put me on a horse of his. Finally, she convinced him to put me on this one.
You’re also a model and an actress. Can you tell us about your upcoming HBO show? It’s going to be amazing. It’s called Luck—my part is small, but I’m hoping it’s going to grow into something more. I really enjoyed working with Nick Nolte, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, and John Ortiz. Everyone was really cool and they all cheered for me when I was racing. If you like horse racing, you will really like this show.