Jun 28 2014

My day at Woodbine Racetrack

What is a fun way of spending the Friday before the Canada Day weekend? Horse around at Woodbine Racetrack!

I have always wanted to know about the world of horse racing. Previously, I had been to one race ever, the Queen’s Plate, when Queen Elizabeth was visiting Canada. So when the opportunity arose to meet Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson – one of Canada’s top female athletes — and get behind-the-scenes of horse racing, and learn about the life of a jockey, I said YES! I was thrilled, to say the least, to meet the first woman to win the Queen’s Plate (2007), Canada’s oldest and most prestigious race.

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Emma-Jayne Wilson started her morning at the track at 6 AM. By the time I arrived at 8 AM, she had already been working for 2 hours.

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Given the nature of the sport, jockeys have a weight restriction, with an maximum limit of 115 lbs. But don’t let this fool you. At approximately 108 lbs, Emma is a powerhouse, which has put her into the top tier of athletes in Canada. While she is a mighty force, from watching how she is also able to gingerly handle the horses back at the stables – she is one with a gentle soul.

Between preparing horses for the afternoon races, Emma taught me a lot about horses. Like, if you stick your fingers in their mouths they get your taste and hopefully — HOPEFULLY — they will not bite you (or something like that).

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Touring the stables was fascinating. This racer, “Hiking Buddy,” (owned by Frank Stronach), took me by surprise when he licked the back of my head and neck. Just a wee tickle…

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At the training track with some of the stables behind me. A beautiful morning with the sun shining and the only sound was of horses clomping and running.

IMG_1608Later in the afternoon…

The promenade as jockeys ride their horses from the stables to the track. Emma and the horse she is about to race appear behind me.

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Go Emma Go! Caught-up in the excitement of it all, I could feel myself pushing my energy to help Emma’s horse go faster (as if that’s going to help).  She won this race.

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One of the horses Emma raced was Executive Jester, owned by a lovely couple, Don and Carol Pennycook, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the track’s Club where I learned about reading stats (see graphic below), betting and about racing in general. I am so grateful.

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This is what the information looks like in the racing day’s bulletin with all the stats and details about the horses and jockeys, so spectators can make informed betting decisions. These are the details regarding Executive Jester, ridden by Emma on his first-ever race. Don’t ask me to interpret…it’s all Greek to me.

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Selfie at the training track with Mike Luider, jockey agent extraordinaire — and my new best friend :) Thanks for all the insights, fun and laughs, Mike. It was a fabulous experience! I can’t wait to attend the Queen’s Plate next weekend!!

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