The following is excerpted from
Women in Racing: In Their Own Words. Published September 2001 from Eclipse Press.
When I first came to Chicago, a lot of people said, "Oh, you girls never make it here. It's really hard." I think winning my first race helped a lot. People sat up and said, "Well, you know what? She's actually all right."
Things started picking up almost right away. But it wasn't all smooth. The next day I rode one for (trainer) Pat Cuccurullo. It was a horrible day. It was pissing down rain. The track was sloppy -- I'd never ridden on a sloppy track before -- so, of course, I dropped my whip in the gate. I called out to the starter, "Hold on, I've dropped my whip." And all the other jocks are mimicking me, saying "Oh, I've dropped my whip, I've dropped my whip." I said, "Shut up before I smack you." And I ran last.
When I went to use my whip, it was brutal. In all the years I'd worked horses, I'd never used a whip. Everybody said, "Zoe, you looked great until you picked up that whip." [Jockey] Mark Guidry said to me, "Zoe, you're doing really good, but just don't hit 'em until you can hit 'em better."
But I practiced a lot to get better. It took me a good while for me to be comfortable with the whip. At first, I used to look back to see where I was whipping. Somebody said, "Zoe, you don't have to look -- that part of the horse isn't going anywhere." Which made sense (laughs).
The other jockeys were helpful. There were two other girls here then, Mary Jo Brennan and Kelly Sampson, and they were great to me, and so were the guys. Listening to guys like Ray Sibille and Carlos Silva and Earlie Fires helped me improve. Even now, one of them might pull me aside and say, "What the hell were you doing out there? It won't cut it if you do something that winds up dropping everyone else." So I do a lot of listening and learning.
Now I'm the only woman riding here in Chicago. But I'm not isolated. I'm only in my own little (jockey) room when I'm getting changed or having a shower. Because we all hang out in the track kitchen anyway, or else I'm in the exercise room. I just kind of consider myself one of the lads here, so to speak. That's fine. I wouldn't care if there never was another girl rider here.Buy the bookOther excerpts