Chantal Sutherland-Kruse will make her return to Woodbine with four mounts April 12 as the curtain lifts on the Canadian track's 2014 meet.
Sporting a vibrant pink jacket and a California tan, Sutherland-Kruse was easy to spot the morning of April 9 on the Woodbine backstretch, traveling barn-to-barn with agent Don Parente.
"It's cold! But I'm excited. It's good to be back," she said. "I'm out here now looking for 2-year-olds and hoping that I can find three good horses. If I can find three good horses, the rest should fall into place. We're out here hustling. Don and I work well together. It's just getting back in it and getting your feet wet. The goal is to do well and give it my best."
Sutherland-Kruse, a Winnipeg native, launched her career in Canada earning outstanding apprentice honors in 2001 and 2002. From 2007-10, she was a fixture among the leading Woodbine jockeys, totaling a personal best $8.78 million in earnings in 2010.
An ambitious move to California in 2011 paid huge dividends as Sutherland-Kruse landed the mount on Game On Dude and guided the front-running gelding to victories in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap and 2012 Hollywood Gold Cup , as well as a breathtaking second-place finish in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic (all gr. I).
After getting married, Sutherland-Kruse retired briefly from riding in October 2012. She returned to the sport last June.
"I missed the horses and I didn't realize how much this was my life," said Sutherland-Kruse. "I really wanted to get back to all my friends and the business of racing. I love racing and I always will. Even when the time comes that I'm not riding, I still want to be a part of it. I love watching races and I've had so much fun traveling around the world for horse racing. I love the game."
Despite her success stateside, mounts in California were sometimes hard to come by.
"It was frustrating," admits Sutherland-Kruse "There weren't a lot of horses and a lot of five-horse fields. I'm happy with how I did, but it was frustrating."
The 38-year-old Sutherland-Kruse boasts an impressive resume. having ridden at the top level across North America, Europe, and Dubai. She's counting on that experience to help her make an impact in her Woodbine return.
"I've ridden all over the world now with a lot of different jockeys and I have a few more tricks in my bag," she said. "I've been humbled as well and learned from other jockeys. As you get older you get a little wiser. I would love to win a Queen's Plate, but for now I just want to enjoy this time back at the track riding and just being able to ride a lot more races and be competitive."
There's another career milestone, a 1,000th win, which is just 50 winning trips from her grasp. It's a goal that her good friend and fellow rider, Emma-Jayne Wilson, reached in 2012.
"That's definitely on my priority list," Sutherland-Kruse said. "I just can't believe Wilson got 1,000 wins before me. I watched her win her 1,000th and I said 'Damn it, Wilson.' It's bragging rights, but it's a personal goal and something you want to hit in your life as a jockey."
Sutherland-Kruse, who boasts a record of 950-951-1,002 from 7,535 career starts and purse earnings in excess of $48-million, said she just wants to get her groove back.
"I love competing and I can't wait to get back at it," she said.