By Jack Shinar and Claire Novak
Jockey Chantal Sutherland surprisingly announced her retirement in a statement released Oct. 21, saying she is ready "to begin a new chapter in my life."
Sutherland had two scheduled rides on the Oct. 21 Woodbine card. Crushin Hard, the mount in her final race, was seventh in the Bunty Lawless Stakes for her family's Paradox Farms and Hugh Sutherland .
"I love Woodbine, I love riding here," said Sutherland. "It's nice that I could end it here, where it all started for me."
Sutherland, calm and professional before the race, admitted afterward that it was difficult to be walking off the track as a jockey for the last time after a 13-year career.
"It's a very emotional experience," said Sutherland. "It's sad, but I feel good about the decision and the timing is right for me. I hope to be remembered as a very good jockey."
Sutherland, 36, did not specify what will follow her riding career. "I'm excited about my future and the challenges it will bring," she said. "I enjoy working hard and striving to achieve goals, so who knows; maybe you will see me pop up somewhere soon."
Her decision, she said, comes after a year that "has been so amazing it's actually overwhelming having to put it to words.
"I crossed paths with a horse that happened to change my life. That horse is named Game On Dude and what a horse! He's a soldier. Together we travelled the world. We won the Santa Anita Big Cap (gr. I), Goodwood (gr. I), almost won the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I); we won the San Antonio (gr. II), Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), and the Californian (gr. II). We travelled to Dubai and raced in the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
"As if that wasn't enough," she continued, "I was asked to be the poster girl for Santa Anita and Del Mar racetracks, and had my picture on billboards and magazine covers. I can't even describe how flattering that is. Another honor for me was being asked to represent Canada and the USA in a worldwide jockey challenge in England, titled The Shergar Cup. To top it all off, I was also able to win on my brother's horse, Awesome Fire, in the Wonder Where stakes. In an ironic twist of fate, my dad, who started me off in this crazy love affair with horses, is also the proud owner of the last racehorse I will ride.
"In the last year I also met and married the man of my dreams. It's been a whirlwind. I've never really had weekends or holidays off, I've always spent so much time racing or focused and preparing for racing. Racing takes so much determination, guts, and sacrifice to be on top.
"I once craved, lived, and breathed racing. I can honestly say now, I'm ready to slow down and enjoy my life. Maybe I'll cut loose and have a cheeseburger or some pizza. Those types of indulgencies (sic) are not allowed when you constantly have to monitor your weight. Racing is so much hard work and takes so much mental toughness; I can honestly say that I've had enough."
The full statement is available on the jockey's website, www.chantalsutherlandjockey.com.
Sutherland was suspended five days beginning Oct. 14 for providing a breath analysis in excess of the allowable limit for alcohol at Woodbine Oct. 6, and was fined $300 in Canadian funds.
The jockey, who has ridden 7,350 races with 931 winners including 71 stakes triumphs, has earnings of $47,285,391 during a career that began in 2000.
Sutherland was born Feb. 23, 1976 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and started riding at Woodbine. She was the Sovereign Award winner as Canada's outstanding apprentice jockey in 2001 and 2002.
Her visibility on the national scene went to a new level after she rode in Southern California in 2007. Since then, she has marketed herself as one of the sport's top female riders and has promoted horse racing through appearances in Vanity Fair, on the Conan O'Brien show, as the face of a Del Mar advertising campaign, and as a star on the Animal Planet docu-drama Jockeys.
In the saddle, she is best-known as the former rider for top Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) contender Game On Dude. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert named Rafael Bejarano as the new rider of Game On Dude after Sutherland rode him to a runner-up effort in the TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) Aug. 26.
She became the first female rider to win the Santa Anita Handicap.