His mother's not thrilled, but California native Stan Ning wasn't bluffing five years ago when he gave up a career as a respiratory therapist to try his luck as a jockey."I was making a fairly decent living," said Ning, who has a biology degree from University of California at Riverside. "When I was 25 one of my friends said 'Why don't you think about being a jockey?' I lived 10 minutes from Santa Anita all my life but had never even been to the track. "My family is filled with doctors and PhD's, so needless to say my mom isn't very happy. But the rest of them are excited."After taking riding lessons for six months, Ning was introduced to jockey-turned-trainer Frank Olivares."Frank told me to be at the track at 5:30 a.m. and there were no days off except Christmas," added the 30-year old. "It was a lot to digest so I took a week before deciding to do it. I started from the ground up. I walked hots for a while then learned how to groom. After a month he finally let me get on the stable pony. I worked for him for over two years and he taught me what he knew."Eventually Olivares thought Ning was ready to ride in the afternoon and named him on one of his horses at Del Mar on Pacific Classic Day 2002."I was nervous when I arrived in the jocks room," said Ning. "Mike Smith came by to introduce himself and found out it was my first race. He called Laffit Pincay over and they told me what I needed to know to get around the track. It was quite an experience getting an education from two hall of famers."Ning guided Glow Of Gold to a seventh place finish and the maturation process from exercise rider to jockey had begun.
In January, he moved his tack to Charles Town and quickly won five races to begin his apprentice year. But he broke his left arm in a spill and missed three months. Last month Ning arrived in Maryland, where he has one victory from 30 mounts at Pimlico and Laurel Park."This is a tough colony, but hopefully I can make a splash here," said Ning, who has 12 career wins in 252 mounts. "This is an awesome story only if it ends up the way I'd like it to." Ning's goal is to ride seven to 10 years with a possible return to Southern California, where Olivares has recently returned to riding after five years as a trainer.