Charlsie Cantey -- Network Natural

The following is excerpted from Women in Racing: In Their Own Words. Published September 2001 by Eclipse Press.

I don't think the public can ever, ever understand exactly what goes on during a race and how much it takes for jockeys to keep a horse out of trouble and yet still keep him in contention without endangering themselves. I don't think people realize how split-second the danger is out there. We can criticize riders all we want to, but just try it one time. I rode one race in my life. It was at Philadelphia Park; a race for amateur riders. It was a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. The only way I would do it was on the turf. I can't stand getting dirt in my face. It hurts! I don't know how these jocks stand it.

We warm up and get behind the gate. It's a field of twelve; the riders are a whole bunch of other people like me, not jockeys, but amateur-type riders. The head starter comes up and says, "Okay, how many of you have never broken a horse out of the gate?" Three hands went up, one on a rider right next to me, and I said, "Oh, shoot!"

We broke out of the gate, and all I can tell you is the one thing I remember most of all was going, "Wait a minute, the turn is here already!" So now I've lost a bunch of ground around the first turn and now we're going down the backside, and I'm thinking, "That was terrible, I'd better not do that again. Oh, here's another turn!" It was just awful. My horse ran decently, but believe me I was just so glad when it was over. I mean, like you're going, "Man, I've got to watch out for this horse in front of me," but then while you are doing that, and watching out for the horses around you, all of a sudden the white rail has turned left and you haven't made the turn. It just went that fast.

I think it was Dave Johnson who interviewed me after the race, and he said, "Well, you've just ridden your first race. What do you think?"
I said, "I think I apologize to every jockey in the United States of America that I have ever criticized."

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