NEVER underestimate the power of a woman’s touch.
It can make a child feel safer, persuade a man to take more risks, and heat your blood to get-it-done temperatures. It can also make horses run faster.
"You run your hands up the neck of a horse," said jockey Jennifer Reid." And they’ll run for you."
Reid arrived late into the claws of a tough local jockey colony this year and it didn’t look good. Adolfo Morales and Paul Nolan were already winning races in bunches and the best of the remaining mounts were being fought over by hungry jockey agents tired of eating instant noodles.
Reid took whatever she could get. She won anyways.
‘I’m just another one of the guys until I put a dress on. And I want to win. I don’t want to finish second' br> — Jennifer Reid
She scored a hat trick last Saturday aboard Distorted Day ($10.10) for trainer Rob Atras; With Prejudice ($12.00) for trainer Emile Corbel; and Bluesie Brown ($9.80) for trainer Jack Robertson.
She then added another victory Wednesday evening to move into sixth place in the standings with five wins.
"It’s a struggle for everyone," said Reid. "It doesn’t matter who you are. I’m just another one of the guys until I put a dress on. And I want to win. I don’t want to finish second."
There were 62 riders at Turf Paradise in Phoenix this winter, yet Reid managed to win 34 races including the $35,000 Arizona Stallion Stakes for top trainer Dan McFarlane. Like all good jockeys, horses just run for her. It’s a combination of finesse, communication, strength, quick thinking and natural talent.
Reid earned her muscle growing up as a farm girl in Saskatchewan, throwing bales, feeding cattle and doing chores. She learned the art of finesse and communication from horses, not beauty school, and won at barrel racing and rodeos as a kid, before attending the Exercise Rider/ Jockey Training Program at Olds College in Alberta. Her first mount at a recognized track came at Northlands Park in Edmonton five years ago, but she was injured in a spill on her sixth mount, and ended up riding at bush tracks in Alberta.
"Riding at the bush tracks was rough, exciting and crazy," said Reid.
"Guys who can’t ride anywhere else show up there. They were half-mile tracks and clods of dirt as big as your fist would fly up and hit you in the face, break your goggles. It was a learning experience."
Reid got her big break when she started riding at Assinboia Downs for trainer Tom Gardipy Jr., who was looking for an apprentice. In 2012 she just missed the riding title, losing 76-75 to Paul Nolan despite winning four races on the final day. In 2013 as a journeyman she finished third in the standings with 57 wins, an outstanding first season without her apprentice status. And she proved herself once again this past winter in Phoenix. So now what?
The 5-foot, 114-pound brunette Aquarius says she’ll continue to work hard in the mornings for mounts. She’ll eat a healthy diet that includes ample amounts of water, juice, rabbit food and whey protein, but also says she likes a good steak and baked potato. And she runs and walks regularly to maintain her fitness level.
So what’s it really like being a jockey in public, but not in a race?
"I get ID’d everywhere I go," said Reid. "And do you know how annoying it is to have to shop in the kids’ section for size three shoes? And the other night on the tarmac I came out of the jocks’ room with my silks on and someone asked if I was a real jockey. No, I just wear these clothes for fun."
And what about social occasions, what happens when people find out what she does for a living?
"They look at me like a bug in jar."
said Reid, who counts among her offtrack hobbies girl shopping, playing X-box, anything nerds like to do, and reading romance novels.
"I just bought five more," said Reid.
"They can’t print them fast enough for me."
Wearing a floral-print sundress, a tomboyish grin, and a hint of mascara, Reid was more like a firefly in a bottle. The one the couple is looking at, on the cover of one of her romance novels.
With soft hands, and a bit of an edge.