Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Just get on and ride'

Tim Moccasin won the first race he rode in, but nobody told him how to stop the horse

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He was 12 years old when it happened and it's a moment that was etched in his mind for life.

Raised around horses on the Saulteaux Band reserve near Cochin, Sask., a stone's throw from North Battleford, Tim Moccasin, 34 recalled his first race, at Meadow Lake on a horse named Becka Valley.

Moccasin said he was simply told to get on the horse and ride. He was assured someone would be at the finish line to help him stop the animal.

He wound up winning the race, but as he watched the finish line coming closer and closer, it became extremely clear that there was no one around to help him stop the horse.

After a couple of extra trips around the track, he finally managed to stop the thing, and his love for thoroughbred racing was born.

Moccasin, who struggled last year at Assiniboia Downs, wining only 17 races, would appear to have made quite a recovery.

Heading into today's and Saturday's races, he already has one more win than last year, and in only 103 rides. In the jockey standings, he trails only Paul Nolan with 28 wins and Rohan Singh with 23.

Does this mean that the five-time leading rider at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon could win jockey of the year here?

The soft-spoken Moccasin, who along with his wife Amy and three children now calls Kamsack home, doesn't put much emphasis on winning titles. "I'm not really looking at catching anybody," he said. "I just go day by day, race by race. If I think I have a shot, I just go out there to do my job by doing my best.

"I don't need the extra pressure. This is my job and this is what I do. I get paid to win races, and I try my best in every race.

"Of course I'll accept the award if I win it."

Moccasin always goes into a race with more than one plan, which may be a throwback to his first race experience on Becka Valley.

Plan A is always follow the instructions of the trainer, but no one ever explains that to the horse, so backup plans are always a good thing to fall back on. Moccasin says that after a while it becomes automatic. "It just comes natural for some people, just knowing where you are at in the race. You always have to think about where the wire is, because that is where you have to be."

Back in Cochin, horses were a part of life said Moccasin. "My dad had horses, his dad had horses, and I just grew up on horses. I had an uncle who raced horses, and my cousin Sheldon Poitras, who is deceased now, really got me started on thoroughbred racing. He taught me the ins and outs."

Considering himself lucky that his worst injury has been a broken arm, Moccasin says that the falls he has taken have made him a more cautious rider.

"It is a dangerous game, so you have to keep your mind sharp. There's been times where I had to be careful because of a wild horse, and little incidents like that are always in the back of the mind. You never really know what to expect. It keeps you alert and prepared."

Included in his 18 wins this year is the six-furlongs, $30,000 La Verendrye Stakes on a mare named Honorable Lady on June 9.

"That was kind of awesome," he said. "I watched her in her first two outings. She ran her first against the boys in allowance company, and I thought she did pretty good against the tougher geldings. And then with the mares allowance race, she ran a good race, but she just tuckered out.

"The trainer, Tom Gardipy Jr., did some work with her and got her ready. He did a good job with her. I was very fortunate to ride her, and I did the best job I could to give her a fair shot at winning the race."

Moccasin attributes his early success this year to a better work ethic.

"I came early this spring," he said. "I was here in March, and started getting on a lot of horses early. I think that really helped me."

Moccasin has five mounts tonight, not including the six-furlongs, $30,000 Chantilly Stakes. He has six more, including Kola Kat in the six-furlongs, $25,000 Frank Arnason Stakes on Saturday.

Post time today is 7 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2012 C5

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