If horses could feel pride, it's a good bet there's an Appaloosa Paint by the name of Bourbon out there in Saskatchewan somewhere who is darn proud of Jennifer Reid.
The 23-year-old Reid, who was born in Melfort, Sask., and has lived half her life in Alberta, cut her teeth barrel racing with Bourbon on the Alberta rodeo circuit, and has the championship belt buckles to prove it.
She doesn't ride the barrel circuit any more, but Reid has now cut a niche for herself in thoroughbred racing. Last Sunday she rode a filly by the name of Mining Town wire to wire in the eighth race to pick up her first win of the 2012 season at Assiniboia Downs.
A winner of 20 races in her first full season here last year, Reid finished tied with Chavion Chow for eighth in overall standings, and says this year the sky is the limit.
"It was a good race," Reid said, commenting on her Opening Day victory. "(Mining Town) was excellent. She goes hard and as fast as she can, and she's nice and easy to ride."
Reid, who weighs in at 107 pounds soaking wet, starting riding at age 6 and her career evolved naturally from there. "Barrel racing will teach you to ride, and it is competitive," she said. "If you have a good horse you can make money on the professional rodeo circuit. Bourbon was my own horse, and I had him since he was a baby until he was seven. He was like a pet to me."
Already an accomplished rider, Reid decided in 2007 that thoroughbred racing was her thing, and applied to the exercise rider and jockey training program in Olds, Alta., where she learned to gallop.
"That was when I sold him (Bourbon)," she recalled. "I was sad to let him go."
Since graduating from Olds in the spring of 2008, Reid has come a long way. Last winter, following her first full season at Assiniboia Downs, Reid moved on to Woodbine in Toronto where she picked up one win, and Fort Erie, where she added a few more, bringing her 2011 total to 28. From there, she moved to Ocala, Fla., where she worked as a gallop rider for the winter.
Her stint at Woodbine was more of an educational investment than a chance at cracking the "big leagues," of horse racing. "My goal was to come to Toronto and learn everything possible," she told Alberta's Racing Website Horses.com on Nov. 2. "I have everything to gain and nothing to lose by going to Woodbine. It's very different here. if you are smart you are always in the jock's room watching, learning and growing. Woodbine is a whole different league out here and such a good challenge."
As an apprentice rider she did not race while at Ocala, as that would count against her wins this year at Assiniboia Downs. "I want as much time as an apprentice as I can get here," she explained, adding that the weight allowance is a bonus. However testing, the southern tracks racing will be an option at the end of this season. "I lose my bug at the end of September, so it's an idea for the winter."
Reid has the heart of a winner, as indicated by her inspiration Rosie Napravnik, who in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, rode Pants On Fire to a ninth-place finish, ranking her as the highest finishing woman rider in the Derby's history. On May 4, Napravnik rode Believe You Can in a field of 14 horses (13 male jockeys) to became the first woman to make it into the $1 million Kentucky Oaks winners' circle.
"She can ride like a guy, and we keep getting told we can't," said Reid. "They (trainers and people in general) are always comparing us. Some think we're too weak or whatever, but eventually they're changing over and starting to see that we can do it too."
Today, Reid has five rides, seven on Saturday and seven more on Mothers Day Sunday, which indicates that she has the confidence of local owners and trainers. Of course, the more rides she gets the happier she is.
"I'm here to win as many races as I can," she said.
Post times today and Saturday are 7 p.m., 1 p.m. on Sunday.