2It's only a corny line from the Clint Eastwood movie Bridges of Madison County. However, for Alyssa Selman, 26, who once dreamed of being a full-time jockey only to end up working as an exercise rider at Assiniboia Downs, the line seems to fit.
"It (dreams) doesn't always work out for everybody," she said Thursday. "But I enjoy the work I am doing."
Galloping provides a steady paycheque, but the Stephenfield native never turns down a chance to ride and make a little extra money, and as her own agent, she saves 25 per cent of her winnings when she does get a ride. "Ideally it would be better to have an agent, but I do save the agent's fee."
Selman and her husband Rumesh (also a gallop rider and former jockey), begin each day around 4:30 a.m., when they get up and leave their son (Amar, 4) and daughter (Ari, 18 months) in the care of their grandparents, who own a farm near Carman.
"It's really not that bad," she says of the seven-day work week. "We start around 6 a.m., we're done by 11, and we're home by 2 p.m. The kids are asleep in the morning, so they don't really miss us that much, and they are awake when we get home."
This season, while riding part time, she has had 52 races with three firsts, six seconds and five thirds for $33,947 in earnings. Prior to this year, while riding under her maiden name of Harder, she had 331 starts (22-27-36) and earned $198,883; far from a winning record.
Every jockey knows that if you don't win regularly, you don't survive. But for Selman the wins never materialized. Still, her spirit was undaunted. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she altered her dream.
"I've had fun with it (riding)," she said. "And I love galloping in the morning. It's completely stress free, because there are no expectations, except for holding the horse sometimes."
She learned the basics at the groom school provided by the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and in 2004 she began working as a groom for trainer Emile Corbel. Later, she moved over to Clayton Gray's stable, where she also got the opportunity to ride a little, while still working as a groom.
The No. 10 all-around leading trainer, with six leading Downs' trainer titles under his belt, Gray saw something in Selman. "They sent her over to work for Corbel," he recalled. "She was just a little girl looking after 10-12 horses over there, but I could see she could ride, so she came to work with me."
Gray believes Selman is still young enough to make a go of it, if given the proper opportunities. "She's just got to get a little stronger finish in," he said. "I like to put her on my two-year-olds because she's got a lot of nerve, and she'll get them in the hunt.
"But she's got to ride (more) horses, and she never got a decent shot around here," he said pointing to various injuries and "one interruption after another."
One such interruption came during the 2010 season, when she dropped out midway through the schedule in order to give birth to her little girl. "Now they've taken her bug (apprenticeship) away, and not having that five-pound allowance makes it just that much tougher for her," Gray went on. "She works her heart out."
Most of the horses Selman manages to pick up rides on tend to be long shots, and tonight is no exception. In the fifth race she will ride a 15-1 gelding named Schmatz, and in the seventh she's on a 30-1 gelding named New Gun In Town. On Saturday she rides a 10-1 filly named Show Chrome in the eighth.
Post time tonight and Saturday is 7 p.m.