Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jockey taking hot start in stride

Oregon native racing at ASD after ending semi-retirement

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Her first win in Winnipeg was in the snow and things have snowballed from there for jockey Jocelyne Kenny.

The 46-year-old Oregon native, who moved to Winnipeg this spring from Florida, is already jockeying for top spot in the race for most wins among jockeys in thoroughbred racing at Assiniboia Downs (ASD).

 

"On opening day (May 8) I looked out the window and it was snowing and I was just, "nooooo," laughed Kenny, who grew up with occasional flurries but has lived in Florida and Arizona for most of the past 12 years. "It's been a bit of an adjustment. But coming from 90-degree (30-plus Celsius) days and 100 per cent humidity in Florida, I'm used to the heat so I'm just waiting for that."

In the first eight days of racing at Assiniboia Downs, Kenny rolled up nine wins to sit tied atop the jockey leaderboard with David Lopez. On Wednesday night, she slipped into second when Janine Stianson won three races to take the lead with 10 wins.

It was Stianson's second horse-racing hat trick so far this season while Kenny has also posted one of her own. Kenny won three races on May 21 aboard Lees Dyna Man, Cowboy At Heart and Coastal King.

"It's tough to break in anywhere and Assiniboia Downs is very tough to break into, but Jocelyne's made inroads immediately," said Darren Dunn, the CEO and track announcer at ASD.

"She's got a tremendous agent who's helped her make those inroads here, she has a huge smile, a great attitude and she's an extremely hard worker. That's going to create success every time."

Kenny came out of semi-retirement to ride at the Downs. She had great success in Phoenix in 2000-08. She moved to Florida in 2008 and stopped riding full-time.

"I was exercising horses for some big barns down there, riding a few here and there, and I rode a total of maybe 75 horses in the last three years," Kenny said. "So this is a bit of a comeback for me."

Kenny said her agent, Mike Pierce, has been able to match her with some quality mounts.

"My agent knew people, had been here before and got me in some good barns and that's kind of propelled me so far," Kenny said. "I was fortunate winning two on opening day and part of it is hard work. You've got to come out here and work every morning."

She said there's a great atmosphere within the smaller jockey colony of 18 at Assiniboia Downs.

"I love to ride and I wanted to do this in Florida but it's just so tough down there, there's so many riders and it's tough to break in," Kenny said, noting Calder Race Track in Florida where she was working as an exerciser had a jockey colony of 100. "It (riding at Assiniboia Downs) is more accessible because you're not competing with 60 other people."

Kenny said she hasn't set any goals for herself and just wants to take her good start in stride and see where the season takes her.

"It's been really nice and it's been kind of reassuring because you never know after you've come off a layoff how you're going to come back," she said. "The fitness issue is in the back of your mind too because it doesn't matter how many horses you gallop or how many horses you work out in the morning, you don't get race-fit. It takes race riding to get race-fit so I've had to work at that part of it. The more I go along the better I feel."

She said a good season here this summer could open doors for her this winter.

"If Hialeah in Florida happened to open up to thoroughbreds, because they're just running quarter horses, if they were able to run a mixed meet down there (thoroughbreds and quarter horses) this winter, I may try to go ride down there," Kenny said, referring to Florida's Hialeah Park Race Track near Miami, which has applied to the Florida division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to restore its thoroughbreds racing permit.

"Any time you do well on a recognized track anywhere, people notice."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 27, 2011 C5

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