She doesn't have any kids but Jocelyne Kenny was a proud mother on Mother's Day -- albeit in an unconventional sense.
"I'm a mom to my pot bellied pig -- is that close enough?" the jockey said after her successful Manitoba debut Sunday afternoon, as live thoroughbred racing kicked off at Assiniboia Downs. "His name is Stewart and he's 10-years-old... he's my baby."
Originally from Oregon, the 46-year-old Kenny has been on a horse since she was nine.
Finding a purpose in the saddle at the racetrack, she started her professional jockey career in Arizona and California before moving on to Florida, where she basically quit riding.
"I just drifted out of it," she said.
The occasional opportunity would come up at tracks like Calder, Gulfstream, and Tampa in the Sunshine State, riding her then-boyfriend's entries, but it wasn't until she got a call from agent Mike Pierce to try Manitoba for a summer when she started to get the bug again.
"He convinced me to come up here," she said.
How much convincing did it take to leave Florida?
"A lot," she laughed. "It's kind of cold up here."
While Kenny shivered in the chilly wind Sunday, her start to the 2011 season was already running hot. A veteran of over 200 wins with earnings of $1.8 million, the newcomer added to her resumé with five money finishes in seven mounts at the local oval.
Kenny opened up the live racing with a win on the Gourneau Brothers' Lees Dyna Man and won again in the seventh feature race, outlasting favourites Exploding Crystals and Serralada for an upset victory on Jenna Lu Hu, another Gourneau Brothers entry.
"I really like this track," she said. "It's a smaller track but it's got a great surface and the turns are really nice. I was a little bit nervous coming into this; it's been a long time since I've rode seven in a day. I'm not as fatigued as I thought I was going to be."
Kenny wasn't the only new jockey to make a big impact on opening day. Veteran Gustavo Ortiz, who recently raced at Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco, also picked up a pair of wins to begin his 2011 season.
LOCAL FLAVOUR: It turns out Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom has a Manitoba connection.
The horse is owned by the Team Valor International group, a partnership of 20 different people. And among those invested in Animal Kingdom is local horseman Ray Bouchard, who owns a three per cent stake in the chestnut colt.
Trainer Emile Corbel, who has a stake in a handful of horses with Bouchard, said he spoke to his partner after the Derby Saturday.
"He was so excited, he was partying in Louisville with the other guys," Corbel said. "He was having a good time... it sounded like a lot of fun."
Animal Kingdom is expected to run in the Preakness May 21.
GREAT CROWD: Despite the mixed bag weather-wise, ASD officials were more than pleased with the Mother's Day turnout.
Track announcer and CEO Darren Dunn estimated there were "well over 6,000 people" in attendance at the peak of the eight-race card.
"We couldn't ask for a better start to the season," he said.