Janine STIANSON has gained five pounds.
Unfortunately for the Jockey Club of Canada's 2008 Sovereign Award-winning apprentice jockey, there's not a weight-loss clinic in the world that has a program to help with her dilemma.
On July 15, Stianson, 28, lost her bug (slang for an apprentice rider) and became a journeyman. That means the five-pound allowance she had been getting every race as an apprentice no longer applies.
The year she won the award, Stianson had taken the Downs by storm on opening day, winning her first four races. She soon ran into trouble with the Manitoba Horse Racing Commission for using her whip too much and she departed with only five weeks left in the season, returning to Lethbridge, Alta., where she had raced the previous year.
But although she had not raced a full season, her 68 wins in 370 races was good enough for Canadian horse racing's top individual prize.
Stianson took 2009 off due to a herniated disk in her back, but returned this year to Assiniboia Downs, where she currently sits in third place with 38 wins, behind Larren Delorme with 47 and Vicky Baze with 44.
She doubts she has enough races in to win the award again this year (she received an extension on her apprentice status due to her back).
"I probably would be eligible, but I can't see me being even in the top three, because I only had my bug for two months. Also, the apprentice-rider colony in Canada is a lot stronger this year than it was the year I won it."
Included among her 38 wins this year are three stakes races: The Free Press (Wooden Ya Know It) June 5, Chantilly (Honorable Lady) June 18, and North Dakota (Long Live Cowboys) July 3.
"Hopefully, I can score a couple more of those this year," she said. "That would be nice before the season ends."
With five stakes races on this past weekend, including the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby, Stianson backed off on her workload.
"I had only four mounts Derby Day. We were running four days in a row and I don't like afternoon racing because it's too hot, so I lightened up my calls for those four days.
"I took what came to me, but didn't go looking for mounts. I wanted to keep the card light and keep my body healthy because the back wouldn't handle four days in a row of eight races."
The problem, she says, isn't when she's actually racing.
"It never did hurt me when I was riding in a race, because in the position you're in, you take the pressure off that disk," she said. "It's more the post parade and the morning work that was hurting more.
"I go for a lot of maintenance as far as chiropractic, massage and anything else that I need. I'll make it through the season, there is no doubt about that, so that's good."
Her move up in status posed another problem, which she has discovered is in her favour financially.
"I was with (jockey agent) Kirt Contois when I lost my bug. Agents are allowed to handle only two journeyman riders here, and he already had two. So I decided to go it on my own and save the money (agents get 25 per cent of what their jockeys make).
"It's actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. I don't know if a rider could handle it in the spring when we're getting on at least 15 horses a morning. I wouldn't have time to be hustling about -- there's no way. But it slows down in the fall."
As the season heads into its last seven-and-a-half weeks, first place in the jockey standings begins to get interesting. Stianson has some catching up to do on Baze and Delorme, but she's certainly in the mix.
"I'm not really worrying about that, and I'm not really chasing a leading-rider title," she said. "I'm just here to ride race horses, stay healthy and make money to pay the bills.
"The more I have to do with the horses and less I have to do with the social end of it, the happier I am."
Stianson will be on seven mounts tonight and nine more Saturday, including all three quarter-horse races. Post time both days is 7 p.m.