Yes me friends, here’s a question that comes up all the time. An excited new owner joins our PGR membership and the first question out of their mouth (with the ring of the celebratory Guinness foam still on their lips) is” Who get‘s to pick the Jock? Can I pick the Jock?” What is it about the Jocks that captivate the imaginations, pride and prejudice for all who get to be an owner? Is it the fact that they are the last bastion of real athletes, a throwback to the chariot riders of the Gods in Ancient Rome? No special teams, no offense coming off the field to be replaced by a defense, no pinch runners or designated hitters, just the same 4’5”, 100lb iron man getting back on their charge for every race and riding the hide off some of them! And wouldn’t you know it, if a horse trips, clips or blunders and the jock goes down and get’s rolled over by the 1000lb beast (a gasp is sure to be heard up in the grandstand), more times than not the jock shakes it off, walks to the ambulance and is back on his mount in the next race. How many major league prima donna’s would bear that? None! How many sports are there where the ambulance is bringing up the rear and is essentially part of the sporting event? None, except the best game outdoors: Horse Racing!
So back to picking the pilot, choosing the chef, requesting the rider, genuflecting for the Jock. It’s not a mysterious process and it actually hasn't changed in 100 years. The choice usually lies in the hands of the trainer. Your trainer has a small group of riders that he or she feels fit the horses he or she has in their barn. Some mornings those jocks get on horses and breeze them to develop a relationship, but usually Jocks get on horses for the first time in the starting gate in the afternoon. Now if the horse draws off and wins by 15, there will be a line of Jocks agents with their riders at that barn the next day to try and hustle the mount. When choosing a jock for a horse, a trainer may consider whether the lazy horse needs a strong aggressive rider or a silly filly needs a gentle rider with a bit more finesse. A top Jock may not always be the right fit for a horse and the weight allowance of a bug boy (apprentice rider) may be the key to getting up for the win.
A top rider can sometimes make the difference between second and first and third to first, but if he doesn't have the horse under him he can't make miracles. The horse has to have the desire and ability to beat the competition in the race he or she is running in! Like Johnny Campo once said in an interview after Pleasant Colony won the Kentucky Derby, “a loaded gun in anybody's hand is dangerous!” Ultimately the owner owns the horse and pays the bills, so if the owner insists on a rider, the trainer will probably comply. But for my money I’d rather have the trainer make the decision. After all, it's one more of the 999 excuses why our horse didn't win but when they do win there is nothing like it! The Jock and The Horse are The Heroes!!!!