Daily Racing Form


Vincent Powers the New York boy who headed the list of American jockeys during 1908 and 1909 recently contributed the following signed article to a Jacksonville daily:

“After taking seven long years to climb the ladder of jockeyship fame, I am deluged with letters from ambitious boys who desire to become riders. It is impossible to answer the inquiries. My answer to them all may be summed in one word – don’t. A jockey is born not made. There is no method in the world to teach a boy to learn how to ride. If it is not in the blood, then one had best spend his time in other directions. For every boy who amounts to anything in the jockey line, there are thousands who fall by the wayside.

“The training of a jockey is hard. It requires steady practice, long hours and constant work. Many boys think that a jockey’s career is one round of pleasure. Believe me, there is no play attached to the profession. The minute a boy begins to take matters easy he immediately starts on the toboggan and his career winds up quickly. To be a successful rider, one has to keep his mind strictly on his work. No matter how good he is there is always room for improvement. And it is only by plodding that a lad can reach the stage where owners strive for his services.

“I have been more successful than the average rider in this country. But when I retire, any boy who wishes to take my place is welcome to it. True the years when I headed the list of winning jockeys have been pleasant ones, but the days when I was preparing for the saddle were very hard. My training was no different than that of any other lad. No matter who you are or what you are, all boys go through the same school. When a youngster attaches himself to a stable, he has to roll up his sleeves and keep very busy.

“While the whole world is fast asleep, the stable is wide awake. You are in the midst of your dreams at two o’clock in the morning when the stable foreman comes around and hustles you out of your bed. You slip into your clothes and creep down stairs - only half awake. You stumble out in the dark to the pump where a few dashes of cold water chase away the remains of your sleep. The foreman then tells you to gallop such a horse for three quarters. You hunt up the rigging, saddle your mount and start out on the track.

“The first morning you are ordered out to canter a horse fills you with fear. You wonder how you are are going to avoid getting thrown or killed. Clinging to the lines, you give the horse his head. He starts on a slow gallop and you turn him towards the spot where you know the six furlongs post is. Suddenly out of the darkness you hear a voice shout, ‘Wait a second.’ Then you know that the trainer is also on the job. He yells, ‘go,’ and you dash out through the darkness wondering where you will land.

“The horse is wiser than you are. He dashes around the turns without a falter. As you pass the different poles they flash up like spirits. You are being carried down the homestretch as on a gale of wind when you hear another voice shout, ‘pull up slowly.’ You wrap the lines around your hands arid gradually the horse slows down to a walk. By that time your heart is back in its proper place.

“No sooner have you dismounted than you are ordered to take out another charge. This goes on for an hour and a half. The flights through the air and the exercise have given you an appetite fit for a horse. There is still another wait. The horses have to be blanketed, led around until they are fully cooled off and then put back into their stalls.

“Before you get your little legs under the table you spend many busy minutes carrying water and feed to the horses. When they are ready to eat, you get at the breakfast. Many don’t know that in a racing stable the horse comes first. Until he is comfortable, there is nothing doing for the help. The morning meal over you trot back to the barn and help clean up the stalls.

“When this work is finished the sun is beginning to peep through the clouds in the east. The horses that are keyed up to run within a day or two are then saddled and given short dashes to keep the edge on their speed. By this time the track is alive with horses. Then a boy has to be careful. This is especially true in the early part of the season when the two-year-olds are being educated.

“These babies are fretful and wonder what all the excitement is about. You may be coming along at a fast gait when a youngster in front will suddenly bolt to the fence. That’s when your brain has to work and work fast. The least mistake and you either bang into the youngster or perhaps hit the fence. That may mean a horse hurt for weeks or possibly injured so seriously that he is ruined. And at the same time you may go over the fence or go to the ground with a broken arm or leg.
“The morning gallops over, you have a chance to rest until race time. Then the starters must be looked after. Just before the event you take the horse out and give him a breather. After the race you walk your charge around until he is cooled off. Then comes the labor of fixing the horses up for the night. This means the old routine of carrying water, feed and other minor jobs.

“When this work is over you sit down to supper. By the time this meal is over, your bones ache and your eyelids persist in blinking. At nine o’clock the foreman comes around and orders you to bed. Compare this life with that of the average boy and you must admit that it isn’t a bed of roses. The inborn love for a horse is the only thing that will enable a youth to stand this steady and monotonous grind. As i said at the start, if you were not born to be a jockey, but feel that you wish to learn – don’t.”

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