BY JIM WELLS
Chel-c Bailey will tell you her weight, but not her age. She’ll ride a horse for you in the morning, and can apply a full nelson on you in the afternoon.
She wrestled on the boys team in high school and won a state title. She won a junior college national championship. She met her husband at a stag party in Las Vegas, where she was training in mixed martial arts.
She has been a bartender, a waitress, a barista. And, now, a jockey.
She changed her first name from the traditional spelling to a more catchy version for business purposes.
Then again, by her own admission, she’s always been a free-spirit.
She has a 3-0 record in MMA yet is 0-for-4 on the racetrack after making her maiden start, at Canterbury Park, last week and riding three races Friday night.
Bailey grew up in Seattle, near the Colville Confederate Tribes, and as a youngster frequently rode _ bareback _ with some of her Indigenous neighbors. She is friends with some of the Abrahamson Indian Relay racing team that competed at Canterbury in August.
“Those guys would jump on the backs of horses and use a piece of twine in their mouths,” she said. “We learned the basics of horsemanship.”
She was training for MMA in Las Vegas, Nev., when she met her husband, David Kembrey, an Englishman who so happened to be a jockey.
She quickly became enamored of her new friend’s occupation and she began getting involved herself. She and David have been in Shakopee this summer working horses for trainer Mac Robertson. They were working in Arkansas when Robertson lured them north with the promise of work that will extend beyond the Canterbury season. Their new boss refers to Bailey as “the fighter.”
During the few weeks she has spent in Minnesota, Bailey has traveled the state whenever possible. “All the greenery and trees, it reminds me a lot of home,” she said, referring, of course, to Seattle. During days off, as few as they are in the racing world, she has managed to take some trips into the countryside and beyond. “We’ve had a chance to check out various lakes on some day trips and I have gotten to Duluth.”
Her new life in racing doesn’t permit her to visit home as often as she’d like, maybe only the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, if she’s lucky.
“It hard to do when you’re involved in racing,” she said.
Bailey transferred to Oklahoma City University after completing junior college, but left to pursue her fighting career. Her wrestling ability caught the eye of local MMA fighters who encouraged her to give their sport a try.
“The wrestling skills are the hardest to teach,” Bailey recalled them telling her. “I had very good balance from all my previous training in the sport and they thought that would be a huge benefit if I went into MMA.”
Surprisingly, she has not been injured while training for or competing in MMA. She has already sustained an injury in racing, however.
A horse hit her in the face with his head, and broke her nose.
Saturday is the final day of the meet and Bailey’s introduction to Minnesota. She and David are headed to Churchill Downs from Shakopee to continue working for Robertson, who calls his new galloper, ‘The fighter.’
She is currently taking a break from the fight game. “I needed a mental break,” she explained, “although I’m slowly getting back into it. I’ve been more focused here with the horses.”
There will be more opportunities for her to get involved again in Kentucky. “I have connections there, or when we go back to Arkansas,” she said.
Bailey, by the way, fought at 125 to 130 pounds in MAA, and wrestled at 109, 112 and 119, wherever needed, in high school, when she was, ah, a younger woman.
$50,000 TOM METZEN HBPA SPRINT
He’s now the all-time leading Minnesota-bred money earner after Friday night’s scintillating effort, passing Blair’s Cove in the department, with a resounding victory that included the fastest six-furlong sprint of the meet.
He’s also, awaiting today’s vote, the Horse of the Meet.
He is, of course, Hot Shot Kid, a five-year-old son of Majestic Warrior who has earned a career total of $542, 198. Winner of four consecutive stakes and five this summer, Hot Shot Kid is the odds-on favorite to be voted this summer’s best.
Under Francisco Arrieta, likely to wrap up the riding title on today’s season-closing card, Hot Shot Kid turned in the fastest six furlongs of the meet, coming from off the pace, to finish in 1:08.87.
Sent off the 4/5 favorite, Hot Shot had his owner, Warren Bush, shaking his head in amazement, talking about what a great summer it has been through a raspy voice that bore out his statement.
He had throat cancer surgery in January and has been declared cancer free, and he’s watched Hot Shot at every opportunity in the time since.
Hot Shot came off the pace in the stretch drive to finish a length in front of It Makes Sense, the 3-1 choice, who had ½ length on Silver Ride.
The race is named in honor of Tom Metzen, the long-time director of the Minnesota Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
$50,000 JOHN BULLIT STAKES
Sky Promise delivered on his name as the even-money favorite, winning by five lengths over his nearest rival in a time of 1:43.04.
Under Orlando Mojica, Sky Promise reached the wire five lengths in front of stable mate Gato Guapo who had 3 ½ on Malibu Pro in the four-horse field.
The win was the fifth of the evening for trainer Robertino Diodoro, who trails Mac Robertson by three wins heading into today’s final day of the meet. That is the very margin by which they started the day, since Robertson had five wins also, after closing the card with Sioux Valley, a resounding winner in the 14th race.