IS 16 TOO YOUNG TO BE A JOCKEY?
By JIM WELLS
A proposal will be made to the Minnesota Racing Commission in September that the age required to get a jockey’s license be raised to 18 years of age from the current 16.
If the commission accepts the proposal it could become law by the 2011 race meeting.
The proposal is being made, according to racing commission chairman Dick Krueger, in an attempt to standardize ages across the country to Racing Commissioners International guidelines.
The proposal is certain to be controversial and will find opposition among some horsemen and riders, too.
“We don ‘t have enough jockeys now,” said trainer Jerry Livingston. “If you change the age, we’ll have even fewer.”
Livingston and other horsemen pointed out that Cowboy Jack Kaenel was 16 when he won the Preakness Stakes, in 1982 aboard Aloma’s Ruler.
Steve Cauthen was seasoned enough by age 18 that he won the Triple Crown aboard Affirmed in 1978.
The general feeling among horsemen and riders is that age is not the issue. Maturity is.
“Some riders are mature enough to ride at 16,” said Dusty Shepherd, 19. “There are some who shouldn’t ride at 30.”
Ry Eilkeberry, 19, has been riding since he was 16 and wouldn’t be in the sport had he been held back until 18. “Absolutely not. I would have been too big,” he said.
Eilkeberry at 5-10 is extremely tall for a rider and would have outgrown the profession by the time he was 18. “You can keep the weight down if you start early,” he said. “I would have been around 140 pounds and never would have gotten down if I had waited.”
For that reason, his father, Kevin, started him early. Ry also wrestled in high school to keep his weight down and prevent an otherwise inevitable growth spurt.
Jockeys are tested in the gate, and on the track before getting a license. “If a rider can do what’s required he should be allowed to ride,” said Shepherd.
Seth Martinez has similar sentiments. “If someone is ready to ride at 16, let him,” he said.
Dean Butler rode four winners on Saturday’s card and has a second straight riding title all but locked up. He increased his win margin to 14 over Ry Eilkeberry and 18 over Derek Bell.
Three of Butler’s wins were aboard horses trained by Bernell Rhone who tied perennial defending champ Mac Robertson for the training lead…for a short time at least.
Boom de Ya Da, owned by Joe Novogratz, put Robertson back in front by one win, under Seth Martinez in the final race on the card.
****Some people are convinced that everything happens for a reason and you can bet the family farm that 10-year-old Scott Bethke and his six-year-old sister Olivia are among that group.
“He’s been begging to do this for two years,” said Scott’s father, trainer Troy Bethke. “I’ve got nothing going tomorrow (Sunday) so…”
So, Scott will ride 12-year-old Rocky in the County Fair races in Barnum. Olivia wasn’t about to let him go alone. She’ll ride Prince. “He’s 29 or 30,” Troy said.
*With track announcer Paul Allen gone to fill his radio gig with the Minnesota Vikings, paddock analyst Kevin Gorg had filled in admirably at the mike in his absence.
And Angela Hermann has filled in admirably in the paddock for Gorg, actually outdoing anything he has done previously in her low-slung blue dress Saturday.