Big dreams on track
Almost 38 years old, an age that most jockeys' careers are starting to wind down, Zachary Sebreth is dreaming of competing in the Kentucky Derby. "This is my blood, sweat and tears," Sebreth said Friday following the opening day of the North Dako...
Almost 38 years old, an age that most jockeys' careers are starting to wind down, Zachary Sebreth is dreaming of competing in the Kentucky Derby.
"This is my blood, sweat and tears," Sebreth said Friday following the opening day of the North Dakota Horse Park. "The Kentucky Derby would be like the World Series, the Super Bowl. It just takes one good horse."
For now, however, Sebreth is plugging along as a self-described mid-level jockey, who travels to such exotic places as Fargo, Portland, Ore., Shakopee, Minn., and Kansas City, Mo.
It's not a glamorous life.
During his time in Portland, Sebreth and his wife rent a condo for the seven-month race season. The rest of the year is spent living out of a suitcase.
For his six-week stay in Fargo, Sebreth rents a hotel room in town.
On raceday with an opening post time of 1:30 p.m., Sebreth wakes up at 5 a.m., stretches and sometimes eats a light breakfast of orange juice and cereal.
He arrives at the track around 6 to talk with the trainer and get acquainted with the horse.
Then it's time for homework.
Sebreth said he gets to the jockeys' room - a small trailer reserved for jockeys only -around 10 a.m. to study the lineup for the day.
"You actually do your homework twice," Sebreth said. "You do it the night before and when you get to the track."
Now it's time for the hard part: the races.
Many jockeys ride in almost all of the races at a small track similar to the North Dakota Horse Park. Sebreth competed in five of eight events Friday, winning the fourth atop Caffeine and Booze.
"It's pretty grueling," Sebreth said. "You are on your toes the entire day."
The pattern continues for at least three days a week almost year round for a salary close to $60,000 a year, according to Sebreth.
Most mid-level jockeys earn $45 per losing race and 10 percent of a winning purse.
However, that's not the hardest part of this semi-nomadic lifestyle.
A jockey must maintain his weight throughout the year - anywhere from 115 to 125 pounds - to be successful.
Sebreth, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago and moved to New York as a child, says it's worse for the young guys.
"They want to eat all the pizza and hamburgers," he said. "It's not that hard for me at all."
How long can a jockey maintain mid-level status with dreams of making it big?
Ask 58-year-old Oklahoma quarterhorse jockey Jim Beeson?
"My goal is still to win the big races," Beeson said. "It can begrueling, but I enjoy riding agood horse and riding a goodrace."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562