‘Jockeys’ captures thrills, danger of riders’ profession

Many years ago, renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Kerlan did a study that determined jockeys are the best-conditioned athletes in pro sports. It’s the most dangerous job in sports, I might add.

Name another game in which the participants are followed by an ambulance — during competition.

The life of a jockey, on and off the track, will be shown in a new reality series, “Jockeys,” starting at 6 p.m. today on Animal Planet. I saw a preview of the first episode, and it was riveting — and I’ve been involved in racing for 30 years. I think the show can have broad appeal. It’s not fluff. It’s similar to the reality show “Deadliest Catch,” which details the danger faced by the men who harvest Alaskan king crab.

The regulars on “Jockeys” are Aaron Gryder, Joe Talamo, Chantal Sutherland and Mike Smith. Jon Court, Alex Solis and Kayla Stra also are involved.

The danger in race riding is evident in Episode 1 when Corey Nakatani goes down and breaks his collarbone in the Morvich Handicap.

Most horseplayers know jockeys only from a TV screen, and many have a harsh opinion. Even the best jockeys lose 80 percent of the time. But these athletes are the epitome of what we need more of: pay for performance. You get paid for winning. Losing instills fierce competition among the riders.

The side of “Jockeys” I most enjoyed is their personal lives. I’ve known Gryder and Smith for decades, and they are great guys with impeccable integrity. On camera, they sell the sport just by being themselves.

• TRACKNET BLACKOUT — The blackout continues in Nevada race books of five racetracks controlled by TrackNet. I suggest supporting Station Casinos, Wynn Las Vegas and Lucky’s (Plaza, Terrible’s, and Primm), who are booking in-house the Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Golden Gate, Oaklawn and Laurel signals.

I question the wisdom of other casinos that are not booking. Most books have a good, loyal clientele. Race book operators should be sharp enough to weigh their financial exposure while having in place a safety net of betting limits. Las Vegas horseplayers have shown a willingness to keep playing. Now it’s up to the race books to take their action.

• SEMINAR AT ORLEANS — Fair Grounds racing analyst Jessica Pacheco and Daily Racing Form national correspondent Jay Privman will be at the Orleans race book at 9 a.m. today to give a free handicapping seminar covering today’s Fair Grounds races and Saturday’s Louisiana Derby Preview Day. On Saturday, The Orleans will conduct a losing ticket drawing for a flat screen TV.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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