If you know anything about racing horses, you know Chantal Sutherland. This busy beauty is not only known for being a famous jockey, but for her modeling, acting, and even a jewelry line! Because I am primarily a fan of football, I had a million questions about the life of a jockey, but of course, had to keep them to a limit. Read on to learn more about our influencing athlete.
Courtney: I have to be honest, I’m not familiar with horse racing. However, when I was younger I was always hanging around my best friend’s horse farm. Her family had about 20 horses. How did you fall into horse racing? Did you have horses growing up?
Chantal Sutherland: I did. My dad owned horses, and my sister and I had ponies when I was four. I started competitive show jumping at five. My sister had horses, then I had horses after that. As a summer job I started galloping thoroughbreds on a farm near my house.
C: So that’s what got you interested?
CS: Yes I was going through school, and in college I got the itch to be a pro athlete and I tried other sports like field hockey and down-hill skiing. I played field hockey for Canada, but when I reached the university level I was a little too small, or everyone was bigger than me and I was kind of getting beat up. So while I was galloping thoroughbreds I decided since I already know how to ride and I’m small, I’m supposed to be a jockey. I told my dad I wanted to be a jockey. He told me to graduate first. He was not so keen on the idea because it is such a dangerous sport. I’m a determined person, so I sought out Angel Cordero and I asked him to take me in and teach me the racing technique. He took me in for a year and I came back to Canada and I won two sovereigns. I always dreamt of going to California so I rode in Canada for about four or five years, went to New York for three, back to Canada for two, then came to California.
C: Tha’ts definitely a commitment. So do you have a “home base” in Canada still?
CS: No, I’m actually selling my condo. I was going to go back to Canada for the summer. Since I’ve been here (California) I met my fiance Dan. He proposed to me in January, so I’m going to live and ride here in California. This will be my home.
C: Congratulations! That worked out perfectly.
CS: Yes, it did.
C: What are the requirements to be a Jockey?
CS: You have to be able to have the height and weight. You have to be a fairly small person. You have to be athletic and very strong with good balance. You need to be able to treat your horses well. You have to have a relationship and be fearless of the steed. When you race you have to have depth perception and know how close you are getting to the horse in front of you. It’s a skill, and you have to be very aggressive and competitive by nature.
C: If you have one, where is your favorite place to race?
CS: Del Mar. Del Mar has a beautiful track. It’s where the surf meets the turf. It has a great, happy atmosphere with many fans. It’s a little town that’s close to everything. Another track I like to ride at is Santa Anita. It’s a beautiful track and the weather’s always perfect. The most amazing turf course I’ve rode would probably be Woodbine in Canada.
C: As you know, Double G Sports is celebrating women in sports for March. How important is this to you?
CS: It’s very important. I feel it’s important because I’m a woman and proud to be a professional athlete, and to do what I do. It’s important we celebrate women in sports and the history of it.
C: You also act. Congratulations on the HBO drama “Luck.” Can you give us a brief synopsis of the show and describe your character?
CS: The show Luck is based on the race track and the inside subculture that exists there. You’ll go from the high-end owners who are rich, and the game that’s involved with owning racetracks. Then you’ll go to the trainer, and the subculture with them. Then it goes to the exercise rider, which is what I am. I’m the exercise rider for this trainer who has a horse that’s owned by Dustin Hoffman. You also have the culture of the jockey, which is a whole world of losing weight, competitiveness, and being the celebrity’s celebrity. Jockey’s are flying jets and go on these big whirlwind races traveling all over the world, yet they still work every day with all the people in the backstretch, and that culture that exists there.
C: So obviously you can relate to your character.
CS: Yes, I’ve been an exercise rider before.
C: You also have a jewelry line! I don’t know how you have time for all this! What inspired this?
CS: The woman who makes the jewelry is Caldwell Sutherland. Her last name is the same as mine, and she wanted to meet me. She always makes big, chunky jewelry and she wanted to make a line that was horse oriented. She asked me if I had any ideas and if I would be interested. I said yes, I love jewelry so I’d be very interested. So we discussed the horse theme, and it’s Chantal inspired. So that’s how she got this new line, and I promote it.
C: I live next to the Freehold Raceway, in New Jersey. It’s for trotters and pacers. Would you ever consider this type of racing, or strictly remain a jockey?
CS: You know, I have (considered it). My dad has Standardbreds and I’ve driven them, not raced them, for training. My sister and I used to ride them. We used to jog and pace on their back with a saddle to keep them fit on the farm for my dad. I thought when I was racing during the day, I could race at night being a driver, but it was too much on my plate. The only reason I wouldn’t do it is because it’s a night racing kind of thing, and being there’s a lot of traveling, as a jockey, it wouldn’t interest me anymore.
C: To wrap things up, I have to ask the classic closing question for aspiring readers. What is your advice for young women (due to the cause) who want to be jockeys?
CS: I always tell young women they can be who they want to be, and to always pursue their dreams and believe in them very strongly. When someone tells you no or pushes you down and tells you that you can’t do something, you really have to dig deep in your heart and keep pursuing it. So many people I believe are stopped in their lives because one person said they couldn’t do something. Those kind of people need to fuel you and drive you. It’s so important to believe in your heart the sky’s the limit and you need to go with your own destiny.
C: I agree. I should take my own advice but I always tell people to surround yourself with a positive atmosphere and with people that will support you no matter what. Whether they agree with you or not, that’s one thing, but I think the support is what is more important.
CS: I agree with that too. I think in a way you’re saying as well to hang around people who are inspiring and people who are driven. If you hang around losers you’ll end up being a loser.
C: Perfectly said!
Chantal sets a perfect example for all women who want to achieve their goals and turn dreams into reality. Please follow her on Twitter @jockeychantal, and check out her website, www.chantalsutherlandjockey.com. You can also catch her on HBO’s “Luck.”
Previous Women’s History Month Interviews:Tina Cervasio (MSG Reporter) Jennie Finch – (Softball) Jen Royle – (Reporter) Carolyn Blank – (Sky Blue FC)