Air Date: 18-Aug-21
Scientist: John Lee
From the Saddle at Saratoga
ambience: crowd at horse race
It’s dangerous, unpredictable and exhilarating. In the next few minutes, a glimpse at the world of a jockey. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. August is prime season for thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Springs, New York. On a typical day, jockey Jerry Bailey may ride in half a dozen races — different horses each time, but the goal remains the same.
Bailey: Now once the race starts, the primary job is to get the smoothest trip you can, which means no traffic, no bumping, no jostling. You try not to get boxed in. If you will, we jockey for position.”
Like most athletes, good jockeys require balance and timing, but especially they need a strong pair of legs.
Bailey: If you’ve ever tried to sit in the position of a chair, without having a chair, and try and do that for two and a half minutes, while you’re watching something going on and also using your arms at the same time, that gives you somewhat of a feel of what a jockey goes through.
Jockey Mike Smith says the biggest challenge in racing is the unpredictability of the horses.
Smith: Some don’t like to be in real tight quarters, some like to be on the outside of the pack. Some don’t want to make a leap too soon because they don’t want to really be out there by themselves, they’d rather be with the group, you know. So you gotta figure all those things out and try get them in front there, just that one little moment there where it counts.
And even if they don’t get out front, Jerry Bailey says that jockeys count themselves lucky if they come through a race unscathed.
Bailey: It’s not really if you’re gonna get hurt when you become a jockey, it’s how many times, how severe and you hope that you don’t take the big hit, which is being paralyzed.
Despite the risks and challenges, the jockeys agree there’s one reason they keep racing.
Bailey: It’s the thrill of the race, the competition.
Smith: You cross that wire first, it’s such a rush, it makes you keep wanting to do it over and over again.
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Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.