Monday 25 September 2017
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Interviews

Interview with Cindy Medina, Former Jockey and Guild Rep

Interview with Cindy Medina

Interviewed by via Email by Tricia Psarreas on February 25, 2008

As one of the best female riders to ever race a thoroughbred, Cindy Medina has not only won 1,000 races but also maintained longevity in a man’s sport. Married to fellow top jockey Nelson Medina, Cindy has been a witness and a part of many of Shane’s fights and struggles.

 

Tricia:            Can you describe your career as a female jockey?

Cindy:            Honestly, I can say I had a wonderful career.  The high points out weigh the lows by far. And a lot of my success had to do with my up bringing. From the time I was a little girl my Mother told me there was "Nothing" I couldn’t do if I just worked hard and put my mind to it.  I think the combination of what my Mother taught me, and my passion and love of horses, which started at an early age and continues to this day only helped me become a strong competitive and successful female jockey. Being a bit of a Tom Boy didn’t hurt either, as it taught me how to get along well with the opposite sex.

 

Tricia:             What was it like working in a predominantly male sport?

Cindy:            For the most part it was pretty good, but sometimes it was hard being a woman in the “Boys Club” so to speak. While most of my male counterparts took to me just fine, there were others that just didn’t think a woman’s place was astride a horse, playing in the same sandbox they called the race track.

I only got into three altercations (fist fights) in my 18 year career as a jockey, but of the three, two of them were with men. I seemed to have the most trouble with Hispanic men, and I’m not saying this in a prejudice way as my husband is Hispanic. But for some reason, maybe due to their culture and upbringing, I had most of my problems with them. Usually it was when I was doing good and above them in the standings, or when I ended up riding for a stable that they used to rider for. So I realized that a lot of it had to do with jealousy. I’m sure in their minds they were thinking, “How can this woman do better on this horse than I can?”

There were certain points throughout my career that I not only had to study the racing form to see what  horses had speed, which ones were closers but also to see what jockeys were in the race with me. And who might try to make my life for that minute and a half or two minutes a living hell.

 

Tricia:             What was it like being married to a fellow jockey?

Cindy:            For the most part it was wonderful.  I could go to Nelson with any type of racing question about a horse or a trainer and get an honest opinion and not have to worry about him running back and trying to steal my mount.  He was my sounding board, and my best friend.  One thing that was really hard on me was watching Nelson reduce so hard.  To watch the person you love starve themselves, and becoming cranky, and agitated with everyone around them, and knowing that he was like this because he was hungry and couldn’t eat, that broke my heart.  I often worried about his health and I’m sure I drove him nuts with "how do you feel, are you all right?"  I’m sure I sounded like a broken record but I couldn’t help myself.

 

Tricia:            What was it like watching Nelson try to maintain his weight for so many years?

Cindy:           It was very hard, especially on our girls. I knew why he was short tempered and cranky. He was starving and reducing, but they didn’t understand it. When the meet was over and Nelson would just go galloping in the off season he was happy and go lucky and so much fun to be around. He was truly the life of the party. But when the meet was fast approaching and he would have to start reducing, look out!!! His whole demeanor changed. He was cranky, snippy and easily aggravated. I would do my best to be the go between him and our girls. But you know teen-aged girls, all bubbly and giggly and wanting their friends over. Well when Nelson was reducing it was tough because just the typical teen-age girl behavior would aggravate him. And I know it wasn’t really him talking but the starving jockey talking. Over the years the girls learned when to give him some extra space, but it was tough on all of us; not just Nelson.

 

Tricia:             What are your thoughts on the current weight limits in the sport?

Cindy:            I think that they are out dated and need to be revised. Those weights were set back in the 1800’s when people were naturally smaller in stature. Now everything is vitamin fortified this and nutrient rich that. People now-a-days are bigger and stronger now than they were back then. I feel that raising the scale of weights would only help everyone involved. Jockeys wouldn’t have to reduce and become so weak. Trainers and owners would have stronger riders riding their horses, which would allow them to really get their money’s worth. The betting public would have less to grumble about because there would be less overweights announced. I think all in all it makes for a much better and safer show.

The horses of today are fed better hay and grain, receive higher quality supplements, and the training methods of today are more effective due to all the wonderful research being done on Thoroughbred race horses. This makes for stronger, healthier, and longer living equine athletes. I feel it’s high time we finally raised the scale of weights.

No other equine sport in the world puts such low weight allowances on their riders. Look at our top event horses that participate in the Olympics and other 4 start events where horses are carrying weights of 145 and up. They cover distances of 2 ½ to 3 ½ miles over 20 or more obstacles with heights at 4 ½ feet and above. Steeplechase horses carry weights of 135 and up also going distances of more than 2 miles again over 5 foot hedge fences with a solid 4 jump imbedded in the hedge.

It’s high time that Thoroughbred racing get out of the dark ages and catch up with the new Millennium.

                        

Tricia:             What do you think about other horse racing issues like lack of health insurance and retirement benefits?

Cindy:            It’s a shame that in this day and age that such athletes as Jockeys are still underpaid and under insured, and still have not benefits to speak of.  No retirement plan, no 401 K, no pension; nothing.  And we are considered one of the top high risk sports right along with NASCAR.  Only the NASCAR drivers get benefits, and have health insurance plans.  I feel it’s high time for "The Sport Of Kings" to step up to the plate and something needs to be done.

 

Tricia:            Did you have any positive experiences trying to address these or any other issues as a Guild representative?

Cindy:           For every step forward we would take, we would get knocked three steps back. Every time I would speak as a Guild Rep. to the horsemen or track management on behalf of myself and my fellow jockeys, all  would go great until Management or the horsemen would ask, “So who all is in favor of this?” Then most of the jockeys would fade back into the back-ground for fear of altercations. If they would just learn to stick together and realize that they are stronger as a whole things would improver at a more rapid pace. But there is always some jockey who only rides once or twice a week that is hoping that if he goes against the grain on of the top trainers will ride him and he will have “his big break”; sad to say but true. It ain’t going to happen. The top trainers who are used to riding top jocks might ride Joe Blow for a race or two, but they are going to go back to riding the top jocks again. What it all boils down to is that Jockey’s need to help themselves and learn how to stick together.

 

Tricia:            How do you feel about Shane discussing some of these problems in a book?

Cindy:             I commend him for it. Shane I think you rock!!! These are issues that no one wants Joe Public to know about and I commend and admire you for letting Joe Public in on the dirty little race track secrets that no one thinks Joe Public should know.. Maybe if Joe public is made aware of the situation they will be all the more willing to help jockeys out.  Keep up the great work, and don’t listen to the nay-sayers.

 

Tricia:            Is there anything else you would like to add?

Cindy:            Why is it that we feel that certain athletes such as baseball, basketball, and football players just to name a few deserver to receive millions of dollars and signing bonuses to toss a ball around. Their sport isn’t what I would call high risk. Oh you might pull a muscle now and then or get hit with a stray ball, but none of these sports can compare when it comes to as HIGH RISK as Thoroughbred racing does. Not only do we run the risk of becoming injured or maybe even paralyzed but in the blink of an eye we can become dead. And have what to show for it? NOTHING…No benefits to leave our children or spouse, nothing. Nothing at all to show for all the hard work and years of service. It’s a sad reality but one I’m glad that Shane is addressing.

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