When it comes to creating employment in British Columbia, make no mistake about it that horse racing ranks among the leaders in keeping people in the workforce. Realistically, placing a number on how many are employed within the industry is almost impossible. Indeed, we know about jockeys, trainers and owners. But what about those jobs we hardly hear or read about?
That list would include horse breeders, farriers (blacksmiths), horse transportation, farmers producing feed and hay, grooms, hot walkers, exercise people, pony riders, starting gate crews, racetrack maintenance workers, backstretch kitchen personnel and veterinarians.
Then there are valets, an unheralded facet of the sport.
“We have plenty of responsibilities,” says former jockey and now hard-working valet Tyler Walker. “We make sure they are wearing the proper racing silks and have the correct number of goggles depending on the condition of the track surface.”
It doesn’t stop there. A valet is also in charge of making certain the jockeys are carrying the correct weight assigned to their horse. If a jock’s mount is assigned 123 pounds, for instance, the valet will go and get the right amount of lead for their rider to make the 123 pounds.
Between races with a narrow window of time allowed, valets have to clean their jockey’s equipment and if the track is muddy or sloppy, things can get pretty hectic. The job can also become dangerous. There are times while the valet is saddling a horse he might be pushed against the side of the stall, or worse, when putting the saddle on the horse could flip in the air and both the jockey and the horse could face an injury.
On average, nearly all the horses are well behaved. Not surprisingly, there is a strong camaraderie between a jockey and his valet. “To me, a valet is more than just someone looking after a jockey’s equipment,” Walker says. “We spend so much time together, it’s natural for us to become friends.”
Hopefully, this gives you some insight into the often-overlooked world of a horse racing valet.
STROKE OF LUCK: Local owner Praven Sorenson is a fan of many sports but it is his love for horse racing that brings a smile to his face. His passion for the ponies began in an unusual way. “My wife and I had just rented a small apartment for $500 a month,” Sorenson recalls. “I had started a new business and remember hearing a knock on the door. It was my business partner and he told me I had just purchased one-third of a racehorse. I had no idea what he meant but soon got educated when the horse went on to win three races.”
Since that time, Sorenson has become one of the industry’s biggest advocates, spreading the word about how much fun it was to anyone who would listen.
As good luck would have it, he owned his share of decent horses. Among others, Fransor’s Finest won nine races for $128,000 in earnings and on BC Derby/Oaks Day (September 7) Bear, whom he owns with trainer Phil Hall, won the $100,000 Sadie Diamond Futurity.
“He’s a great guy,” Hall says of Praven. “He has brought a lot of new people into the sport.” Equine stats show that Sorenson has formed
roughly 20 stables at Hastings over the years. “We need more horses which means we have more owners,” he says. “That’s what the business is all about.”
NOTES ON A PROGRAM: As this 2019
season winds down, two major stake races Sunday and Thanksgiving Monday could impact divisional champions. In Sunday’s $75,000 Fantasy unbeaten
two-year-old filly Infinite Patience will be the morning line favorite … On
Monday the $75,000 Ascot Graduation will have a full field of 12 entering the
starting gate. With the back-to-back Sunday and Monday cards, there will
not be any live racing on Saturday … The race for Leading Jockey this year has
heated up to the point where Richard Hamel has 51 wins, Antonio Reyes 49,
Enrique Gonzalez 48 and Amadeo Perez has 43 with just six race dates remaining including on the calendar.