JOCKEY (HBO Documentary)
While a few jockeys do make millions a year, many riders struggle to earn a living, and even the biggest names will do anything to make minimum required weight. In making JOCKEY, the biggest challenge was finding riders who had the courage to speak frankly. After visiting Belmont, New York, and Santa Anita, California, the producers settled on Louisville, home of Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby. There three friends, jockeys at different stages of their careers, were found who ultimately join forces to speak candidly about one of the oldest rules in American horse racing.
Through the stories of these three courageous jockeys from three generations, JOCKEY reveals some well kept secrets of professional horse racing, showing how impossibly low weight minimums have spawned a culture of forced starvation, sweating and purging among riders. Adding to the stress of the job, jockeys are not generally signed to contracts and have little job security or health coverage.
All three jockeys featured in JOCKEY express a deep passion for and commitment to the sport, despite the hardships. Sellers, once ranked the third-leading rider in the U.S., has been sidelined by a racing accident and is now working to shed 22 pounds to get back in the saddle. For Rosier, who is a struggling apprentice jock, or "bugboy," a successful racing career may offer an exciting escape from an impoverished life. And after years of competition, legendary jockey Romero suddenly faces death as a result of 20 years of bulimia and riding injuries.
While Sellers is preparing a comeback from his knee injury, he is wary of the lifestyle of the jockey community, where weight obsession runs rampant. "People don't know what riders go through," he observes. "It's a secret. It's a well-kept secret." Many racetracks even have specially designed "heaving bowls" in the locker rooms. Rosier describes marathon sessions in the sauna, or "hot box," to lose water weight before getting on a scale to qualify for the race, revealing that "yesterday, I sweated six pounds [to make weight]. I know people who have sweated eleven pounds before a race. This happens every day." "Keeping your body weight at 106-108 pounds stripped soaking wet - takes its toll," comments Romero. His accident at the 1990 Breeders Cup illustrates the potential for tragedy. The racing icon was riding GO FOR WAND when the filly broke down in front of 50,000 spectators, but this was only one of 23 major accidents he has suffered.
During the filming of JOCKEY, his body reaches a breaking point and he is hospitalized for kidney and liver failure, a dire situation complicated by the fact that Romero, like most jockeys, has no health insurance. "If a baseball player gets hurt, he has a contract. If that happens to a rider, you're just done," notes Sellers, who has spearheaded fundraising efforts to help with Romero's rising medical costs.
This unhealthy attempt to lose weight quickly often leaves riders fatigued and weak before a race - a dangerous situation for diminutive men and women who ride atop 1200-pound horses racing at speeds of more than 40 mph.
The film has a bittersweet ending, as some racetracks move to raise their weight minimums for the first time, due in part to the efforts of Shane Sellers. This will help young jockeys like Rosier, but unfortunately comes too late for Romero, who is still fighting for his life.
This acclaimed feature length documentary takes an intimate and often disturbing look at the hidden world of Thoroughbred racing through the eyes of three contemporary jockeys: one an injured top rider on the comeback trail, one a young apprentice trying to break into the big time, the third a racing icon fighting for his life as a result of riding-related ailments. The film looks beyond the silks and splendor of horseracing to tell the stories of these three men as they struggle to reconcile their love for the sport with the physical sacrifices they've made to make it in the high-stakes, high-risk world of Thoroughbred racing.
|Format(s) Available:||DVD And VHS|
|Category:||U.S. & Canadian Flat Racing|