JockeyEmmy

Emmy Award Winner for
Best Direction for Non-fiction Film
Emmy Nomination for
Best Cinematography for Non-fiction Film
Emmy Nomination for
Best Sound Editing for Non-fiction Film

The world of racing is extremely political. Jockeys have no contracts, and trainers may fire them minutes before a race. If a jockey choses to criticize the industry, he puts a his job on the line. If he gets to ride, he puts his life on the line.

 
 
 

For Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, finding riders who had the courage to speak frankly about the trueperils of their lives proved to be the hardest part of making this film. After speaking with riders at Belmont (New York) and Santa Anita (California), they settled on Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs. There they found three jockeys, all friends at different stages of their careers, with unusual charisma, bravery, and whose lives come together in a telling drama.


 

CHRIS ROSIER, a struggling rider at age 20, was the first jock the film team met who was willing to talk about the pain of injury, the politics, and starvation. Like many riders, Chris was raised poor, on the racetrack, with little education. His father was a hardbitten jockey, his mother cleaned stalls for a meager living. Chris sees racing as his only way out.

Chris¹ agent is legendary rider RANDY ROMERO. Randy started racing at age
8, weighing 69 pounds, on small tracks in Louisiana. He made his way to being the top rider at all the best known tracks in the country, and was celebrated in Japan, France, and England. Most importanly, Randy was the first rider to go undefeated for thirteen straight wins, on a mare named Personal Ensign. But his luminary career was marred by tragedy, with a shocking

 
 

breakdown on Go For Wand, in front of 50,000 spectators at the 1990 Breeder¹s Cup. Throughout his career, Randy suffered 23 major accidents, more than any other living rider. For some twenty years of racing, Randy kept his weight at a dangerously low point through bulimia, the hot box, and other methods. During JOCKEY, his body reaches a breaking point and he is hospitalized for kidney and liver failure.

SHANE SELLERS is Randy¹s close friend and Chris¹ mentor. At the peak of his career, Shane ranked third leading rider in the nation. JOCKEY begins with Shane sidelined by a harrowing knee injury. During the film, Shane becomes tormented by the fear of returning to the jockey¹s brutal regimen, a pain made worse by watching his friend Randy¹s health fail from a lifetime of life-threatening weight loss and injury. In the process of struggling to make a comeback, Shane becomes increasingly passionate about breaking the rider¹s code of silence, and revealing the truth about how these athletes suffer.

Filmming spanned 2 years, as the lives of Chris, Randy and Shane continued to take unexpected twists and turns. Chris suffers setbacks. Randy faces the fatal consequences of a riding career.

Shane uses his sideline as a country singer to help save Randy¹s life. Together they fight to change the century-old rules of racing. All this while Shane makes a heroic comeback. JOCKEY ends with a bitter-sweet mix of Derby greatness set against the dark prospect of lives cut short.

   
 

Thoroughbred racing is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Jockeys have the highest per capita number of quadriplegics and paraplegics of any sport. They ride at speeds of over 40 mph wearing virtually no protective gear besides a small helmet. Serious accidents are a daily occurrence.

   
 
  • In order to be eligible for all races, jockeys must keep their weight at around 112 pounds or risk being fired, a weight limit that has remained unchanged since the 1800s. The Jockeys¹ Guild lacks the political power to effect any substantial changes.
  • Because riders try desperately to keep their weight as low as possible, bulimia is rampant throughout the jockey community. Jockeys refer to the practice of throwing up their food as "heaving" or "flipping."
  • Besides, flipping, jockeys also use weight-reducing drugs and spend marathon sessions in the sauna or "hot box" to lose water weight. Some riders lose 10-12 pounds of water weight EVERY DAY before they ride.
  • Jockeys have no contracts and can be taken off a horse for any reason, even at the last minute.
  • Despite the high injury rate, racetracks and owners provide virtually no disability insurance for jockeys. If a jockey gets seriously disabled, he may receive only a payment of $200 a month from the track.
  • Only a handful of jockeys make more than a meager living. The pay scale for jockeys is ten percent of the purse for the winning rider, five percent each for second or third place. Otherwise, jockeys get only a $100 fee, minus thirty-five percent for their agent and valet. This means, a fourth place rider in the Kentucky Derby takes home $65.