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‘Don’t call me grandma’: jockey Chantal Sutherland readies for return to saddle

Daniel Ross: The worlds most recognizable female rider is eying a comeback and the possibility of being exit the play on her own terms

Stepping into Chantal Sutherlands home in Huntington Beach, California, the first thing to catch the eye are two Pomeranians disco-dancing on the other side of wide-ranging glass entrances. Theyre waiting impatiently to be allowed in. One is tinged Barbie-pink, and resembles a Bed Bath& Beyond shower puff mysteriously brought to life.

Thats Q-Tip and Wile E Coyote, supposes Sutherland, discontinuing armfuls of Christmas patronizing to the kitchen floor. You can tell them in if you crave. Ive just got to go and change out of these invests. I travelled in their own homes, and my husbands allergic to horses.

That Sutherlands husband, Dan Kruse, 47, the scion of a pastrami and bacon business, breaks out in hives at the mere whiff of a horse has been a less urgent household problem the last 18 months. For during this time, Sutherland has been following pursuits more compatible with the equine-intolerant.


Sutherland represented biography when she travelled Game On Dude in the $10 m Dubai World Cup in 2012, becoming the first dame to ride in “the worlds” richest hasten. Image: Kamran Jebreili/ AP

First she ended a trend in interior design. Then she gave her real estate license. Between seasons, she stays in shape. This past weekend, she and her husband employed themselves through the 10 -mile, three-hour plus mud-slog of a Spartan Race.

Im faster than he is, Sutherland had said, when asked who won. I had waited back for him, but because Id get soaked and cold he told me to kicking on and leave him.

Only now, Kruses allergy-free live is drawing to a close as his wife prepares to exchange weekends spent scrabbling in the mud for a life spent on other types of grunge – that on which she made her figure as one of the nations preceding jockeys.

While Rosie Napravnik has been the most prolific of all contemporary female equestrians on the racetrack, Sutherland has been perhaps the most visible beyond it. Shes done television demoes( like HBOs ill-fated Luck ), pulled a Lady Godiva in the sheets of Vanity Fair( more on that afterward ), graced billboards( as the pervasive face of Del Mar Racecourse ), and contains the questionable honor of represent one of People Magazines 100 Most Beautiful People.

But thats not to announce she hasnt deserved her stripes in the saddle.

A two-time Sovereign Award prevailing apprentice jockey in Canada, Sutherland, 39, is a multiple big-race prevailing rider who has made a wont of notching noticeable firstlies: the first maidens to ride the win of the Santa Anita Big Cap Handicap, the first female rider to win the Hollywood Gold Cup, and the first dame to ride in the $10 m Dubai World Cup the worlds richest race.

In spite of these accomplishments, Sutherland discontinued the play over three years ago jaded, tired and dispirited with the room she recollected shed been treated by the industry( though she has already returned once to ride for an eight-month unfold ).

I do have unfinished business, Sutherland will afterward acknowledge. But right now she sets a positive spin on what lies ahead.

I simply want to give 150% to each horse, she supposes of her comeback as she takes a pew on the opposite dissolve of her sofa, changed and horse-odor free, Wile E Coyote and the pink shower whiff avatar roaming freely over the two of us. In cool pastels and capped with a vaulted ceiling, the room around us is perceptibly absent of hastening memorabilia( none of the win-pictures and accolades found in your usual equestrians digest ).

Sutherland sits neatly, self-possessed with her sides clasped before her, attentions the color of worn emerald. She rejects my suggestion that some within the industry might be a little skeptical of her recent comeback. No , not at all, she replies, tersely. Theyre great with it. This is for me, to simply be best available that I can be.


The Sutherland story outpourings not from humble descents, but from an outwardly idyllic upbringing on a farm north of Toronto, Canada, near a town announced Caledon all dark-green reeling mountains and sprawling woodland, prime fodder for a Robert Bateman painting.

Sutherlands father, Hugh, founded Canadian Tire, an automotive and hardware accumulation. He and his wife, Diane, improved it up to be one of the largest of its category in Canada. Hugh swam competitively at college. Diane was a keen tennis musician. I just think we have crazy, crazy competitive genes. And both parents fostered that same drive in their children( Sutherland has a sister and a brother ).

My mum, she was like, if you want to be in the Olympics, youll be in the Olympics. If you want to be the greatest rider ever, Im going to follow you there. She made me feel I could be president of the United States. Sutherlands father, nonetheless, was as implacable as her baby was aspirational.

At meal seasons, breakfast, dinner, he would say to all of us, get down and gives people ten pushups. Then we would have to get up and say thank you sir. He would do it when we went to restaurants, too. My momma “ve said”, dont do that. For my whole childhood I thought that was normal. He had us mucking out stallings, taking care of “the farmers “. Ponies returned first.

For a good segment of Sutherlands teenage years, it searched as though her future lay in sports outside of the equestrian world-wide, in soccer and athletics and other unit recreations. Then, at boarding school, I get really good at field hockey. I even played for Canada. She dreamed of the Olympics. I tried for the Junior World Cup team, but I was put on the traveling team.

As her Olympic hopes winnowed away, her ardour of horses and horse race ripened. During summertime vacations while at boarding school, she started razzing thoroughbreds, which she continued to do when she transferred to York University in Toronto, dual-majoring in psychology and mass communications.

When I was in my last year, I needed to make a decision about my profession. Which is when she property on the notion of becoming a rider an idea initially rejected by Sutherlands father. He wasnt the only one to tip-off cold water on the idea.

We were having dinner at my lovers mothers mansion. At the dinner table, Mickey, my lover, because hed been drinking a little bit, “ve decided that” he would tell his dad that I wanted to be a jockey. Everyone started tittering. And Im like, Why are you laughter? He articulated, You cant has become a rider, you dont have it. So, I articulated, What do I need to have? Hes like, You involve someone like Angel Cordero to learn you.

Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero was one of North Americas preceding equestrians at the time, though a figure unfamiliar to Sutherland.

So I asked: Where does he live? Oh, Florida, they responded, and tittered some more. But I visualize I was so established back then – naive too. I get up, and articulated, Thanks for dinner but Im going to leave early. I was kind of mad at Mickey, and really hurt, deep down.

Sutherland took the humiliation and made it on its chief, scoured the phone book and restricted her hunting to two Angel Corderos in Florida living close to a racetrack.

I dialed the first count. Angel refuted, and I articulated, My names Chantal Sutherland, I hear you help aspiring equestrians become equestrians. He articulated, Where do you live? I articulated, Canada. And he asked me, Could you come here? I got a ticket a month afterward, expended a year in the Country, is coming to Canada and won two Sovereign Awards.

This rather truncated re-telling of events belies the graft put into kick-starting Sutherlands career. Cordero, she articulated, was supportive of her, but tough. He was hard , no nonsense. When she wasnt operate, he would put her through her paces on a mechanical horse. They played horse hastening video games to help foster her tactical awareness in a hasten. All the while he obstructed asking me, Is this really what the hell are you want to do?

When Sutherland turned over to Canada to begin her race-riding profession at Torontos Woodbine Racetrack, success wasnt immediate. My first 60 races I was zero for 60. But all of a sudden it simply clicked, she articulated. She travelled her first win on 9 October 2000. The next year, she was crowned Canadas preceding apprentice rider a achievement she reproduced the subsequent year when she travelled the winners of 136 races and bagged nearly$ 6m in prize money.

Invariably, success courtrooms tending, and tending courtrooms bitternes. Theres always got a couple of bullies on the field, and I had one or two. There was one in particular, my nemesis, Todd Kabel, and he was mean.

He wasnt simply mean to me he was mean to all the jocks. But when I started doing well, I had the target on my back. For the guys, he would grab their projectiles before they divulged from the gates. For me, he would play judgment recreations. Hed shout out in a hasten, Chantals coming up the rail, and he would go up the railway before another guy would slam me off.( Kabel, one of Canadas top jocks, has a checkered biography of assault and domestic artillery .)

Typically, older and younger male equestrians discover their ship, seasoned ex-servicemen take them under their offstage.( A perfect sample is current wunderkind Drayden Van Dyke who has enjoyed the directives and substantiate of top equestrians Mike Smith and Gary Stevens during his ascent up the ladder .) Despite Francine Villeneuve paving the room for female equestrians in Canada, she was a uncommon visitor to Woodbine, and Sutherland located herself largely alone between races.

I remember going into the womens jocks room and hunker down by my container crying, and no ones there. So as a woman, you had no camaraderie in the room. Theres no one to ricochet substance off. Say, if you go a bad hasten, your best friend could answer, Hey, its not so bad. But youre kind of alone, and youve got to learn to excavate deep if youre going to make it. I visualize a lot of daughters was exactly, This isnt for me.


2005 was a decisive year for Sutherland. Her wedlock to trainer Mike Wright had disintegrated after exclusively seven months. Circumstances were going very bad. And so, leaving those fragments behind, she headed to New York. I always wanted to move in the Country, so I departed for it.

In New York, Sutherland struck up a partnership with veteran Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who had given much impetus to jockey Julie Krones illustrious razzing profession. He never told me much if I did well, but he would protect me out on the racetrack. He was a great, great guy. And while in Florida, she congregated Hall of Famer Mike Smith, her on-and-off marriage for the next five years.

I remember hanging out with Mike, Johnny[ Velazquez] and Gary Stevens all the time. They would start razzing the equicizer[ mechanical horse] at night, belatedly, making fun of each other, and I would learn from that. They would share secrets, about what they visualize would work.

( One late-night clandestine revealing concerned a gimmick to get a horse to stretch for the finishing line: you take your lash and tap it under the chin , not hard-handed, but enough so they lodge their nose out. I did it formerly, and the horse won. But I get gathered into the stewards for it because its illegal. I told them it was an accident, and Ive never done it again .)

By 2007, Sutherlands career acquired a brand-new seasonal pattern: summertimes expended at Woodbine, wintertimes at Santa Anita in California. The quality of organizes steadily improved, too. 2009 was a flag year. She was the second preceding rider at Woodbine, with earnings of $7,588, 868 and 139 success. The subsequent fiscal year, she finished 13 th in the US with earnings tickling the$ 9m mark.

Then along returned Game On Dude, or The Dude the horse that would afterward define both the zenith and nadir of her career.


Sutherland celebrates prevailing the Hollywood Gold Cup on Game On Dude in 2012. Image: Grant Hindsley/ AP

Together, she and The Dude were the Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire of American thoroughbred hastening. They danced large-hearted hasten dances on the west coast and beyond. Even when they didnt win, they courted the sort of hoopla which is usually follows matinee idols. When we were second in the Breeders Cup[ Classic ], it was an unbelievable fanfare. It took me two hours to get back to the jocks room, what with all the autographs.

She too achieved that which evades so many other successful equestrians recognition beyond the racetrack. The simulate( Annie Liebovitz photographed her for Vogue) led to the endorsements( Del Mar, Bet America, cosmetics firm Mistura ), which led to the television demonstrates such as HBOs Luck, alongside Dustin Hoffman, and the reality TV substantiate Jockeys.

Animal Planet made two seasons of Jockeys, which followed the living conditions of Southern Californias colony of equestrians. The tie-in, often tempestuous, between Sutherland and Smith was a central pride of the substantiate. I did it because I wanted to show the world that horse hastening was really cool. I dont repent it one chip. Her ace was flaring luminous. But fewer sports are more effective at recalibrating the scales of fortune than horse racing.

Many female equestrians are eager to downplay gender changes keen to throw themselves as one of the boys. But throughout her profession, Sutherland has pushed against this narrative in subtle mode, as with her modeling profession( fewer things seem more remote from the machismo of race-riding than the sheets of Vogue and Vanity Fair ), as well as in ways more conspicuous.

In 2011, a jocks-room incident between Sutherland and the other rider spurred the California Horse Racing Board to conduct a sexual harassment meeting for the equestrians. Shes keen to keep calls and details absent. Weve moved on from that, and besides, Ive still got to see these guys daylight in, daylight out. But what the incident spotlit were some of the disparities in facilities between the male and female riders.

Now Im all fired up and on the offensive. I required a bigger sauna in the status of women jocks room at Santa Anita. We had this little minuscule container. Only person or persons could use it, and by then, there were quite a few female jocks. The followers had much greater sauna. Im like, I know my claims as a woman – we should have everything that they have.

The racetrack management played immediately to set a brand-new sauna, she articulated. As soon as I asked for it, we got it. They were astounding. Some of her male counterparts in the saddle, nonetheless, were less amazed with the renovations.

The whole friggin jocks room departed ballistic. Lastly, I addressed the guys personally. I did request some of the girls to come with me but they didnt been demonstrated, and I thought to myself, Just perfect, its how it always is: I have to show up to defend myself against 50 guys. In the end,[ rider] Garret Gomez sided with me. He talked to the guys and they calmed down. And not one guy from that day forward has taunted me again.

Does she consider herself something of a trailblazer? I didnt be coming home with hastening to be a trailblazer I simply want to move and go home and employed money in the bank.

Trailblazer or not, Sutherland courts a sizable following on social media, which has its impediments. When she constituted naked on horseback for Vanity Fair, the reaction from many devotees was speedy and vociferous.

I had a lot of devotees who protected me. But many articulated, Shes ruining video games. Between Twitter and Facebook, “its been” wild. I just stopped reading it I just wanted to be razzing , not are concerned about all the craziness.

Then returned the$ 1m Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August of 2012. She and The Dude searched as though they had the hasten won, exclusively for Sutherland to stop one of her controls with less than half a furlong to pas. In the shade of the wire, rider Joel Rosario aboard Dullahan wiped past them to victory.

Sutherlands mistake in the 2012 Pacific Classic payment her affectionately.

Had Sutherland lost the race when she lost the rein? The communications of The Dude thought so, and Sutherland immediately lost the gig with her old-time dance partner.

After that, things get frigid at the line. I wasnt get the mounts part of that was my posture. I was sour, bitter, tired. So sour that in October 2012, she announced her retirement.

I didnt want to get out of bed, which is not like me. I love to work, love to be around parties, love to be around horses. But , none of this was preparing me glad. I was lost. And then I ended, This is it, Im retiring. I recollect[ rider] Alex Solis said, Dont retire – everybody does this. Just say youre taking a break. But my brother have really employed it on Twitter that Im retiring, so I continued with the story.

Here, Sutherland, clock-watching for the past 20 minutes, apologizes as she cuts the interview short she has to chief to the gym. But well finished yet soon, she promises.


We meet again at Santa Anita Park two days later on the sort of clean, cold early California morning in wintertime that seems wrung out of a container of sparkler sea. Sutherlands waiting to work a horse at 9am, and we take a seat overlooking the line. Shes decked in razzing paraphernalium, hat, boots and gauntlets strokings of pink here and there for good measure.

In the cool sun of morning and in the environs of the racetrack as opposed to the consolation of her home, I had expected Sutherland to be a little less candid than she was two days ago. I was wrong.

As we propel back into the topic of her retirement, she continues to dissect that season with cool clarity a residue, she supposes, of having attended the Landmark Forum, a programme designed that promises on its website is to ensure positive, permanent changes in the quality of your life, in simply three days.

When I adjourned I had a negative posture. I was bummed out, tired. Id had enough. I just wanted to be alone. Its emotional, hastening youre on everyday. Landmark impounded a reflect up to the motivations behind her demeanor, she supposes( with the clue of a born-again ).

I had this breakthrough time when I realized that with people who dont substantiate me, I have a tendency to run away from them. I axe them out of “peoples lives”. I felt that, at the time, by taking me off Game On Dude, they werent corroborating me. I had this mindset whereby I recollected, If youre not going to ride me on your horses, I dont want to be in horse race. Meanwhile, that was a bad attitude. I please Id done[ the Landmark Forum] 17 years ago Id have been a better rider, for sure.

Since retiring in 2012, Sutherland has already represented one comeback. However, she says that the simple matter of age represents shes approaching her recent comeback with a larger appreciation of necessity. The thought of eventually leaving the play on her own terms is an enticing one, too as is the possibility of securing a attach in the nations biggest hasten. I visualize the Kentucky Derby is the one that evaded me.

Sutherland rode Mine That Bird to most of his winnings at two years of age, after which the horse was sell. Still, one of the brand-new owneds apparently contacted Sutherland before the Kentucky Derby to furnish her the mount a attach that eventually went to jockey Calvin Borel, who travelled Mine That Bird to a far-famed 50 -1 Derby victory.

I was so close, she mourns. Thats the one I think of. I dont know if theres a possibility of getting back there, to Kentucky. But anythings possible.

As we prepare to wrap the interview up, she stops me short. You asked me the other daylight why I think there arent more women around horse race.( I hadnt asked this specific question, but its clear that Sutherland has given the issue much envisioned)

I have a theory, she supposes, as we condescend the grandstand. The guys play golf or play posters with the tutors. Its still a boys club. But its not like[ coach] Richard Mandella can tell his wife, Im going to play golf with Chantal for the afternoon. I cant build those kinds of relationships with tutors outside of the racetrack. So, I have to build those kinds of relationships here at the line of a morning. But mornings are a busy meter for the tutors theyre acting. So, I visualize Im at a hindrance for that. And I visualize all female equestrians are.

Are the other equestrians pleased to see you back, I request, as we prepare to go our separate styles. She says that “they il be”, before pausing and offering this parting shot: I simply hope they dont announce me the grandma.

Such articles was revised on Tuesday December 22 to rectify the name of the Hall of Fame trainer. His figure is Allen Jerkens , not Jerkins. This has now been changed.

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