Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Emma-Jayne Wilson: #Chasing1000 at the Shergar Cup
TORONTO, August 8 - Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, a veteran of more than 7,000 starts, is only 12 wins shy of 1,000 in her career and she’s hoping to add to her impressive totals when she takes part in a team competition at Saturday's Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot, in England.
Wilson will be joined in the Shergar Cup by fellow female riders Hayley Turner (team captain) and Chantal Sutherland to compete as ‘The Girls’ team against top international riders from Europe (captained by Frankie Dettori), Great Britain & Ireland (captained by Kieren Fallon) and the ‘Rest of the World’ (captained by Yutaka Take).
Wilson, who took part in the Shergar Cup in 2006, makes no bones about her goal in the competition.
“I always want to win,” grins Wilson. “I’ve ridden in the Shergar Cup, and having ridden in England before, it will serve me well. It's not going to be new ground.”
Of course, she’s not opposed to breaking new ground. In 2007, she became the first female rider to win Canada’s most important race, the Queen’s Plate, when she guided Mike Fox to a gruelling stretch victory in the 1 ¼-mile classic.
Ian Black, who trained Mike Fox to that historic score in the first Queen’s Plate raced over the Polytrack, has great respect for the 30-year-old rider.
“She’s very strong,” said Black. “There are not many men who would outride or out finish her.
Black has enjoyed much success with Wilson through the years including a win in the Grade 3 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream Park with Rahy’s Attorney, as well as a rousing second-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf with Excaper, last November.
“That was a big day for both of us,” recalls Black.
On that November afternoon at Churchill Downs, Wilson and Excaper led the field at the top of the lane, and while she couldn’t hold off Aidan O’Brien’s Wrote, Wilson persisted with Excaper the length of the stretch and nosed out a photo-finish for place over Farraaj, ridden by Neil Callan.
Excaper banked $180,000 for finishing second, some $81,000 more than Farraaj - - quite the expensive nose job.
“I've had great success with her,” smiles Black. “I'm not afraid to put her on anything. She rides them all the way to the wire, which is the way you should do it. There’s a lot of money for fourth and fifth in some of those races.”
Wilson, who has captured 11 graded stake races in her career, is looking forward to her European adventure.
“What it all boils down to is these events are about promoting horse racing,” says Wilson. “To take that, and make a good go of it, is what I’m really looking forward to.”
Wilson has been actively promoting her appearance at the Shergar Cup over Twitter, where she is known as @EJWilson81, with some light-hearted banter with teammates Turner (@HayleyTurner123) and Sutherland (@JockeyChantal).
The jock, whose mounts have banked more than $47-million in purse earnings, has been quick to engage with a number of fans over Twitter and frequently re-tweets those that reach out to her.
“It’s challenging,” offers Wilson, of her foray into social media. “I like to tweet the little things that intrigue me, as well as the quick little thoughts. It’s challenging because I don’t know exactly what people want to hear. Trying to find that balance of what is entertaining and what’s spam, for lack of a better word, is interesting. Any feedback would be good. I think #Chasing1000 is a good little tidbit to put out there.”
Wilson’s #Chasing1000 hashtag, which chronicles her journey to the landmark score, is something of a departure for the modest jock better known for her tenacious game-face.
“In the grand scheme of things, I’m not one to sit down and count the numbers,” she says. “I’m happy to do my job and I like to win. I have a hard time wrapping my head around all that has happened in the last eight years.”
And about that infamous game face…
“When people see me as a jockey, they see me between the rails and on a horse’s back about to go do my job and that’s when my game face is on,” explains Wilson. “It’s a testament to focus. That’s me, it’s nothing personal. I’m in my zone and that’s just me.”
Through Twitter though, the public is getting to know the funny side of Wilson. She’s more than just the windmill of activity hustling a horse to the wire. Wilson, at heart, is a prankster and a competitor – she wants to win whether it’s a horse race, a game of paintball amongst friends or pulling the best prank.
“I think Twitter is a bit of a window to my more light-hearted side,” she laughs. “I know I’ve posted a couple of little pranks on there. I scared ‘Betty Boop’ (jockey Betty Jo Williams) the other day. I’m quite the practical joker. I was sitting in Skippy’s (Ian Black’s assistant trainer Skippy Bowen aka @skipskipskippin) car the other day for half an hour waiting for him to get in, so I could scare the crap out of him. I missed my opportunity when he opened the back door on me.”
Her patience, and determination, whether it’s waiting for the right moment to ask her mount to run; or hiding under a pile of towels in the jock’s room to put one over on a fellow rider, as she did to Williams, are testament to her desire to achieve the best result in everything she puts her mind to.
“I have a quote that a close friend of mine gave to me - - it's more of a question to ask yourself,” she explains. “’What is it that you do and what do you expect the outcome to be’. That's written in my box in the jock's room and I think of that before I ride every single race.”
Her journey to 1,000 victories beckons ever closer and she admits to having a hard time picking just one win out of the hundreds.
“I couldn't tell you just one favourite,” she admits. “There are significant historical ones like the Queen's Plate...but, there's so many. Each one of those wins is pieces of the puzzle that have fallen into place.”
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