While Davis has ridden at Aqueduct each of the past three winters, she has been especially visible during the 2011-2012 inner track meet, with a record of 9-6-16 from 100 mounts, good for 10th in the jockey standings through Wednesday, February 15. Success comes with experience, and for Davis, experience has come at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, where she has ridden the last two meets. There, Davis’s agent is Max Hall, while Roger Sutton books her mounts locally.
In 2010, her first year at Suffolk, Davis finished sixth in the standings with 72 winners, nine wins separating her from the second-place finisher. In 2011, she was second with 82 victories, 13 ahead of her nearest rival. Tammi Piermarini, who recorded her 2,000th career victory at Suffolk in August, led last year’s standings with 127 victories.
“At Suffolk, I got my timing and I learned really quickly how to picture in a race what a rider next to me is going to do, or how much horse I think they have,” Davis said. “The race riding there is more blatant, and it keeps you on your toes more riding with those kinds of riders. Your awareness and your skills are sharpened.”
In addition to race experience gained at Suffolk, Davis is also quick to credit the foundation she built in New York watching and learning from riders like Ramon Dominguez and Rosie Napravnik earlier in her career.
“In New York, you’re riding with the best and learning from the best and I did that when I had the bug and got a little ground under me,” said Davis, a member of the first graduating class from Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy in 2008. “I tell Ramon all the time – ‘When I had the 10-pound, I followed you every race.’ Everyone says pick a rider and Ramon’s timing is just unbelievable. I think that’s how I got good at coming from off the pace, because I watched him. And Rosie, if I didn’t know what to do, I asked her. And she said ‘Well Jackie, if I rode this horse, I would do this.’ And I’d do it, and I’d finish third.”
Davis’s development as a rider has not gone unnoticed this year, leading to mounts with some of New York’s larger outfits. Davis had intended to winter at Parx Racing in Philadelphia until Sutton agreed to take her book in New York
“Roger had Rajiv [Maragh], he had Rosie, and he had my dad, when he was riding,” said Davis. “He’s got backing in a lot of barns that I want to be in, and that I’ve been able to ride for this winter, like Linda Rice.”
Davis has ridden two winners from nine starters for Rice since the inner track meet began on November 30.
“Jackie has really improved a lot,” Rice said. “She’s gotten a lot of experience at Suffolk and I think she’s ridden enough races now to really sharpen her skills and come back here as a much better rider than she was last year. I’ve put her on some horses, and she’s done well.”
The second-oldest of Robbie and Marguerite Davis’s six children, Jackie Davis was born and graduated from high school in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Empire State is where she wants to settle eventually, but not until she is able to ride regularly and competitively on the NYRA circuit. For now, her plan is to return to Suffolk Downs this spring with an eye on the 2012 riding title.
“Fighting for the title in Boston last year was actually a lot of fun,” said Davis. “I’ve never done well enough where I could actually be somebody’s competition like that, especially against such a rider as Tammi. For me to be that much competition to somebody – and there was a point where I was within about 10 wins of her – I was just beside myself. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Right now I’m going to go back, my goal is to take a title, and then eventually, if not next year, maybe the following year, I want to try and stay here and be competitive.”
While Davis cannot call New York her year-round base just yet, her home state has been the backdrop for a number of highlights, and bringing home her father’s first winner as trainer marked a recent bright spot.
“Awesome,” said Davis of Sandyinthesun’s nose victory in the December 3 maiden race. “I didn’t think I won it. I remember, I hit the wire and I go ‘Did I get it? I don’t think I got it.’ And then I looked over at Cornelio [Velasquez aboard Sam’s Buck] and I just analyzed how big his horse was and I go ‘He’s tiny! I’ve got a longer neck than him! I might have…’ And then I heard the roar of the crowd. There were tears with my mom and my sister in the winner’s circle, and my dad tried to pull me off the horse. It was like winning my first race, with a little more knowledge of what was going on. In my first win, I was wondering where everybody was most of the race.”
Davis won her first stakes race in November 2010 aboard Sociano’s Legacy in the Norman Hall Stakes at Suffolk Downs. With that milestone behind her, she is focused on the road ahead.
“I have really big goals, Davis said. “I want to ride in the Derby, I want to ride in the big races, but I’m very realistic about how long it’s going to take. My parents taught me young, you’ve got to work for everything. And right now, I don’t have a bad gig – if you’re in the top 10 in New York, you’re doing pretty good.”