ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 30, 2009)—A reality/documentary series entitled “Jockeys,” featuring in-depth video and sound of Santa Anita-based jockeys including Mike Smith, Alex Solis, Aaron Gryder, Chantal Sutherland and Joe Talamo, will debut Friday, Feb. 6, at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet cable network. The series consists of 12 episodes and will run six weeks, with back-to-back shows airing for a total of one hour each week.

Shot in HD, “Jockeys” will depict the athletes in-depth, at work and at home. “Based upon the pilot we’ve been able to review and from the feedback we’ve received from the jockeys themselves, this series is going to break new ground, as far as how the jockeys are perceived and understood,” said Santa Anita Community and Special Projects Director Pete Siberell.

“Additionally, we’re very encouraged by the fact the Television Critics Association reviewed the series on Jan. 9, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, they named it as one of the top four cable shows to debut this year.

“The crews from Animal Planet were given unlimited access here at Santa Anita, and that is unprecedented,” he said. “The entire project went very smoothly and the Animal Planet people were very unobtrusive. As a result, I think they blended in very well and were able to capture the emotion and the passion these jockeys possess in an unvarnished, unrehearsed way that I don’t believe has ever been so thoroughly documented.”

Gryder, a winner of more than 3,000 races and now in his 23rd year as a professional jockey, is confident the sport and its jockeys are going to be better understood and perceived as a result of “Jockeys.”

“This series is going to surprise a lot of people,” said Gryder. “From people who don’t know much about racing, to people who know a whole lot, I think they’re going to be pleasantly surprised. They’re going to learn a lot about the horses we ride and about how well they’re taken care of.

“People are going to see that these horses each have caretakers that in many cases, live just 30 feet away. If any horse gets a fever, an on-call doctor makes a house call and treats them in about 30 minutes,” he said.

“As far as the entire experience of filming, at the racetrack and elsewhere, they were very respectful of our time. Even though they were always with us, it never felt like they were in our way,” said Gryder.

“I think anybody who watches this series will have no doubts about our athleticism. People are going to see the amount of preparation that goes into what we do, as well as how we manage our diet and of course, the way we compete. People are going to see the physical aspect of our job and I think they’ll agree we’re among the fittest and leanest athletes in the world.”

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who broke his maiden in 1982, will also play an integral part in the six-week series.

“I think people are going to be unbelievably surprised,” said Smith. “They’re going to see that we don’t just walk out to the paddock and get a leg up and ride. They’re going to see the hard work that goes into riding these races. As jockeys, we have a lot of passion for the horses we ride and a love of the game.

“People are going to see that and I think they’re going to realize that as a jockey, in order to get into the position of being successful in this business, it takes a tremendous amount of hard work,” he added.

Smith’s romantic relationship with Sutherland will also be developed. “You’re talking about cameras following you all day, and in some cases all night,” said Smith. “Although it was a bit tedious at times, all in all, the crews did a tremendous job.”

The series was produced for Animal Planet by Go Go Luckey Productions, whose executive producers are Liz Bronstein and Tina Gazzero. Margaret Goodman served as supervising producer.

Santa Anita’s current winter/spring meeting runs through April 19.