Bill Christine

Bill Christine, whose first Kentucky Derby was in 1968 (like everybody else, he waited several years to find out if the courts would uphold the DQ of Dancer's Image), spent 24 years covering horse racing for the Los Angeles Times. He covered every Triple Crown race for the Times from 1982 through 2005, and also reported on the first 22 runnings of the Breeders' Cup. Recent stories by Bill have appeared in The Blood-Horse, Post Time USA, the California Thoroughbred and Paddock magazine.

Bill has won two Eclipse Awards for turf writing, five Red Smith Awards for best Kentucky Derby stories, two David Woods Awards for best Preakness stories and the National Turf Writers' Association's Walter Haight Award and Pimlico's Old Hilltop Award for career contributions to racing. He was part of the Los Angeles Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for its coverage of the Northridge earthquake the year before.

Bill came to the Times from the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, where he was assistant to the executive vice president. Before that, he covered a variety of sports for newspapers in East St. Louis, Baltimore, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Chicago, including a stint as sports editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He wrote Roberto!, a biography of the Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Clemente, in 1972. His first job in racing was in the front office of the old Commodore Downs track in Erie, Pa.

Bill, who lives in Redondo Beach, California, is working on a history of Bay Meadows. Contact:

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Where Few Females Tread

When Tuesdee Testa won a race at Santa Anita in March of 1969, she became the first female jockey to win at a major track. The door at Santa Anita slammed shut on female riders posthaste, and with the exception of the now-retired Julie Krone in recent years, there's never been a distaffer who's made an impact at the track. Hollywood Park is no different. The standings at Hollywood's recently completed meet are typical: Joy Scott rode in 17 races and Chantal Sutherland in two. No other females were represented.

Chantal Sutherland? The Canadian jockey is now at Santa Anita, where her main squeeze, the Hall of Famer Mike Smith, also rides. Her agent, Tommy Ball, says that Sutherland will stay until the meet ends in April. "It's a tough colony, I know," Ball said. "But she's been getting on horses in the mornings for Mike Machowsky, Cliff Sise and Gary Mandella, and the two horses she rode over at Hollywood were for Bob Hess and Brian Koriner, so that's a good sign."

Sutherland, who's 31, rode her first winner at Woodbine in 2000 and has won 79 races this year, most of them in Canada. She was Canada's top apprentice twice, and in 2002, when she finished third in wins at Woodbine, her mounts earned almost $6 million, enough to rank her 30th in North America. Sutherland has had a fling or two in New York, where she rode a 54-to-1 shot to victory for trainer Patrick Biancone. Riding for Allen Jerkens, she rode Smokume to a couple of stakes wins in 2005.

Sutherland has cover-girl good looks and was once featured in Vogue. Smith has been asked what it's like having a girlfriend who's also a jockey. "The best part is that she understands the sport and knows what I go through," he told the New York Times. "The worst part is that I'm always worrying about her getting hurt."

If Sutherland and Smith ever married, they would probably have no trouble riding against one another, but there was a time when stewards looked askance at close relationships. When Johnny Longden rode and his wife Hazel trained, there was a house rule in California that prevented Longden from riding for another trainer if Hazel had a horse in a race. Trainer Dale Romans once told me that the reason he and Tammy Fox, a jockey, waited so long to get married was because she would have problems getting mounts in races in which Romans was running horses.

In the 1970s, many jurisdictions wouldn't allow Mary Bacon, a Playboy model, to ride against her husband. But one day at the old Detroit Race Course, they were on horses running from adjoining stalls, and at the break, Johnny Bacon's mount slammed into his wife's horse. The stewards disqualified Johnny Bacon's horse, and gave his rider a five-day suspension. "That's nothing," Mary Bacon said later. "I gave him five nights."

On closing day at Hollywood Park, Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland rode in the same race. Smith's mount won and Sutherland's finished fifth. Looking at the odds, that's just about where they figured to finish. Racing integrity was safe for another day.

Written by Bill Christine

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