by Glenn Stevens, WFMJ.com
He is one of the top jockey’s in the nation and he’s currently displaying his skills at the Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley Race Course.
The work day starts early at the track, for the horses, the people who care for them and the jockeys who ride them, like veteran jock Terry Houghton.
Shane Spiess is a horse owner and trainer who works with Houghton. “Terry Houghton’s always here, one of the first riders here in the morning” Spiess said.
Terry’s father and four uncles were jockeys and he is living his dream. “My whole life, ever since I can remember I always wanted to be a jockey,” Houghton said.
Before any race there is the weigh-in. The maximum weight allowance is 126 pounds, including the saddle. Houghton says weight management is a challenge.
“But this is my job, this is what I’m going to do, I’ve got to maintain it.” At just over a hundred pounds the jockeys real challenge is controlling a one-thousand pound animal at more than 40 miles per hour. “You know people don’t realize to ride on a race horse in a race how physically fit you have to be,” said Houghton.
The 44 year old jockey says racing requires focus and concentration. “You position yourself so you’re not stuck in traffic, where you’re not going to be able to make your move when it’s time, and you always want to save a little bit for the end,” Houghton said.
Horse players and handicappers say a jockey can be a factor even if they’re not riding the favorite. “That doesn’t bother you a bit, you know you got a good jock on the horse,” said Mark Butch a regular player at the track in Austintown.
The salary schedule for a jockey works like this: It’s $45 for every mount. Winning pays you 10% of the owners share. Second and third pays 5% of the owners share. Out of that the jockey has to pay his agent.
Making a living as jockey is a dangerous proposition. Houghton suffered serious head injuries in a fall in 2002.
“I was told at the time of the injury that was it, I’d never ride again.” But he came back, and in May of 2013 at Thistledown he achieved a career milestone with his 5000th win.
Houghton is currently ranked 24th in the nation for career victories and he is still winning. Ask him what is the best part of being a jockey and the answer is what you would expect.
“Winning, the thrill of winning is always great.”