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Jeannine Edwards bio
Welcome to Bloodhorse.com’s Talkin Horse’s podcast. Today, our guest is Jeannine Edwards.
She is a reporter from the ESPN network and very familiar to any horseracing fans. She most recently was in Lexington for the Lexington Stakes coverage at Keeneland. Jeannine is an avid horsewoman who owns a horse and she rides through the countryside of Maryland when she’s not working. She also is an overall animal lover and has several dogs. She is very supportive of efforts to find homes for unwanted horses after their racing careers, and she herself was a trainer and jockey before she morphed into a broadcaster.
Jeannine: Hey Ron, thanks for having me.
Ron: First of all, we’ll get right through the questions, if that’s okay with you?
Jeannine: Sure. I’m ready.
Ron: Considering that you are a woman who has succeeded in a male dominated profession, have you ever experienced overt sexism from an employer, co-worker, sports fan, or someone you were interviewing?
Jeannine: Well, you know what, that’s interesting. I mean, I think in all walks of life you are going to come across occasionally some behavior that might be considered borderline or inappropriate. I think we’ve all experienced that; you could experience that going to the grocery store. 99.9% of the people that I have come across in my profession are professional, they’re cordial, they’re helpful. My job is a pleasure – it’s a joy, and all of us on the horseracing team have a great time and a great rapport together and we also have a great rapport with the people that we cover.
Ron: Really, a very, very positive experience.
Jeannine: Absolutely. I could not say that being a woman has made me uncomfortable or been a hindrance in any way, shape or form.
Ron: Not totally related, but somewhat related, this comes from Ron – Who was your best interview and who was your worst interview?
Jeannine: Okay, there are so many.
Ron: So many in each category or just so many …
Jeannine: Yeah, there had been a lot of good ones and some not so good. What I would could consider one of my best interviews was probably the follow up interview I did with Dr. Dean Richardson after Barbaro died. It was a one-on-one sit down interview and it was difficult to do, but he was very open and very candid and I think the subject matter had a lot to do with it, but I think that was one of my better ones. The worst one – every once in a while you come across somebody that you have caught off-guard, there might be some awkward moments. There are people that tend to ramble and you’re trying to ream them back in, people who lose a race and are angry and don’t want to talk – those are some of the worst interviews. I don’t want to name any names on any on those and frankly I can’t pinpoint one or another. But those are the ones that usually are not so great.
Ron: Right, I guess a lot of your time in your business you’re talking to people at a very emotional time and before they’ve really had time to sort out their thoughts.
Jeannine: Exactly, and it’s the same way, maybe when you’re interviewing somebody in another sport that’s just lost a game or the team isn’t playing well or you have to grab somebody at sort of an awkward moment and that’s completely understandable. People that are competing in professional sports, emotions tend to rise high and competitive nature sometimes comes out. So, at times like those, not everybody wants a microphone and a camera in their face.
Ron: I could relate to what you were saying about Dr. Richardson having had the opportunity to interview him several times and including having him as a multiple guest for Talkin’ Horses. He was always really well prepared, articulate, and I don’t know anyone who ever had a bad interview with him.
Jeannine: Exactly, great guy and very articulate and very emotional, very passionate about the work that he did with Barbaro, and I think it came across in his interviews.
Ron: Most definitely. He was awesome, he really was. Next question, Ev from Washington. Was the whole Billy Gillispie half-time interview situation blown out of proportion or do you think it was as big of a deal as it was made the way he handled the situation? Has he been in touch with you since that incident and/or since he left UK?
Jeannine: Yes, he did apologize to me after both half time interviews, so yes, he did do that. I do think that it was blown out of proportion. Remarkably, it’s still a topic of conversation, I cannot believe that, like two months after the fact, but UK fans are very passionate about their sport and they also take their basketball very personally. They took those interviews personally as a reflection on the program and on themselves. They sort of take ownership in the program so I could see why that was something that struck a nerve with them. I do think it was blown out of proportion and the fact that it got so much press and so much ink. It kind of goes back to what I said before about the heat of the moment, the competitive nature of people and some people don’t always respond in the best possible way when they’re put in those situations. I’m sure if he had a chance to do those interviews over again, his answers would be a little bit different.
Ron: And I guess apology accepted?
Jeannine: Yes, apology accepted.
Ron: No hard feelings?
Jeannine: We all make mistakes.
Ron: Next question comes from Laura – I enjoy watching you during the ESPN racing broadcasts. Your knowledge and horsemanship are inspirational; you really hold your own with the guys, too. Who do you like in this year’s Derby? Is your pick a potential Triple Crown winner?
Jeannine: Well, first of all, thank you for the nice comment, I appreciate that. You know what, as far as the Derby goes, I usually like to watch the horses train at Churchill Downs before I make my final pick. There’s always one or two horses that are either look like they’re sort of tailing off or not able to handle the stress and the crowds and sort of coming unglued, and then there are other horses that just seem as though they are blossoming and coming into their own. So I try to tend to hold my decisions until I see them at Churchill, but right now, I would say I really like Quality Road. I hope the quarter-crack is a done deal and Hold Me Back, the Winstar horse, I think if he can run as well on dirt as he has on the synthetics, he’s the horse that’s gonna’ be flying at the end. And as for the Triple Crown, you’re guess is as good as mine.
Ron: As you're well aware, always during Derby week there’s always the wise guy’s horse – the one that everybody says is just looking so good, he’s going outrun his odds and everybody pounds him at the windows and ends up finishing 10th or 11th.
Jeannine: Although Barbaro was one horse that really seemed to thrive Derby week and people were really started to notice him, yeah definitely.
Ron: Other than improving the health and safety of the sport, what would you change about racing if you had the opportunity that would help attract more fans and owners?
Jeannine: Wow, that’s a great question. I personally think the sport really needs to ramp up efforts to make itself squeaky clean. I mean there’s no room for error here. You know what I mean? There can be no gray area. The sport has got to be squeaky clean and that will improve the integrity, that will improve public perception and trust and bring some fans back.
We need more destination venues. Obviously not every racetrack can be a destination venue because the sport, the market just doesn’t support that. There has to be different levels of racing so that the cheaper horses can have a niche, so that the smaller time owners and breeders who were not big commercially into the sport have a way to participate in it. So we do need some of the lower levels of racing to keep the entire sport viable, but more destination venues, we need maybe more marquee meets and events because these marquee meets and events like Keeneland, Saratoga, Del Mar – those are the race meets that are thriving. Those are the race meets… you could argue that they have better quality racing, but it’s not just the better quality racing, it’s that they are shorter meets, it’s something to look forward to, it’s something special, less racing overall. I believe in quality over quantity, and I think that will help the sport tremendously.
Ron: So maybe even like a tiered system of saying these are grade 3 level tracks, and this is the experience you're going to get there… Along the line with what minor league baseball does?
Jeannine: That’s a possibility. That’s definitely a possibility. I think we have that already; we just don’t label them as such.
Ron: Right, maybe getting it structured in a way so that people know what to expect when they go to one of those, rather than having unfulfilled expectations at a lower level track.
Jeannine: Yes, that’s a very good idea.
Ron: Next question comes from PHW – After spending a couple days at the Keeneland spring meet I can certainly say there is a strong contingent of women that attend the races. Having said that, I have the impression that women do not engage in the betting aspect of the sport as much as men. Do you think that women are as involved as men when it comes to betting on, rather than just watching horseracing? If you think there is a discrepancy, is there something that could be done to further attract women to the betting windows?
Jeannine: Well, because I am not a gambler, I cannot say for sure whether there are as many women gambling as there are men because I really don’t go to the windows and I don’t pay attention to who’s there. But I will say women love animals, so there’s a possibility that a lot of women are going to the races not necessarily for the gambling, but just to see the horses and to enjoy the sport. Guys like to gamble, I mean that’s a fact. I think more guys like to gamble than women do. However, there are many astute women handicappers, there are many novice female handicappers who do just as well picking the pretty gray horse or the horse with the pretty purple silk and that horse wins. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to it, and I think as long as men and women can go to the track and find something that they enjoy about the experience, whether it be the gambling or the camaraderie, the social aspect to it, seeing the equine and human athletes performing – I think whatever we can do to get people there and get them interested and if they feel as though they want to try their luck betting $2 on the pretty gray horse or whatever, then more power to them and that’s what we need to be working on and emphasizing.
Ron: So as long as they're there enjoying the experience and relating to the horses and the atmosphere, we shouldn’t worry too much about whether the female attendees per capita is equal or greater to that of the male attendee.
Jeannine: I wouldn’t worry about how much they’re betting. Yes, we need betting – I mean let’s be honest here -- the gambling, the wagering, and the handle is what keeps the sport alive -- but I think as long as you get the women there, that’s half the battle.
Ron: Next one is from A. Spradling – Over the past 15 or so years working horse races, what were your top three thrilling races you have experienced or made you excited to report on?
Jeannine: It’s tough. It’s tough to pick just three and after many years of covering the sport or being involved in the sport, it would be hard to narrow it down. But I think what comes to mind probably – the races where we have had drama, whether it’s for better or worse – anything that’s unexpected makes it memorable. So in the case of Barbaro, very memorable, very unexpected.
Big Brown, of course in the Belmont, oh my goodness, that came from out of nowhere, that’s memorable.
The Eight Belles story at last year’s Derby also is something that sticks out in my mind.
The two years that the ESPN team and I spent in Dubai covering the World Cup was a spectacular experience. It’s just an amazing venue and that night of races is really second to none only because of the quality of the racing, the atmosphere, where it’s at – you just feel like you’re in this far away exotic locale. So, being in Dubai, that’s something that I’ll always remember as well.
Ron: Wildboar says – I remember you with much fondness when you struggled to read Edgar Prado's letter to the Fans of Barbaro at Delaware Park. What role do you think each racetrack should play in the retirement of Thoroughbreds? Should a percentage of profits be donated to these causes, a percentage of each fee for entering a race donated to these causes?
Jeannine: Great ideas. Yes, I would say all of the above. I think breeders need to be more involved. They are involved already, but let’s face it, the breeders are the ones that are supplying all these animals into the system. So, maybe a little bit more responsibility, a little bit more involved in caring for the horses sort of after the fact.
The horsemen need direct access alternatives – alternatives to selling to these livestock auctions where a lot of times the horses ended going for slaughter. Each state – I think each state or each track should have some type of center or facility that works closely with the owners and trainers at those respective racetracks. Kentucky is an excellent example. The Kentucky Equine Humane Center is a shelter that takes in equines of all breeds. They have stalls set aside at each of the Kentucky tracks where horsemen can just call a racing office and say “Hey, I have a horse that’s not going to continue in the sport with me and the Humane Center will take the horse in. They use the people in the racing office as sort of the go between, and that is an excellent idea. They have set a standard, and I would love to see other states and other racetracks follow suit because I think that’s a great way to get these horses to an alternative place where homes can hopefully be found for them.
Ron: I would say that at a lot of places – there’s a frustration level even among horsemen who realize they have a horse that no longer fits in their stable or are at wit’s end to figure out what to do with it. And that may be one reason that these auctions that take horses to slaughter are so tempting to them.
Jeannine: Well, it is – it is tempting because they can put a few hundred dollars in their pocket, they get the horse out of their barn because the horse is costing them money every single day that it’s there, so time is of the essence. They need a quick, viable alternative to send in these horses to these auctions, and once the system comes up with a viable alternative that works for everyone, the horses will be the winners because they will come out hopefully on the better end of this.
Ron: The next question is from Greg Hoelk – In your bio you state you are an animal lover fist and don't like to see any horses misused, or mistreated. So do you think horse trainers utilizing illegal drugs with their horses should be barred for life from ever training a horse again?
Jeannine: That is a good question. I would be all for and very much in favor of drug violators or people who violate the rules and regulations of the sport have a three strikes and you’re out policy. I mean why not? Three strikes and you’re out. You’re banned. You cannot participate in the sport anymore. I think that would be a great way to sort of keep people within the boundaries of the way the sport is laid out.
Ron: And three strikes would be fining the repeat offenders who’ve had an opportunity to not repeat?
Jeannine: Yeah, correct. I don’t mean for small offenses like not having your full papers on file or that type of thing; I’m talking drug violations and that type of thing.
Ron: So major stuff?
Ron: The second part of this, Greg asked would you be able to use your position as a broadcaster on television to take up this cause?
Jeannine: Well, no not really. In my spare time, yes that’s one thing, and I do appear at various events that I feel passionate about or donate my time to host an event or emcee something where I think I can possibly help, so that’s separate. On the air, my job as a reporter for ESPN is to be objective, to report the facts as we know them, to be fair and balanced, if I may borrow a phrase from Fox News. You’ve got to be neutral. I would lose all credibility if I were to start using my position as a platform for my personal beliefs and convictions; I mean you just can’t do that, but my passion for the sport – my passion for animals gives me perhaps a passion for the sport on that level, but you’ve got to keep the facts as facts and your beliefs and your convictions or your opinions on different things have to stay totally separate.
Ron: Sounds like a true professional.
Jeannine: Well, it’s just the way it’s got to be or you lose all credibility.
Ron: Stephanie from Atlanta wants to know – Do you think this year’s Derby winner has to have a feel good story behind them in order to turn around all the negative storylines that are plaguing the industry? She adds, In that case I would root for General Quarters.
Jeannine: Aawww… well, that is an excellent point. Excellent point. To bring back some warmth and some heartening stories, good-feeling stories would do the sport a world of good at this point in time and you know what, there are many, many stories like that. So, yes, if a horse like General Quarters or a Win Willy or somebody like that were to win the Kentucky Derby, it would be a tremendous shot in the arm. Definitely.
Ron: This next question we may have already covered, but I’ll let you decide that. It’s from Jim – Have there been any interviews that were hardest for you to do, the most fun and why?
Jeannine: Yeah, again it’s hard to pinpoint. The ones that have been hard to do – anything that involves tragedy. Anything that involves the death of a horse, painful situations for people like Roy and Gretchen Jackson or Larry Jones with Eight Belles or that type of thing. Those are always very, very difficult to do, but at the same time, I feel drawn to those types of stories so I want to cover them and I do enjoy doing them, but the subject matter is difficult. And because I would hope that I’m a compassionate person, it does make asking the tough questions a little bit more difficult knowing you want to see some emotion from the person you’re interviewing, you know you have to ask some painful questions, so that does make it difficult.
As far as the most fun, there are a lot of fun interviews. I think the ride along interview I did with Larry Jones last year when he was on Eight Belles before the Derby, that was a lot of fun. He is a great guy to talk to, so he is always fun to interview. Probably another one that would stand out would be the sit down interview I did with Kent Desormeaux last summer after Big Brown, of course, lost in the Belmont Stakes and just kind of going through that entire situation with Desormeaux and all the many different facets to that story, I thought was very compelling.
Ron: What you, Randy Moss, and the other broadcasters do looks glamorous, but I’m sure beneath the surface there is a lot of work involved. Can you describe a typical week when you are going to cover a race?
Jeannine: Wow, very good question. First of all, the team that I worked with on horseracing are some of the most committed, passionate people – I’ve had the opportunity to cover college football, college basketball, some NASCAR, some bull riding – many different events. This team that we have on horseracing is not only committed and conscientious, loyal, and passionate about the sport, but we all get along great. We have a fantastic rapport and we all enjoy each other’s company, at least I think we do. We enjoy being together, which I think comes across on camera, but it makes it so much fun to go to work every week.
He’s right, there’s more to this than meets the eye. Normally, we do have a conference call on Monday to throw around ideas and discuss storylines and discuss how are we gonna’ handle different aspects of the show. There’s lots of reading, there’s lots of email, there’s lots of phone calls, but we’re sort of on duty even though we’re home, we’re on duty and we’re gathering information, then we normally will travel to the venue for Saturday race. We will travel on Thursday where we will start preparing and putting everything together. Friday morning, we go to the barns, we see as many trainers as we possibly can. We make more phone calls. We have a production meeting on Friday, we’re doing last minute research and writing. Then Friday night, I know we’re all in our hotel rooms, sort of writing down on all our notes and getting everything together. Saturday, we usually get there about 10 in the morning. We have any more last minute discussions that we need to have, then we have a rehearsal, we do the show. Usually, we fly home Sunday and then Monday, it starts all over again.
Ron: Wow, sounds like a lot of work to do, not much fun.
Jeannine: It’s a lot of fun, are you kidding? No, it’s great.
Ron: Jermane asks – In terms of personalities, either good or difficult, who are a couple of horses that have stood out in your mind during your career?
Jeannine: Wow, there’s a lot of them. One of my favorite horses when I was an assistant trainer in galloping horses in New York for Mark Casse. He was training for Calumet Farm with a horse named Colonel Rainier. He was probably one of my all time favorite. He just had so much personality – I galloped him everyday. I could call him from all the way down shedrow, he’d hear me come running to the front of the stall and it was usually because he wanted food, because he would eat anything that I ate. It didn’t matter if it was egg sandwich or ham, he would even eat meat. I mean this horse was a pig, but he was cool. And then two horses that I trained for Fred Hooper, one was a filly, the sweetest filly named Diesel Joyful who had just a ton of talent, was such a joy to be around and a good name for her. She ended up fracturing a hock, and we gave her away. Another horse I trained named Game Wager was probably one of my favorites – a horse that when he came to me, he hadn’t done really anything in his career and they had gelded him and I won several nice races with him and he was another character. He would whinny every time I showed up at the stall with attack, he couldn’t wait to go out, he was just so excited to get to go out. Every morning he would just start whinnying and get all excited in the stall because he was going to get to go out and gallop.
Ron: Wow, good stories Jeannine, thanks.
Jeannine: Horses like that, those are the ones that make it worthwhile and so much fun.
Ron: Right, they’re not even the biggest names that you’ve seen.
Ron: Amy H. First of all, compliments to you on your work on ESPN. Who are your favorite jockeys and trainers to interview, as far as giving more than clichéd, bland answers? Who are the most difficult to interview?
Jeannine: Okay, well if you don’t want cliché, bland answers, you can usually count on Bob Baffert, Rick Dutrow, maybe Larry Jones – guys like that are tremendous interviews usually.
Jockeys – I would say Kent Desormeaux – you're not going to get a bland interview from him, and Garrett Gomez and Mike Smith are both very astute, well spoken and can usually give you quite a bit of insight into the horses.
Most difficult, I really don’t know – usually the guys that have just lost a race and are mad at themselves, or mad at somebody else and again, don’t want the camera in their face.
Ron: That’s understandable. Next question from Allan Johnson – What has been the hardest job you've had in relation to horseracing – riding, training, interviewing, etc.?
Jeannine: Well, every single aspect of the sports that I’ve been involved in I’ve enjoyed tremendously. Probably the most taxing is training. It’s a difficult lifestyle, it’s seven days a week, you usually have to move around from one track to another, and if you don’t have quality stock, it can be so incredibly frustrating. And trying to keep horses sound and trying to keep owners satisfied, it’s a lot harder than it looks.
Ron: So we should have a greater appreciation for those trainers?
Jeannine: Yes, I would say definitely, and jockeys as well. Let’s face it, these guys are incredible athletes and the amount of sacrifice that they make and just the talent and the physical ability and strength needed to do what they do – 99% of the people on this planet have no conception of what goes into that whatsoever.
Ron: And again, you know from first hand experience having ridden horses and trained them.
Jeannine: Yes, well I only rode in a handful of races, but I spent about 10 years galloping and what jockeys do is incredibly under appreciated.
Ron: Next question, from Robert Mendoza. Is it possible to change the breeding habits of those breeders to breed more "durable horses" that have longer racing careers versus "fast fragile horses" that don't even run past the age of 3? And can this question even be simplified to that extent?
Jeannine: I think it’s possible but is it probable – most likely not. The market will dictate where the breeders go with their matings. It’s all about the market. It’s tough to undo 40 to 50 years of breeding practices. I personally would love to see it. I would love to see horses be more durable. I would love to see less fragile athletes. I would love to see horses run into their 5 and 6 and 7 year old years, but right now, the market is supporting horses that are brilliant and fast and precocious. And until that sort of goes to the other end of the spectrum, the breeders are going to keep producing what the market is demanding.
Ron: In other words, fashion sells.
Ron: Being able to get that durable, older horse is not necessarily always so fashionable?
Jeannine: Not right now it doesn’t seem to be.
Ron: Next question, I'd like to have your thoughts regarding the Derby prep. races and how to gauge the quality of the races and horses from a speed figure and overall quality of performance perspective. It seems to me because of the variation of surfaces and the fact there are so many paths to getting to the Derby that it's difficult to pick anyone with conviction.
Jeannine: Wow, I couldn’t agree more. Yes, well that’s what makes horseracing so fascinating, is that there are so many variables that go into handicapping a race. Let’s face it, the best handicappers are successful maybe what – 30%, maybe 40% of the time -- it’s just not easy to figure out. Synthetic tracks have definitely thrown a monkey wrench into the whole Derby prep analysis. Like Friesan Fire, for instance, did he just have a phenomenal performance in the Louisiana Derby because he was running on the slop? Is Hold Me Back only really, really effective on synthetics? I mean we just don’t know, but you know Randy Moss would probably be a better one to answer that than me. He studies the numbers, he crunches the numbers, and he really has a great handle on which horses have had the better preps numbers wise.
Jeannine: I think what you want to see though is that you want a horse progressing, you want to see those preparations becoming increasingly more impressive, and you want the horse to peak on Derby day. I think the one question that some people of these horses have some of them already peaked?
Jeannine: We won’t know of course, until after the Derby, but some of the horses that have run huge races, like Quality Road or I Want Revenge, is that as good as it gets? We don’t know yet.
Ron: Then also you got a fresh horse like Square Eddie who comes back and runs the kind of race he did in the Lexington.
Jeannine: Yeah, what a great race he ran. I think he just got a little bit tired but it was an incredible performance. He had a horrible trip, but he ran a tremendous race.
Ron: And again, this whole equation of horses coming from different kinds of races into the Derby is not necessarily only due to the synthetics, but I mean they’ve always run over different kinds of deep tracks, slow tracks, sloppy tracks, fast tracks…
Jeannine: Yes, we’ve always had that for sure.
Ron: So this is just one more element.
Jeannine: Yes, just one more element to screw up our analysis.
Ron: But you know that’s why they run the races.
Jeannine: Exactly. That’s why I don’t bet.
Ron: Next, from Ed Kane. With all the attention to the Kentucky Derby, I'm interested in your thoughts about the fillies and the Kentucky Oaks, especially Rachel Alexandra, Just Whistle Dixie and of course, I guess we all know that it would have been great to see Stardom Bound there. Which filly is your pick among these for the Kentucky Oaks?
Jeannine: Absolutely Rachel Alexandra. I think she could possibly be the best 3 year old that was on the ground at Oaklawn Park. I’m not so sure that she couldn’t have won the Arkansas Derby. She stands up to the guys, the boys, in terms of numbers. Her races this year have been brilliant. She does everything so easy and I just think she is a very, very special filly, and so does her trainer, Hal Wiggins.
Yes, it’s a shame about Stardom Bound; they’re going to give her 60 days on the farm. Hopefully, we’ll see her in the fall and maybe she will be in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which is, I guess, no longer the Distaff – the Ladies’ Classic.
Ron: Right. This next question kind of relates to your experiences as a horsewoman, from Ernie Munick – Do you think a horse as large as Quality Road, is more likely to re-injure a quarter-crack than would an average-size or smaller horse?
Jeannine: I think only if the feet are small in relation to the body size. So yes, if you have a big, heavy, stout horse whose feet are not just big and huge, like dinner plates, then yes, that can lead to problems. Horses tend to get quarter-cracks when they’re very hard hitting on the ground. Some horses really pound the ground, and if the walls of their feet are a little bit thin and they pound the ground, then they tend to be more susceptible to quarter-cracks. So it all depends on the size of the feet in relation to the size of the body.
Ron: This next question gets back to trying to pick the best, which we already know that’s very hard for you or anyone else to do. It’s from Stewart – If you could hide incognito at any racetrack on your day off as a fan, which track would you choose and why?
Jeannine: Well, it’s probably very, very close between Saratoga and Keeneland. Both cities have tremendous atmosphere and appeal for different reasons. Saratoga is quaint and historical, but it’s just so clean and it just immaculately kept, the racing is second to none. I am sort of partial to Saratoga only because I’ve spent many years there working on the backstretch, so I have a lot of fond memories of galloping there. It’s just a very unique, peaceful atmosphere in the country.
Keeneland, I love Lexington, Kentucky; that’s probably the one place I could live if I wasn’t here in Maryland. I love the whole horsey atmosphere. The people have a real appreciation for the sport and for the animals, and a lot of great places to go out in Lexington as far as bars and restaurants and that type of thing.
Probably the third one would be Del Mar. Totally different atmosphere, but it’s an electric, exciting place to be nonetheless.
Ron: Those people in Lexington are passionate about horses and basketball.
Jeannine: That’s for sure.
Ron: I have some friends who knew you when you worked those early morning hours at the track. Having never worked on the backstretch, I've been impressed with how warm and friendly many of the folks on the backstretch are. Do you miss that?
Jeannine: That’s very true statement and actually, I don’t necessarily miss it because I’m fortunate enough in what I do now that I am still able to interact with so many of them. When Randy Moss or Joe Tessitore or Rolly Hoyt our researcher, Jerry Bailey or I go out in the mornings and make the rounds to the barns, we just enjoy the hours that we spend going barn to barn, hanging out in the shedrow, talking to the trainer or the groomer or the exercise rider, the owner, whatever the case may be – they’re very warm, accessible, pleasant people on the backstretch who love what they do and fortunately, because of what I do now, I still get to experience that.
Ron: I guess your paths continue to cross no matter where you are or from somebody that you’ve met through the years and that you haven’t seen in a long time, but there they are.
Jeannine: Every time I go back to Belmont I see people that were there 20 years ago when I was there, and it’s like, hey how are you doing. For the most part, they haven’t changed a bit. It’s like old home week.
Ron: Back to the Derby with this question, Jeannine – What do you think about lowering the number of horses in the Kentucky Derby to 12 to 15?
Jeannine: Yeah, I think I would be in favor of that, I really would. I think most races in this country, dirt races are limited to 14 starters. I just think the race would be a lot safer and it would be a lot truer horserace. Right now, it’s just a stampede. It’s just an out and out stampede, and in some cases it’s dangerous. So, I can understand why they want to allow more horses in the Derby; it’s a bigger event and you hate to exclude people, and it is America’s greatest horserace, but I just think we’d get a truer outcome and it would be a safer race for everyone if we were consistent in that most main track races in this country are limited to 14 starters.
Ron: I guess so many times we've seen where the horse that wins the Derby is the horse that was able to get through all that, negotiate that and being the first one at the wire not necessarily the best one in the race.
Ron: Okay, we’re coming down to the finish line here, this is our last question, from Markita Goshen – What is the biggest difference between becoming a great jockey and a great trainer, and what then seems to most inspire the horse you're training to run with all heart and guts?
Jeannine: Great question. I think the most important thing you can do – what makes you a good trainer, is being able to listen to the animal, get the horse as fit as you can, teach them their lessons as best you can – some horses catch on quicker than others, some have physical issues that may hold them back a little bit, but it’s really up to the horse to have the talent and the desire to want to win. If they have the talent and if they have the desire, most likely they will be successful if the trainer just does their job, keep them healthy, keep them happy, get them fit, teach them the lessons properly as far as on track etiquette, breaking from the starting gate – that type of thing, switching leads and all that. Then the rest is pretty much up to the horse and if you get a good horse, then the trainer and the jockey are just lucky to be along for the ride.
Ron: Maybe even sometimes it’s the role of the jockey and trainers to not screw things up with the good horse.
Jeannine: Yeah, just stay out of the way. Let the horse do his thing.
Ron: Yeah, don’t over think it, don’t over train it.
Ron: Jeannine, that brings us to the conclusion of our chat. Do you have anything else that you want to say?
Jeannine: Well, I would just like to thank all the fans who submitted questions. Thank you for your support and your kind words and excellent questions and hopefully, I have answered them to your satisfaction.
Ron: Jeannine, thanks a lot for your time. We will see you in the Winner Circle.
Jeannine: Thank you, Ron.
This has been Ron Mitchell with the Bloodhorse.com, Talkin’ Horses podcast with Jeannine Edwards.