By Jonathan Stettin
Whichever way you choose to make a living in the Sport of Kings is going to rough, competitive, and much more than a job or running a business. It is a way of life only those who live it understand.
Being a Jockey Agent is as difficult a path you can choose to navigate through in our great game. I know this first hand as I was a Jockey Agent on the NYRA circuit for a few short years when I was quite young. It definitely was not for me. It wasn’t the hours or competitiveness, it was the people skills I lacked. That said, I will never forget arriving at the track between 5 and 5:30 am, working the backside until about 11:30 when they drew the races. Heading back home for the second of three daily showers, and then back at the track for the first race. No holidays, no days off, just work with no pay, only expenses, unless you won.
It was the blue Corvette’s fault, and the sticker on it. One day walking into the track at Saratoga at about 13 years old, I noticed a beautiful brand new blue Vette parked outside a barn. Every car on the backside was covered in mud but this one. You could shave looking at it. Not a speck of dirt or dust was on it. The only thing on it was a sticker on the front that read Jockey Agent. That was it I thought. I was going to be a Jockey Agent. It’s funny how life is and how things are not always what they appear to be. I did become a Jockey Agent, and learned it wasn’t for me. Some years later I also bought an electric blue Corvette with a removable glass roof. It turned heads, but the AC was never cold enough, the heater was never warm enough, and you scraped the bottom every time you pulled in or out of a gas station. I was thrilled to get rid of it. If you were bold enough to drive with the top off on a sunny day, you risked a third degree burn if your arm touched the leather center console.
Being a Jockey Agent is rough at every level. It is almost impossible when you are starting out as you likely will have a rider nobody is familiar with and that makes getting live mounts beyond difficult. You are lucky to get a trainer to let your rider work out a horse free only for another rider to be on them come race day. You can bring coffee and donuts, drop off overnights, do anything you can to get in the door, but getting in the door is only the first step. Working a horse is the second. Riding one in a race the third.
If you have the will and perseverance to stay at it and you make it to the upper tier, yes selling your rider gets easier, but other things get harder. It gets harder to keep an up and coming rider. Most of the time you are working on a handshake and there is always another agent, with a contact in some barn than makes the grass look greener. There is no security and again, no win, no pay.
Should you get to the top of the heap and get a top rider, it gets even harder to stay there. Sure your rider sells himself at that point. Everybody wants you. You better choose your jock’s mounts wisely though, if you don’t there will be some other agent telling them how they would have chosen this horse or that horse. For an agent, winning is everything.
Not only will you be at the track at the break of dawn, you will be at the draw to see if any horses become open and in need of a rider and you will be at the races making contacts and watching for future live mounts. You are always working. You’ll need some people skills too, as there will come a time you have to tell a trainer who helped you out and gave you a mount when you needed one, that you are taking off their horse to ride a better one. You have to pay your bills, and your rider has to pay his.
Today I read a post on social media by a Jockey Agent that captured not only the essence of the job but the life and the game itself. It was the kind of post you didn’t just read, you felt. It was written by Jockey Agent Steven Paras. Steven has been there done that. He is a professional agent who has seen it all. Right now he is working his tail off booking mounts for 5 pound bug (apprentice) Luis Rodriquez. Luis rides at Laurel during the day, and at Charles Town at night. You do that when you are starting out in the Sport of Kings. You will go almost anywhere to ride a live one. Steven knows a thing or two about young riders. Steven Paras was the first agent for Ramon Dominquez and represented him from 1996-1999 and brought him from Florida to Delaware. We all know what happened from there but it takes a keen eye to spot talent in a young rider before anyone even knows who he is and Steven believes in Luis Rodriquez; so it might not be a bad idea to pay attention to him or if you are a trainer to give him a call.
Here is the post by Steven Paras:
This morning I picked up my Apprentice Luis Rodriquez at 4am in Charles Town, West Virginia. We left town with some stale Sheets coffee and an EMPTY condition book and some hope. We drove 90 minutes to lovely Pimlico Race Course located in a no mans land, pretty much a war zone, just outside Baltimore Md. The bug worked three horses in the dark and then we descended on the barn of Maryland’s perennial leading trainer in a desperate ambush attempt at trying to extort a mount from him. Afterward we drove the 22 miles to Laurel Race Course where we worked a horse for a future Hall Of Fame trainer and then worked the barn area beating the bushes. Later in the afternoon the jock got beat two noses but is getting noticed. He’s getting some play. A little buzz. It’s never about the money in this business. What gets us all out of bed in the dark what drives most of us is the dream. A fervent desire to get a jock or a horse launched. For me it happens once a decade. This time around I’m happy to be back and enjoying every minute of the roller coaster ride. The kid is serious talent. He only needs to overcome a busted up agent. It’s a comeback story that begs for a happy ending….As an old sage once told me ” Son you can’t get any of it if you don’t show up.”
“Special thanks go out to trainer Beth Blackburn Worton and her staff.”
I don’t know about you, but if you love and understand this game, and you believe in hope, drive and working for it, you have to be rooting for Luis Rodriquez and Jockey Agent Steven Paras. Here’s to Graded Stakes with your names on them!👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻 There is just one thing Steven was wrong about, Luis doesn’t have a busted up agent, to the contrary he has a Pro.
So many people on the fan and betting side of the sport don’t realize the amount of work, knowledge and hustle it takes to be a successful agent. Like everything in our game, it can be both thankless and what have you done for me lately. On the flip side, also like everything in our game, the pros win handily over the cons which is why most of us are so passionate about it. It takes that passion to start before the sun rises and finish after it sets with no set paycheck or guarantee of anything. It takes that same passion to find a rider like Ramon Dominquez and some 22 years later be trying to do it all over again.
In a rare departure from the Sport of Kings, the High and Low Fives this week go towards the NFL.
HIGH FIVE: Tom Brady, Bill Belichek, and the New England Patriots. If you didn’t know Brady was going to hit Amendola in the back of the end zone for the game winning TD right then and there you don’t know nothing. If there was ever a BET IT ALL scenario that was it right there! High Five ✋🏻
LOW FIVE: Minnesota Vikings. You don’t blow the shot at being the first team to play in the Super Bowl in your home stadium in the conference championship game, and if you do, you don’t mail it in!!! Low Five!👎🏻