CC Perkinson (Photo courtesy of CC Perkinson)
Horsewoman CC Perkinson Is a Tough Act To Follow
By Ben Baugh
When CC Perkinson was asked in middle school what she wanted to be, without hesitation she boldly stated, ‘A jockey.’
It’s that type of temerity that has defined her life, one with an enthusiasm for all of the experiences that have helped to shape her as she has successfully navigated through the channels of the Thoroughbred racing industry, and through a number of spaces that only the truly courageous and confident would have with an intrepid spirit.
Born in the Lone Star State, Perkinson’s parents introduced the rider to horses, and she was up on one’s back as soon as she understood what they were. Her family would relocate from Harris County, Houston, Texas to Washington state, where her parents raised cattle, but it was always her wish to have a horse.
Perkinson’s patience would be rewarded, and it would be during the celebration of a holiday when she would receive a gift that would make her resolute in her passion, something that defines her very existence to this day.
“I remember at Christmas, I was probably seven, I had opened all the Christmas presents, I was kind of like ‘great,’ I go upstairs, my mom and dad were like, ‘Hey, you forgot one,’” said Perkinson. “I was like, ‘alright.’ And somehow it was outside. I opened up the door and there’s this pony, no saddle, no nothing tied to a tree. I’m just doing backflips.”
It didn’t take long for Perkinson to get acquainted with the pony, as she would begin her bonding with her equine partner almost immediately, exploring her neighborhood and getting comfortable in and out of the saddle with her new companion.
“Our neighbor, who we called Tex, and this is in Washington state, he rides over on his horse, and he’s like, ‘let’s go for a ride,” said Perkinson. “So, I jump on my pony bareback, and we head off down the street, typical pony, you go a mile down the road, and as soon as you turn around, balls-to-the-walls, runs off with you. I remember crying initially, and the next thing you know, I’m laughing my head off. I was like, ‘Let’s go again.’ I let my pony run off with me three times. I knew the euphoria of the speed at that time.”
Over time, Perkinson would become more involved with horses, expanding her knowledge, concentrating on improving her horsemanship, and learning about the business side, but there was one prevailing thought, a burning desire to pursue a dream that she would turn into a reality.
“I was in 4H growing up,” said Perkinson. “So, I showed horses. We went to the state fair every year with the horses, and as I got older, I started training clients. I taught people how to ride, gave them riding lessons. I always knew I wanted to be a jockey. I just knew in my head, and I knew by the time I was in the seventh grade I wanted to be a jockey. It started when I read the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. I still have an image on my phone of the Black Stallion book. There were like 26 books in the series. I read every one of them, and most likely read them more than once.”
However, it seemed as if the aspiring jockey demonstrated a predilection and talent for more than just being a horsewoman at an early age. The precocious student’s abilities suggested far bigger things were on the horizon, objectives she would realize years later. It would be someone who had a profound influence on Perkinson while she was growing up, who would pose a question that she had no reservations in responding to, and with a resolute answer and confidence that belied her age.
“I was sitting in school, and back then, you had a homeroom teacher, Mr. Gross was his name, and we just happened to be talking one day, and he said, ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’” said Perkinson. “I said, ‘I want to be a jockey.’ And he was like, ‘You want to be a what?’ We were talking about it to a point, where he moved his desk next to mine. We would talk about it every day, for the last five minutes of the class, we’d talk about it. And I remember, my parents never supported the idea at all. ‘No that’s crazy, you’re not going to do it.’ So, I only talked to him about it.”
A harbinger of a future in the entertainment industry was also redolent by a school performance, one that would capture the attention of those who were in attendance.
“One day in the school, there was a band that came in (to the school), so we were in the auditorium, and the band wanted to do like a skit in the middle of their performance,” said Perkinson. “Out of all the students in the auditorium, I was chosen to be part of the skit. This is in the seventh grade. So, I go up and do the skit, the skit’s over and the band leaves, and we’re walking out of the auditorium and Mr. Gross is at one of the doors and Mr. Gross says to me, ‘What’s it going to be C.C., an actress or a jockey?’ And I just slyly look at him and said, ‘What do you think?’ (laughing).”
Those early experiences and aspirations would lay the foundation for a life full of realized objectives. Perkinson embraced the series of challenges that came her way, never feeling the least bit deterred by the obstacles that presented themselves. Not everyone was convinced that she was the right fit for their horse, but a number of people believed in her and gave her the opportunities to fulfill her destiny.
“When I finally get to be a jockey, I’m 27; I’m in California, I fly up to northern California to ride at Bay Meadows and I win the race,” said Perkinson. “The owners didn’t want me on, but the trainer (Jude Feld) took a leap of faith on me and put me on anyway.”
The less-than-ideal weather conditions yielded a powerful and impressive result, one that would showcase potential realized, promise fulfilled, and leave a lasting legacy, serving as an inspiration to students, with a defined message that if you believe in yourself, no one will be able to stop you.
“It was a muddy day, there was an inquiry, but we still won the race,” said Perkinson. “I sent a win photo, the video, and a letter back to Mr. Gross, and I wrote to him throughout all that time, he’s the one that always believed in me, knew I could always do it, and I held that important to me. I didn’t do it for my family. I told him I was going to be a jockey and I pushed myself so much because of that, because I didn’t want to let him down, and that was in the letter.”
Mr. Gross wrote Perkinson back, informing her that she served as the inspiration for his class to host a career day, serving as a way students would be able to motivate themselves giving them the confidence to dream big.
The opportunity to be part of what is regarded as the toughest jockey colony in the world, helped Perkinson progress during her career, and the chance to ride the best horses and to be around the best horsemen played a large role in her evolution. She accepted the challenges of being in a demanding environment, but she hardly shies away from what others may find taxing. Sexism was part of the sport, and gender inequality is still largely prevalent in Thoroughbred racing, although strides have been made in what has been seen as a male-dominated industry.
“Honestly, for me it wasn’t intimidating, it was just very challenging in the fact that even back then, it wasn’t accepted that women should be riders,” said Perkinson. “So, you always just fought the battle. Going back to 2010, 2008, It’s a lot more open and welcoming to women riders, but 1998 not so much. And I remember race riding there, and I had an agent, but I worked harder than him because he just wanted to get an agent’s license and he kind of used me to do it. He went on to be an agent for a long time.”
However, the members of the jockey colony were kind to Perkinson and were encouraging and supportive as she was making her way through a sport renowned for its pitfalls and adversity.
“My valet was the same as Laffit Pincay Jr.,” said Perkinson. “Laffit gave me his saddle, he gave me his boots, and these were like his handoffs, and they were damn well brand new. I rode with Laffit’s saddle for years.”
But before she began plying her trade on the tough Southern California circuit, Perkinson’s initiation into Thoroughbred racing in Washington was anything but easy, beginning her career in a modest environment that provided her with plenty of opportunity.
“When I very first started riding, I was at a bush track in Washington state, and I was probably 25,” said Perkinson. “And as much as my parents didn’t want me to be a jockey at all, one day my mom walked up to me, she had literally cut out an ad from the newspaper, it said that a place needed a gallop person, it paid $300 a month and was located at the Elma Fairgrounds.”
Perkinson approached the opportunity with enthusiasm but did her due diligence prior to accepting the position, confident in her own abilities and comfortable with the idea of transitioning into what was about to become her vocation.
“I drove out to the fairgrounds, it’s a bush track, so they could train all day long,” said Perkinson. “It’s pouring down rain, of course, it’s Washington. I sat trackside for about two days, I had team roped, I barreled raced, I had shown performance horses, trained performance horses and had won nationals twice with show horses. It wasn’t like anything with horses was difficult for me.”
However, there was one aspect that Perkinson found herself having to familiarize herself with if she was to make her dream become a reality. She was far from daunted, and it was through the help of someone close to her, and although not involved in the industry, his encouragement and homework would prove immeasurable in helping the horsewoman get hired for the position. Her circumspect approach would pay dividends.
“This is another stage of it that I needed to pay attention to,” said Perkinson. “So, I sat trackside and watched what they did, I looked at the poles. It was a five-eighths track. I went back to my then boyfriend, and I said, ‘that the poles were colored, it’s a five-eighths track, I don’t understand the distances, what the colors are supposed to be and what they are,’ and so he wrote it down on a flashcard, a three-by-five flashcard. He drew the track out and what the poles are called, how he knew, I didn’t even know, he put down the three-eighths and the five-eighths. The third day, I drove out to the track, and I said, ‘I’m here to apply for the gallop person position that you guys need.’”
The horsewoman’s will to follow her dreams, passion for the sport, and determination overcame any possible thought of trepidation that would’ve entered her mind.
“They asked me ‘Have you ever done this before?’” said Perkinson. “And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Of course, I’m going to lie. I wanted the job. He said, ‘Well let’s give you a test run and get you up on this horse.’ It was cool as hell. I remember that. He said, ‘Get up on this horse, I want you to backtrack to the three-eighths, jog up to the one-eighth, and gallop around five-eighths. You got it.’ As cool as can be. I said, ‘Holy Shit’ in my head. So, I’m backtracking, and I pull out my card, and I’m looking at the track and I’m looking at the card, three or four times, and I got it. I did that, and I galloped three more horses that day. He said, ‘If you’re really interested, we’ll see if you come back tomorrow.’ Well. I did. By the time my month was up, the other gallop people had left, because it was bush track, and it was out in Timbuktu. They had left. I was getting on 30 horses a day. You could train all day. I was like the cat’s meow for these people.”
The opportunity proved to be a Godsend for all of the people involved, allowing the trainers to have their horses fit and ready to compete and providing Perkinson with the necessary experience to pursue her dreams while giving her a steady income doing what she loved. It was her persistence and consistency that made a difference with the conditioners at the training center.
“One, I’m on my way, that’s where my headset is, two, I had this innate ability to know where the horses were sore and what was going on with them, and it worked out perfect for them,” said Perkinson. “I was nailing it perfectly for them, and what they were doing, they were getting the horses ready for Emerald Downs who was about to have their inaugural season because Longacres had closed. They were prepping the horses for that, and I was getting them ready. I’ve changed the billing system. I’m doing computer printouts. They started at $5 a gallop, now I’ve got them up to $10 a gallop. They couldn’t tell me no, because I’m the only person showing up.”
These initial experiences would play a role in Perkinson’s nascent and evolving career, and an introduction to a track in Auburn, Wash., and additional exposure to many of the components involved with the Thoroughbred industry, created a surfeit of opportunities, opening doors to a new world. However, she felt a sense of loyalty to those who helped her gain entry into the business and found herself working a frenetic schedule.
“So then, when Emerald Downs opened up, and they started shipping their horses over there, they were winning,” said Perkinson. “They were like CC don’t ever leave us.’ Well, what happened was now that I’ve seen Emerald Downs, I was like holy hell. My house was in between these two places. I would head to Emerald Downs at 3 a.m., gallop there until the first break and then drive back double time to Elma and I would stay there all damn day, galloping their horses. I almost crashed so many times. I’m not letting these people down. They knew at that point what I was doing, they were doing well at Emerald with what I was doing for them at Elma. And they were like, do what you have to do, and we’ll wait for you here, and I got on their horses, and then I would go home and sleep with what I’d hoped would be eternity (laughing).”
That initial foray into the sport found Perkinson relocating south, to the Golden Bear state, to compete against competition renowned for its depth and quality of talent.
“I have to go to California, because they have the best horses and the best jockeys and if I really want to learn what I’m doing that’s where I have to be. I loaded up a U-Haul and drove 16 hours. Initially, I stopped at Golden Gate, and I got my California gallops license. I didn’t want to go to Santa Anita without the license because I would look like a newbie, but I’ll stop here first, so I got on someone’s horse, got my California license then I went to Santa Anita. I parked at the Motel 8, which was across from Santa Anita where you could overlook the whole track. I walked in there like I’ve been doing this all my life and started working for Henry Moreno (laughing). It was great!”
Integrity, reliability, and consistency are part of Perkinson’s program, and she’s lived by those traits as she continues to make her way through the sport. Those characteristics resonate throughout her barn today.
“I wanted to keep my word to people,” said Perkinson. “I don’t like to disappoint people. These people (at Elma) at that point, I was all they had. You could see when I pulled up, they were like, ‘Thank God.’ The relief on their faces, every day that I showed up, and once I got to know the horses, I was like I’m not going to disappoint this horse. I know this horse…and we’re moving forward now. It goes along with my work ethic. It’s very strong. I definitely got that (trait) from my father. It even plays into the way that I am today. I run my own barn, I don’t have help, I get on them, gallop them, clean the stalls, I work the horses still, I still pop them from the gates. Someone stopped me today, and said, ‘God you work hard.’”
The challenges associated with the sport never seemed to bother Perkinson, and her spirit, indefatigable nature, and self-confidence always seemed to propel her past any difficulties and obstacles. There was nothing that was going to get in the way of realizing her dream.
“I was working at Santa Anita and still galloping, and I was working for Dean Greenman,” said Perkinson. “I wanted to try out for my jock’s license. I get to go to the gates with one of his horses, I pop from the gates and go through all the hoops and barrels that you have to jump through. I remember going up to the stewards and with all the things that I had done that were required, and they said, ‘Look CC, racing is really hard, you’re not exactly the lightest you could be,’ which I never was. I waived my bug the entire time, I never rode with it because I could never get down to 108 by any means, but it never got in my way. It never hindered me. I still did very well riding without the bug. I rode very much like a guy, very strong. I have no problems getting down and getting dirty. I’m very much a tomboy, so I got along with the jocks very well.”
Those friendly relationships with the other riders in the jock’s room, translated to the racetrack as well, with the character and integrity of the other horsemen suggesting a sense of respect and well-being for one another, upholding the tenets of sportsmanship during the heat of competition.
“We got along really well during the races,” said Perkinson. “And if their horse was fading, they would look back at me and tell me, ‘CC take the hole my horse is done,’ and I’d pop through there. People think that you can’t talk during the races because it’s going all so fast, but that’s not the case at all, for us, you have all the time in the world out there. So, we do a lot of talking, we do help each other out, and the guys at Santa Anita were great like that with me. I wasn’t a girl rider out there. I was just another rider.”
It’s Perkinson’s unfettered spirit, one of an intrepid warrior possessing a rare self-confidence that has quieted even the most cynical of doubters. A change in locale and encouragement from some people within the industry would validate the jockey’s belief in herself.
“The stewards were like, ‘CC it’s really hard,’ and I was like ‘how about I go ride at Los Alamitos at first, get a couple under my belt and come back,’” said Perkinson. “They were like, ‘Los Alamitos is even harder, that turn is so tight, you have to be really careful out there. I was like okay. And the one steward was kind of like my father, and he loved me to death. We just got along so well. So, my second race, mind you, this was Thoroughbreds going 4 1/2-furlongs. I won by about five or six lengths on a horse that I knew very well. I remember getting that picture and coming back to the stewards, I kind of popped in there haphazardly, I held up the picture and said, ‘Is this what you mean by being tough.’ He said, ‘Get the hell out of here.’ (laughing). It was funny.”
The opportunities didn’t present themselves as readily for women during the time frame Perkinson was riding, and good luck wasn’t as abundant at the Arcadia, Calif. oval, the track with the majestic San Gabriel Mountains in the background. However, another racecourse in southern California would yield far better results for the horsewoman. The horses she had the most success with as a jockey were Danzig Commander, Cappuccino Won, and Treasured Reality.
“I didn’t ever win at Santa Anita, that’s what you want to do, and as a woman back in the 90s, you weren’t going to get a big opportunity, so I was riding all those 30-1, 40-1, 50-1, that shouldn’t have been there anyway,” said Perkinson. “I moved everything over to Los Alamitos and became the queen of Los Alamitos.”
Even a life-transforming event couldn’t keep Perkinson out of the saddle and away from the racetrack.
“When I was pregnant with Jonah, I rode at Los Alamitos until I was almost six months pregnant, and I stopped because I had an ultrasound and I could see the shape of a human being,” said Perkinson. I stopped riding but stayed fit through the whole process. My parents didn’t know. Nobody knew. I had him, and 13 days later, I was back race-riding. That’s how healthy I was. I raced for another year a half.”
As a trainer, Perkinson offers her clients an experience they may not have with having their horses with a conditioner who has their barn with a significant number of horses under their charge.
“That’s what I try to tell incoming owners or owners who I’m trying to explain to why my barn is different,” said Perkinson. “People love to have a 60 to 70-horse barn, not me, that’s something that I’ve never wanted. The boutique barn is exactly what I want. For me, it’s all about the connection with the horse. If I have so many, and they become numbers, I’m in the wrong business.”
The daily routine at the barn is far more detailed and intimate as far as the bond that Perkinson has with her horses, knowing every individual feature of their being, their idiosyncrasies, paying great attention toward the way they feel, their emotional well-being and their physical and mental soundness.
“For me, when I go down my barn, I’m the first one who sees these horses, I check their feet, I check their legs, and then I put them on the hot walkers and then I see their attitudes and if one isn’t feeling it for the day,” said Perkinson. “But I’m also the one that’s galloping them, so I’m in no hurry to do anything. So, I’ll go out there and sit on them, sit on the rail for a long time, just let them observe what it is they do out there. They look at other horses, so they kind of have an understanding, these are my thoughts, so I’ll sit out there, railside with these guys, and just chill. I’ll chill as long as they want, and when they go, it’s beautiful. We gallop, we have a great time. I talk to them the whole time I’m galloping,”
The riding part of the process remains special for Perkinson, and she welcomes the opportunity to get back on the horse, providing her with a much better barometer of where they are in their training.
“I get to work them, to me, the jockey part of it comes back,” said Perkinson. “When I’m going through the turn, I have a great clock in my head. Someone says work 48.2, guaranteed, I’m going to work 48.2. That was always my specialty, which makes me mad at jockeys today, they don’t have a clock in their head and it’s very frustrating as a trainer to sit and watch that. When you ask them to work a certain speed, a certain tempo, and a certain gallop out, and I don’t see that, I just have to grit my teeth, and I’m thinking to myself, I’ll do it myself the next time.”
It’s that hands-on experience and intimate knowledge of each horse in her barn that allows Perkinson to have a good gauge of where her horses should be when she places them in a race.
“That’s happened more often than not,” said Perkinson. “I’ll end up doing it myself. Then I know I’m going to get the gallop out because the gallop out is important. It’s not just the work from pole to pole. The gallop out tells you a lot about your horse where he is fitness-wise, and if he’s ready for his race or not, and the breath that he takes. When does he take that breath. There’s a lot going into it, but I’m still able to sit on top of and assess when my horse is ready, and where he should run, talent-wise.”
A gray daughter of Dominus found the winner’s circle after a substantial period of time, transitioning to Perkinson’s barn this autumn prior to the beginning of the Tampa meet.
“That’s why I like Domineering,” said Perkinson. “Domineering hasn’t won in over a year and a half. She had not won since July of 2022. October 25th, she came to my barn. Look at the turnaround (Domineering won Dec. 16, 2023, at Tampa Bay Downs). I took the blinkers off and I gallop her myself. The jockey works her, but I do the rest of the work myself. She went from a lanky, no-chested, no-assed mare to just a full-bodied healthy-looking specimen, and I’m proud of that.”
Perkinson’s eye for racing talent and astute business acumen played a large role in adding the now 6-year-old mare to her barn.
“I had talked them (the Lundgrens) into buying her off of my good instincts,” said Perkinson. “I had seen her and looked at her numbers, I looked at how much she made, I just had a gut instinct feeling. Those people believe in me so much, Cindy and Kenny, and they’ve been with me for a year and a half now, and have done wonderful with their other horses that hadn’t been winning before with their other trainer. They got this horse sight unseen, all that they needed was my word that this was the horse for them.”
It’s the ability to form a strong rapport with her owners, communicating with them on a routine basis, and having that close connection that has enabled all parties involved with the process to enjoy the success that comes from the relationship.
“They went to every track,” said Perkinson. “They went to Canterbury with me, they went to Arizona with me, now they’re here (at Tampa Bay Downs) with me,” said Perkinson. “They were in California with me. I consider them family, honestly. They’re not just owners, they’re like family. “
An incredible camera presence, palpable passion, amenable nature, striking good looks, and an aura of self-confidence make Perkinson the perfect spokesman not only for the Thoroughbred industry but for any media campaign.
“Whatever track I’ve ever been at, I’ve always been pulled into the media aspect of it,” said Perkinson. “I remember when I was at Emerald Downs, and they had an umbrella day. We all know that umbrellas are a nightmare for racetracks. It rains there all the time, and Mike Smith was there, and Mike Smith and I did the umbrella commercial together. (laughing). We still chuckle about it today, and we remember it like it was yesterday.”
A job that seemed as if it would be the perfect fit for Perkinson was on the horizon, and her depth of knowledge and all-around practical experience would make for an excellent selection for a network that specialized in racing.
“TVG called me when they were right there off 405 in California,” said Perkinson. “They had me come in and do a run-through. It went well, and it wasn’t a fit at that time. They were trying to do mainstream, they weren’t really at the quarters (horse racing), they weren’t at Los Alamitos at that time. But when they started the quarters, they would bring me on, as a guest a lot, and people kept asking for me. They liked my feedback because at that point I could give it as a trainer, as an owner, outrider, because I’ve done every job at the track except for administrative.”
It was that unique perspective that Perkinson could provide allowing her to thrive in her position, offering insights that only someone with intimate knowledge from first-hand experience would be able to give on a routine basis, making the broadcasts, fun and informative. However, the inclusion of another discipline presented another series of challenges.
“I did the color analysis,” said Perkinson. “I had a lot of great feedback that I could offer, the race riding aspect of it, what the jockeys were looking for, what they’re doing out there, when they’re warming up. But also, what to look for in the horses, how they’re traveling and knowing what was going on from the trainer’s point of view, how they like to prep their horses. I always had really good information to put out there.
“It was a nationwide show, and I was really grateful to have that experience. We started handicapping harness tracks, I had to handicap at least eight different tracks for the night. I was about to lose my mind. I don’t know harness horses.”
However, the chance to be on TVG provided Perkinson with additional opportunities, and she was becoming a bright luminary on the broadcasting firmament, with future engagements in both television and movies.
After transitioning from her career as a professional athlete, Perkinson found herself in familiar environs with a unique opportunity, one that played on the popularity of cultural mores.
“I was retired from racing, and they had this contest at Del Mar, they ran the Cougar Handicap, ‘remember a few years back when being a cougar was a real hot thing?’” said Perkinson. “The guys talked me into doing this contest, it’s a nationwide contest, I submitted my pictures, I end up winning the damn thing. I’m at Del Mar, where I’ve rode, and now I stand there as Ms. Cougar and I remember waving at the announcer in the booth, I can see him chuckling and him leaning out the window.”
The promotion turned out to be successful, led to interest from other outlets, and Perkinson’s sui generis personality and camera presence were well-received, leading to job offers and other opportunities.
“They brought me back the next year to do the news with Fox News, and that went on the morning show, and they tried to hire me for their show, that went wildfire for about a year and a half.,” said Perkinson. “They said, ‘Are you a cougar?’ I said, ‘No, I just play one on TV.’”
Perkinson’s presence and popularity didn’t go unnoticed, and she continued to attract opportunities, including one with adventure of romance on the high seas.
“I ended up doing a reality show called Love for Sale because of the cruise,” said Perkinson. “It was all about Cougars and Cubs. I was on a week-long cruise with 12 different cubs. I had a VIP suite, and my own butler. We went zip-lining, rode camels. It was silly. I have no desire to date younger men.”
The aftermath of the series found Perkinson sharing her experiences, including some of her wardrobe selections with an enthusiastic broadcast audience, one that received a spontaneous and amusing response from the presenter.
“The next morning when I was doing the morning news, the dress I wore was really tiny (one of the ones she wore on the show), and there wasn’t much to it,” said Perkinson. “The guy said, ‘Where did you get a dress like that?’ I said, ‘Out of my purse.’ He lost it.”
A woman of many interests, Perkinson during her youth, not only aspired to be a jockey, but she was inspired by a broadcast legend, someone with an iconic voice and presence, who paved the way for women in television news.
“Growing up, I had two passions, one was being a jockey and the second one was to be the next Barbara Walters,” said Perkinson. “I had been working on it for about six years, and I created a show called CC Variety TV. After I had finished race riding, and had retired for a bit from racing, I opened up a network called CC Variety TV. I started doing actor exclusives. I interviewed Tom Cruise, Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, Ryan Seacrest, if you go to IMDB and look up CC TV, you’ll see all the people that I’ve spoken to and have done interviews with. I’ve done sit-downs, private interviews, on the carpet interviews, it was brilliant, and some of them I sold to Lions Gate.”
It was her intention to someday succeed her idol, and her deep portfolio and body of work suggested greater things may be on the horizon, with Perkinson’s ambitious undertaking creating enough exposure that certain parties may take notice.
”I was like at some point Barbara Walters is going to pay attention,” said Perkinson. “She’s eventually going to pass away and I’m the perfect person to take her spot. I just kept prepping all this time, but I could never get it to happen. I did a lot of great interviews.”
But she would find herself transitioning again, this time into an entirely different vocation, adding to a life whose disparate tastes and experiences have shaped the person that Perkinson’s become.
“But now my son, who’s six or seven, I told myself, ‘have to buckle down here,’ so then that’s when I stopped everything and started working at a law firm,” said Perkinson. “I had to train myself to get in there and get the job, like a typical actress. It was all smoke and mirrors when I went in there for that interview. (laughing). But I got the job, The first law firm was subrogation, so it was all about collections. The next one was estate planning, then I did financial and then I got into transaction and litigation, so that’s the last one I was at for about six years before I got back into racing. “
As a single parent, Perkinson needed the reliability and routine of a more conventional schedule, one that would allow her to raise her son, one that would have been far more challenging if she had decided to stay at the racetrack, although it was her passion.
“I needed to make sure that money was always coming in,” said Perkinson. “Racing is extremely volatile. One day you have an owner, the next day you have nothing. It’s feast or famine. It was the same thing with race riding, it was feast or famine. You’re riding and winning, the next thing you know, you’re having a bad streak, and now you’re forgotten about, and God forbid if you take a day off, out of sight, out of mind.”
A woman who’s always on the go, Perkinson found herself working three jobs when her son was in high school, returning to her passion while making ends meet and making sure her son stayed focused on his schoolwork, athletics, and future.
“I lived in Orange County (Calif.) and I raised my son,” said Perkinson. “The law firm basically paid for his upbringing by me going in every day, and as he got a little bit older, he’s always been very independent, when he was about 15, I started going to Los Alamitos in the morning and being a pony person, helping barns pony. So, I got my own pony horse, which I still have now, and I get there at 4:30 and was on the track by 5, 5:30, and I’d leave there at 8 a.m., go change and go straight to the office from there, be there until 6, and from there, I’d Uber for an hour-and-a-half, make dinner, and start that damn thing all over again. It paid off. My son played football. He was a starter every season. He did really well. He’s gone into the military. He took all the right paths. It takes a strong parent to be home for that all the time. That’s the way I am. I like consistency. It worked for him too. It worked for my horses.”
However, it was the allure of the racetrack that kept Perkinson coming back, as her heart was with the horses, her passion being palpable. It was easy for anyone to see where she needed to be, and what fueled her dreams and desires.
“This COVID was coming on, I was at the law firm, and they knew from the beginning that this wasn’t the place that I wanted to be, that I wanted to be back at the track, they knew I was too much for the firm, but I always kept myself buttoned down for the firm,” said Perkinson.
The pandemic changed the work landscape and corporate culture, and her employers recognized the life she was best suited for, providing her with an opportunity she couldn’t refuse.
“All of the attorneys because of COVID started working from home,” said Perkinson. “I had five attorneys. I had the partners, the executive committees, the upper echelon of attorneys. There were 52 in the firm. I had the transactional side. They call me in one day, HR, and they said, ‘CC, if you could leave here comfortably, and go back to the racetrack, would you, do it?’”
It was that poignant question, one that would change the direction of her life, once again making adjustments to follow her dreams. The offer made by the attorneys found her back in familiar environs, as Perkinson was on the backside with several horses under her charge, ready to return to the competitive world of Thoroughbred racing.
“I said, ‘What do you mean by comfortably?’” said Perkinson. “They wrote me a check for $25,000, they said go buy yourself some horses, we’ll keep you on insurance and you’re more than welcome to walk out anytime you want. And you damn bet, that’s exactly what I did. I went out and bought five horses. I claimed them at Los Alamitos. I had to claim one from John Sadler for $3,200, he dropped in at Los Alamitos, there was a 10-way shake for him. His name was Prince Ali, I won the shake for him. That took me on to Canterbury, and that took me back to Arizona, took me to Colorado and now it’s got me here. I retired him. He’s in Canada.”