Gary Stevens plays the veteran jockey Ronnie Jenkins on 'Luck.' He's also a Hall of Fame jockey and a horse racing analyst on television. In episode three, Jenkins takes a spill, and here Stevens explains what happened.
What causes Ronnie to fall during the race?
Another rider runs up to a spot where he doesn't really belong. He gets in trouble and panics. He tries to make room for himself so he doesn't make contact with the horse in front of him and get dropped himself. In doing so, he makes a quick and drastic move to the outside, towards my horse, knocking him off balance, which knocks me off of my horse.
Is there a term for that kind of maneuver?
What we'd call it is a dumbass maneuver. But what you'd say is, "I got dropped," or "you dropped another jockey." It may not be on purpose, and in this case, it wasn't. It was a case of a jockey protecting himself, but putting another jockey in danger. The fall could have been a lot worse than it was. I wasn't struck by a trailing horse or anything like that.
What is the communication like between the riders during a race? Is there a lot of trash talking?
There isn't really any trash talking. The communication is very much like what you see in this episode. Ronnie says to the other jockey, "What the fuck are you doing here, jock?" And the other guy is screaming that he needs help. If he'd allowed me just two more strides, I could've given him the room he needed, but he panicked. It would've cost me all chance of winning the race, but sometimes you have to sacrifice to protect other riders.
Is that something that happens a lot?
It is, but all the rules change when the prize money gets higher. This was pretty much just an everyday type of race, without much stake money at risk. But the bigger prize money, the bigger the race, the more things tighten up and the less likely you are to give another jockey an out. It's like driving down the freeway, and the guy in the left-hand lane needs to make an exit. If you're not in a hurry, you give him a shot, but if you have to get somewhere, you'd be a lot less likely to let him make his exit.
How much of the race strategy comes from the trainer as opposed to the jockey? Who's calling the shots?
The trainer is always calling the shots, but the good ones know that certain things will happen during a race. They'll give you instructions on what they would like you to do, but in the end, they say, "Look, if you have to call an audible, do it." Race riding is about 90 percent reaction to what's going on around you. You have to make split section decisions, almost like a quarterback in the NFL. If your receiver is covered, you have to go to the open guy. In race riding, if one of my options gets taken away then I have to think quickly to find another place to go and put myself in a position to win.