Fair Grounds: ‘Bug’ Jockey Vanessa Fry Scores First Career Victory
She's already something of a rarity as an African-American female apprentice jockey born and raised in the non-racing state of Georgia.
However, on Saturday in the last race of the evening at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, 25-year-old Atlanta native Vanessa Fry distinguished herself further by riding the first winner of her fledgling career aboard a horse that paid a whopping $100 for a $2 win wager.
“When I walked into the paddock I had no idea about what was about to happen,” said Fry on Sunday morning after training hours when speaking of her eye-opening debut astride Half Moon Stables' H M Rising for trainer Theodore Arndt. “I had never met the man (trainer) before he put me on the horse. I guess he just decided to give me a chance.”
Naturally, Arndt and those who wagered on the young lady were handsomely rewarded, and even those in the crowd that did not were quick to get into the spirit of the occasion.”
“Hey, Vanessa, you'd better get yourself a rain coat real quick,” someone yelled enthusiastically in reference to her traditional seconds-away upcoming baptism with water and various other substances from her fellow riders in the Fair Grounds jockey colony.
When did she begin to think she had the race won?
“I knew it as soon as I got head-and-head with that last horse in front of me,” said Fry. “I'm so competitive I knew it right then. ‘I'm not going to give this away,' I told myself. ‘That's just not going to happen.'”
How does a Georgia girl get exposed to horse racing?
“I went to school at Texas A & M,” said Fry, whose engagements are now being handled by Derek Ducoing, who also handles the book of three-time local jockey champion Rosie Napravnik. “While I was there I did an apprenticeship in Kentucky. One day, as part of the program, they took us to Keeneland. It was the first race track I ever saw. As soon as I saw what was going on, I told myself, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.'”
How did she celebrate Saturday night?
“I just enjoyed a salad and went home to bed,” said the young miss who has the song ‘Don't Worry, Be Happy' on her answering machine. “But when I woke up this morning I went and watched the replay just to make sure it was all true. I just thank God that it did happen.”