Law school. Rodeo. Horse racing.
These are Cheyanna Patrick's passions. The 21-year-old spends most of her year at the University of Kentucky's School of Law, but in the summers she is a well-respected professional Thoroughbred jockey at Indiana Grand.
Born into a family of equine enthusiasts, Patrick grew up with a “need for speed.” She has been competing in barrel racing competitions for as long as she can remember, alongside her mother, former jockey Cindy Patrick. Her father, Gary Patrick, is a Thoroughbred trainer with more than 2,000 wins over his career. The couple got their start in Michigan, but are now based in Indiana with approximately 60 horses in training – which they own themselves. Patrick helps her parents by galloping when she's home, but for the rest of the year they do most of the heavy lifting.
“It's a one-of-a-kind operation,” Patrick said, laughing. “My dad is 71 years old, and he keeps saying every year he's going to retire. Then I come home, and there are 10 more horses on the farm! He'll say: 'Well, I went to the sale, and I just couldn't keep my hand down.' And they're still loving it every day.”
At 16 years of age, too young for a jockey's license in Indiana, Patrick took off for Fairmount Park in Illinois. She rode her first winner in June of 2013, a horse trained by a family friend. She'd already completed her high school degree online by that point, so she took off for Louisiana and enrolled in college. That proved short-lived, and Patrick soon transferred to the University of South Florida, where she could work her way through college riding races at nearby Tampa Bay Downs. Her parents often wintered there, so she was able to ride a good number of horses.
“I had an agent at one point,” said Patrick. “Ultimately it's just nice to know exactly what kind of horse I'm getting on, like my dad's.”
In 2014, Patrick won 15 of 104 starts. The next year, she went 26 for 168. By 2017, the young jockey had posted her highest annual earnings of over $400,000. Oh, and she graduated USF with a Bachelor's degree in criminology.
To add to her resume, and keep her skills fresh, Patrick shows up at Keeneland during the April and October meets to gallop in the mornings.
How does she make time for it all?
“I'm used to working hard,” she said. “I love riding races, but I don't think I could make a career out of working on the track. It's such a rollercoaster ride, I just don't think I could handle all the ups and the downs.”
Instead, Patrick plans to use her law degree to pursue equine-related cases, hoping to make a difference in the horse industry in her own unique way. With two years left at UK, she's already making plans.
“It's not really equine law,” she explained. “There's the laws, and then there are cases about horses. So it's really all about the clientele and the types of cases.”
This summer, Patrick spent about a month completing an internship in Lexington before making her trek up to the jockey's quarters at Indiana Grand. She may have just one win from 10 starts so far this year, but the hard-working law student knows what she wants, and how to speed her way through life in pursuit of those goals.
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