Chantal should be our Danica

by | 03.18.2011 | 7:13am

Last week was a big one for jockey Chantal Sutherland. She won her first top-tier race in a controversial ride on Game On Dude in the Santa Anita Handicap. Hours upon hours of debate were spent discussing whether her skill was the reason for the win or whether she caused a near tragic accident with an ill-timed left-handed use of the whip. Days later, she launched , a combination of news about the jockey's career and her aim to become a well-known actress and model buttressed by her appearances on Jockeys and the upcoming HBO original series Luck.
It is clear from her website that she recognizes her assets do not just include a strong winning percentage at Woodbine. If the image under her “fitness” section is any indication, Chantal understands she has something that Garrett Gomez, John Velazquez and other top jockeys will never have: the ability to draw men to the sport for reasons beyond gambling.
And our sport would be foolish not to promote her for this.  

Let's look at another female sports star who's made a few nickels on her sex appeal. Despite winning her sport's Rookie of the Year in 2005, she has only won once in her career and yet is the most famous athlete in her division. She's been featured in Super Bowl ads and both men's and women's mainstream magazines. Her relationship with has helped make a household name out of the web hosting company. In fact, she is so famous, you know her by her first name only.
If marketed correctly, Chantal Sutherland could be to horse racing what Danica Patrick is to IndyCar Racing. And on top of being easy on the eyes, there's no doubt that Chantal is better at her discipline than Danica.
“So shouldn't she try to find fame through her talents as a rider and not whether she looks good in form-fitting clothes?” you might ask yourself. Wouldn't it also be nice if we could ask the Middle East to just tone it down a bit? But that's not the way the world works. Sex sells and whether you are a willing participant or not isn't the important question to ask. In fact, there's only one relevant question in this conversation: Do we want to become part of the mainstream culture?
If talent was all that it took to transcend sports, then jockeys of greater skill and opportunity would be household names. But Chantal, just like Danica, is an above average performer in her sport with a little something extra to bring in new viewers. Do you know who's number one in IndyCar Racing right now? Anyone who guessed Dario Franchitti, please send me your hat so I can eat it. I have a feeling I won't be receiving much in the mail from our readers. Dario is probably every bit as talented as Joel Rosario and Ramon Dominguez and he's also probably on SportsCenter every bit as much as they are too.
It's not chauvinistic to recognize the way things work in our country, much less the rest of the civilized world. If I thought putting Ray in a pair of Prada pumps and a mini-skirt would help draw more readers, you'd see a properly quaffed Mr. Paulick tomorrow. And there's no doubt Ms. Sutherland would be a capable spokeswoman and ambassador for horse racing.
Relevancy is what racing needs more than anything else to give it a strong foundation for the future. We need our own one-name star. We could do far worse than Chantal.

  • bigdog

    great idea – better oppotunity for the sport!
    let’s not stop at Chantal, there are several other female jocks that would make great spokes(wo)men !

  • Bob hope

    Racing overlooks a ton of talent because of its insular top-down approach to its talent pool. The game is not taken seriously by a lot of its overnight rise to famers preoccupied by the steep learning curve confronting them.
    Chantal Sutherland has been a star for several years and has learned her craft well on top of her academic skills and degrees! She is one of a kind and is actually way beyond Danica Patrick by comparison! We hope that she hasn’t chosen horse racing as a vocation in error. She is a national treasure and perhaps to look to Europe or Asia to receive and pursue the fullest of opportunities!

  • Glimmerglass

    Why would there be any need to hitch the sport to a single rider just because she is attractive? Honestly its about the dumbest marketing effort that could be envisioned.

    If a firm wants to hire her to promote their product that is great. However racing itself shouldn’t be in that business. If anyone wants to further insult race fans by pushing the looks of Maylan Studart or Jacqueline Davis, regardless of their track records, then you really will run racing into the ground.

    Racing has seen plenty of attractive female riders garner wide coverage. From Fred Astaire’s last wife Robyn Smith (Sports Illustrated cover in 1972) to Mary Bacon, the so-called Bunny Jockey who did ads, was in People magazine, and was an ‘original Charlie Girl’ for a big cosmetics campaign. What was the benefit to racing? Nothing sustained and it was simply a novelty.

    I for one would rather see more props given to Anna “Rosie” Napravnik who works hard as they get, has gobs of talent, and doesn’t need to trade off looks for wins. She is at the top of the racing meet because she can ride like the devil not because she smiles for the camera. She embodies hard work paying off and that’s racing.

    In case its lost the reason the US media has rallied a few times around Calvin Borel is because of his honesty, humble nature and natural talent paying off in the winner’s circle. Not gloss, not looks, not some artificial marketing effort but rather he’s the real deal. Learn from that before trying to yield that same coverage simply with a pretty face.

  • Jack

    Rosie would starve to death in California. When Robby got hurt it opened every door. Those jocks are pretty average down there. Chantal has the looks and is a great rider. She won the Big Cap. First time ever by female. Julie Krone couldn’t win it.


    While I certainly agree with the overall point here, it isn’t good enough to say “racing should do this, racing should do that” anymore, particularly as it relates to marketing and advertising. It’s a meaningless cliche. You gotta be more specific.

    There is no national marketing for racing anymore. There’s no NTRA co-op advertising program, no national NTRA advertising budget. So where would the media come from? Certainly not the tracks themselves, outside of perhaps a modest local buy where she rides locally (which would be wise).

    Like a previous posted mentioned, you have to piggyback off of the clout of corporate America. The NTRA has a capable communications/PR staff, so the logical place to start with this stuff is a business-to-business PR blitz to make sure the corporate world knows this lady exists. There are tons of companies that would be interested in an attractive sporting woman like Chantal to promote their products or services. Chances are they don’t even know she’s out there. Couple that with heavy PR levied at the media (i.e. talk shows, variety shows, etc.), and that’s about the most of what this industry could be expected to do right now.

  • Bocephus

    Teach her to whip right handed and we’ll talk… :)

  • Burton DeWitt

    Brad, I’m going to have to disagree here. The parallel you draw just isn’t completely accurate. Danica was famous in sports circles even before her IRL career began, while Chantal’s fame is solely based on the show Jockeys, which had a predominantly female viewership. There are plenty of beautiful women out there for the 18-49-year-old male to ogle over and throwing in Chantal Sutherland likely won’t make a dent.

    Now, let’s look at whether Danica really markets racing, or in specific, IRL. After an initial boom, the TV ratings largely stagnated and dropped back into the irrelevance from whence it once rot. A normal race on Versus last year averaged in the 0.4-range, 33 percent higher than the 0.3 the Louisiana Derby got on USA. As even you mention, we can all name Danica, but who of us knows that Dario Franchitti is the best driver in the circuit. Heck, for that matter, I’m just taking your word on that; you could’ve made up a name and most of us would believe it. And I’m sure there are plenty of people who know who Danica Patrick is who have never even heard of the IRL or IndyCar racing.

    Danica is a poster girl for herself, not her sport. Her exploits for GoDaddy in the long run bring no attention to her sport except when she wins, and even then, it’s because of the novelty of her winning. Sutherland has won 150 races each of the past two seasons. She’s already broken her Grade I maiden. No matter how sexy she is; no matter how she gets marketed, her wins won’t be noteworthy. They’re not a novelty. Moreover, even within her sport, she’s not a novelty. Maylan Studart is every bit as attractive and Homeister and Napravnik every bit as successful.

    If Chantal were marketed like Danica, it would be great. But not for racing as a whole. If Chantal wants to market herself like this, it would be great, steady income that horse racing doesn’t provide (the steady part I mean). She would benefit from it immensely. But will it draw young men into the sport? Did Danica draw anyone into IRL for more than a fleeting moment?

    Danica brought name-recognition to IRL, both in terms of the name of the circuit and her name. All Sutherland will do is give people the name of someone in horse racing. People already know what horse racing is. And even if they do tune in to the Derby or the Preakness hoping to see Chantal and she isn’t there, it’s only going to disappoint them if she’s not racing.

  • Tinky

    ” She won the Big Cap. First time ever by female. Julie Krone couldn’t win it.”

    This site never lacks for humor. It’s questionable whether or not Chantal will ever become an above average rider, let alone warrant being referenced in the same galaxy as the greatest female rider (and one of the best riders of either gender) ever to sit on a horse.

  • Mister Horsey

    Danica has won an IndyCar race, finished 3rd In the Indy 500 and was Rookie of the Year in that series. What I’m trying to say is give me Maylan Studart for horse racing eye candy any day!!

  • Nancyb

    Racing needs heroes and/or people and horses of great interest. Clean up the game then return to the real racing of the past. 5-10 race critters just don’t do it. Racing is becoming a bit of a joke. Somebody please get with it. Best of luck to Chantel

  • Burling

    Do what Starsbucks did to get back to the top of success!
    1. Get back to what made you great in the first place.
    2. Ideas matter, but people matter more. (Horses)
    3. Even as you get back to basics,keep innovating!


    Hey #4–Jack. GET REAL..Julie won a breeders cup race. She is either first or second in the female standing. She has probably won more stakes races than Chantel has won regular races. I am not knocking Chantel, but she couldn’t carry Julie’s jock strap to the jocks room. (should ladies wear such an item) Plus, Julies could stick with either hand. Chantel is good, Julie is Creme dela creme.

  • aquakaliente

    There are quite a few attaractive jocks that could fill that roll. Anna Napravnik for starters. Anna is a lot hotter on the tradck right now than Chantal and she is pretty good looking. The hottest jockey is the brazilian babe Maylan Studart I saw here on the street in Saratoga last summer and she is one smokin hot chica! Too bad the stewards hate her and keep her down.

  • Michael Cusortelli

    Comparing Chantal to Danica is unfair to Chantal — she’s actually won some races.

  • No

    Nice idea but serious she isn’t even close to be the best female jockey in this country. Key word in THIS country not Canada.

    Take off eh!

  • Charlie Weis

    Rosie will leave the Fair Grounds leading rider & go on to Keeneland where she will ride many winners, maybe even the ” Blue Grass “. She & Chantal are Winners….GO GIRLS GO…

  • Don Reed

    “If I thought putting Ray in a pair of Prada pumps and a mini-skirt…”

    You mean that WASN’T Ray, on Oscars night, standing on the stage next to Anne Hathaway?!

    Oh is my face red.

  • Don Reed

    Seriously, if you want to fix something, stop these idiots from letting races across the country all go off at the same time!

  • Glimmerglass

    2011 national standings to date; ranked by earnings:
    #6 Napravnik (310 72-43-56) $1,956,145
    #51 Sutherland (78 5-9-9) $749,328 (

  • Jon Rand

    You can’t manufacture a hero in a sport with little public appeal. NASCAR was at peak popularity when Danica came along. Cummings’ argument would be like saying Ramon Dominguez should be racing’s Peyton Manning. First the public has to care about a sport before it cares about the heroes. Another desperate idea for a desperate game, I’m afraid.

  • Joe

    #20 exactly!

  • voice of reason

    Zenyatta will save racing!
    The new Secretariat movie will save racing!
    Chantal will save racing!

    So easy to tout the quick fix, that fixes nothing 100% of the time. What it DOES is take our eyes off the bigger, more difficult issues. Andthe trouble is, it’s never a “one solution” fix.

    Fixing takeout and helping the bettor, THAT will save the sport.
    Caring for the horses, protecting the breed, THAT too will save the sport.
    Getting rid of cheats, and stopping all the drug silliness will ALSO save the sport.
    A national oversight organization that levels the playing field and safeguards the integrity of the sport, THAT would do wonders.

    Chantal is a lovely representative of the sport. Nuff said. Now let the serious thinkers speak. Oh wait, they did in the NY Times today. Basically, we suck as an industry.

    Hey folks… change is painful. Real, sustainable change for the better HURTS. It’s NEVER the easy way out… but it’s taken by those with vision, courage, and the integrity to do what’s RIGHT. Right for today, tomorrow and ten years of tomorrows.

  • The Punisher

    Get real! Regardless of which racing series Danica has participated in, she has only won ONE race in the last 12 years. Nobody would even be talking about her if she had just average looks. She’s over-rated and certainly isnt in the same league as some of our sports better female riders.

  • siberiandogs

    annie naprovnik is a true talent in horseracing. Chantal cant carry her tack, and top of it all she has no stick, which in laymans terms means she hits like a little girl, anna can raceride and has a good head on her shoulders. NO COMPARISON, NONE WHATSOEVER.

  • Brad Cummings

    I’m confused. Who said anything about Chantal saving racing? Just because neither she (nor anything else for that matter) isn’t a panacea for all of racing’s troubles doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be better for having her marketed to the mainstream. Of course, there’s more to it than finding a jockey who’s easy on the eyes.

  • nvsally

    Chantal is gorgeous – she can be our Danica any day of the week!

  • Marianne

    Please don’t compare Chantal to Danica. Chantal is a really good rider! Danica is an average driver with a ton of good PR

  • tuff

    chantel is not that great ask mike smith o r patrick husband she might be a du d

  • Derbyweekdave

    The only reason I know who Dario Franchetti is that his wife is sexy Ashley Judd. Chantal is nice but she’s no Danica on the sexy-meter! Danica caught lightning in a bottle, Chantal caused the ‘Cap to become a roller derby.

  • Derbyweekdave

    I only know of Dario Franchetti because his wife is the actress Ashley Judd. Chantal is no Danica on the smokin’ hot-meter anyway. Danica caught lightning in a bottle. Chantal caused the ‘Cap to become an equine roller derby!

  • Paulio

    You seem to overlook one thing: horse racing is not NASCAR.

  • bob bright

    Of couse not! The sport already has media darlings like Jess Jackson, Mike Ivarone, Rick Dutrow and Doug O’Neil. Chantal will just get in the way.

    In order to SAVE the village we had to burn it to the ground.

  • Glimmerglass just the fact that you rember Robin and Mary answers your question.

  • Go Dawgs

    As a female, I already have to listen to enough piggish, sexist comments from the low life guys standing near me at the track, as they discuss how “hot” certain fans or riders are, & how much they’d like to “do” them. We do NOT need more scum like this at the track. We need families, young people, & above all, decent people who aren’t selling their bodies literally or figuratively for the sport. Go back to Canada, Chantal. You’re not wanted here.

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