By Brian Bohl/NYRA
USA: A whirlwind year for jockey Ferrin Peterson will present another significant opportunity this week as the rising star moves her tack to New York for the first time when she competes at Aqueduct’s fall meet.
With Hall of Famer Julie Krone as her agent, the California native will join one of the world’s most competitive jockey colonies for the 18-day meet at the ‘Big A’ that commences on Friday [Nov 8].
Peterson started this year as an apprentice with just 15 career wins to her credit and no mounts whatsoever until July because of COVID-19-related postponements.
However, she made up for lost time, registering 42 wins during the summer at Monmouth Park, registering the meet’s second-highest mark behind longtime New Jersey-circuit veteran Paco Lopez’s 51 victories.
Peterson’s success resulted in her losing her bug and apprentice status but gained her notice from the racing community, especially after she notched her first stakes win aboard Share The Ride in the Mr. Prospector on September 12.
Now the 28-year-old heads to New York armed with both recent success and, thanks to Krone, the full support of someone who knows exactly what it’s like to try and establish herself in a jockeys’ room full of Eclipse Award champions and G1 winners,
“I think I’ve improved navigating races,” says Peterson. “Before, I was on a lot of longshots, so you can’t really use them to go through holes or position them where you want because you just don’t have enough horse underneath you.
“Now that I get to ride live horses, I can manoeuvre a race much better, and Julie’s been a great teacher for that. It’s been cool to be able to think through a race more and use those tactics.”
Unconventional route to the jockeys’ room
Peterson’s road to the Big Apple won’t be as far – literally and figuratively – as her move from her native California to the Jersey Shore to compete at Monmouth.
Last year, she completed her veterinary studies at UC Davis. That well-earned title of doctor was the culmination of a varied athletic and educational path that started in Roseville, California, where Peterson did English-style riding and dressage..
She attended high school in Oakmont, where she set a school record as a pole vaulter, and attended college at the University of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, while earning a degree in animal science before heading to medical school, where she received UC Davis’ Zoetis Equine Scholarship.
Presented with the opportunity to start her post-doctorate medical career, Peterson was drawn back to race-riding, which started in 2018 with 10 wins in 144 starts riding across California, racking up victories at Golden Gate, Fresno and Pleasanton,
It was an unusual route into the jockeys’ room, as she admits. “I like to do things unconventionally in general and be different and whatever you’re passionate about, you should pursue that,” Peterson explains.
“I don’t regret becoming a veterinarian because I’m also passionate about that and sometimes people think you should focus on one thing in life, but I think I benefit from having multiple things going on in my life, and they complement each other.
“In vet school, I had a lot of people who were giving me a hard time about trying to do both,” she goes on. “But now that I’ve been able to achieve it, it means a lot more that my story can be spread and I can encourage other people, because it’s always easy to find people who will doubt you.”
After five wins in 96 starts last year, Peterson came to the east coast this year and competed for a riding crown on a major circuit. “In my career so far, I’ve just seen an open door and keep pursuing it,” she says.
“I thought I wouldn’t be a jockey after vet school and do veterinary medicine full-time, but I kept seeing opportunities and having people believe in me, so I tried going full-time as a jockey and then I met Julie Krone and had a successful meet, so that’s been the story of my jockey career. Just having that support system is what keeps me going, and now I’m all-in.”
Peterson says her educational background has also proved beneficial on the track itself. “Just having that veterinary knowledge and being able to have those conversations with trainers and owners, I think they do appreciate that,” says the rider.
‘They are just such complex animals’
“The more you work on horses, on the ground or on their back, the more in tune you are with them. They are just such complex animals. It’s great to be able to understand what they are going through and talk about rehabilitation procedures and be able to offer different ideas and approaches to trainers with integrated medicines. It’s been cool to see that develop.”
Krone can impart lessons on following an unconventional path to success after a trailblazing career that saw her achieve many milestones for female jockeys.
She was the first woman to win an American Classic when she piloted Colonial Affair to a win the 1993 Belmont Stakes and 10 years later was the first woman to win at the Breeders’ Cup aboard Halfbridled in the Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.
“We’re so excited to be in this jockey colony and to be in New York, it’s perfect for us and we’re really looking forward to the fall meet,” Krone says. “I’ve been on the backside of Belmont every morning and the future is exciting and hopefully we can continue that success at Aqueduct that we had at Monmouth.”
‘I see a lot of qualities I had as a jockey’
Like Peterson, Krone started her career with successful stints on other circuits before coming to New York. “I see a lot of qualities I had as a jockey,” says Krone.
“She’s so mentally tough. One time she fell at the quarter-pole, but she was OK and the horse was OK, and she came back and won the next two races.
“People really like her and she never makes the same mistake twice. She’s sharp and heads up. Everyone enjoys her company, but she’s tough as nails and so consistent. She loves riding racehorses and loves being at the track.”
Peterson says she’s hoping to follow a path Krone blazed. “Having her believe that I can make this step now, it’s so important,” she says.
“I asked her if she thought we were ready, and she said this is how you make that step; you go there in the winter and get recognised there and if it goes well, you can transition into riding there in the spring and summer.
“I think whenever you have to face elements and less ideal situations, it just makes you mentally tougher,” she adds.
“I like pushing myself outside my comfort zone. If you asked me months before if I could ride in a facemask in July on the east coast where it’s humid, I didn’t think I’d be capable of that riding 12 races on a card.
“As long as you stay present in your mindset and focus on what you can control; it’s all about mental training. Just buckle down and do the best you can.”
• Visit the NYRA Aqueduct website