By Perry Lefko
High-profile jockey Chantal Sutherland is coming home to again ride full time at Woodbine Racetrack.
Sutherland, who grew up on a horse farm in Caledon, announced in March plans to return to ride at the Toronto track when the meet begins April 21. The 42-year-old is currently recovering from shoulder and knee injuries suffered in a racing spill at Louisiana in January.
Sutherland achieved fame and success early in her racing career. She won the Sovereign Award as the top apprentice in Canada in 2001 and 2002. An apprentice is basically a young, inexperienced rider who is given a weight allowance on the horses they ride, which makes them appealing to trainers. In 2001, she won 59 races and the horses she rode collectively won more than $1.9 million in purse money. The following year she won the apprentice award by winning 136 races and her horses won more than $5.6 million.
Sutherland lost the weight allowance after that and was classified as a journeyman jockey. She rode regularly at Woodbine through the end of the 2004 season and began riding during the winters in the U.S. She received international acclaim when People magazine named her one of the 100 Most Beautiful People in 2006. She also did some photo shoots, including one for the cover of Vogue’s Shape magazine in which she appeared to be naked.
She also became involved in reality TV shows, including one called Jockeys, which debuted in 2009 and ran for two seasons. Her story lines included her relationship with Mike Smith.
She had some of her best seasons between 2008-2011, highlighted by $8.7 million in purse earnings in 2010. In 2009, she had her best season, in terms of wins, with 159. In 2011, she became the first woman rider to win the Santa Anita Handicap, a major stakes race in California with a horse called Game On Dude. She also became the first female rider to win the Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes. She also became the first woman to ride in the Dubai World Cup, a major race in the United Arab Emirates.
But a loss aboard Game On Dude in 2012 led to her removal as the horse’s jockey and contributed to her retiring from the sport at the age of 36. She returned to riding a few months later, but had her most disappointing season in terms of wins and money earned.
Two seasons later she retired again, her career and personal life spiraling. She did some TV work for a horse racing channel and also became a realtor and had a line of jewelry. She has started to work her way back into the race riding business in the last two years. If her future at Woodbine is anything like her past, she will again be one of the top riders. She is represented again by jockey agent, Don Parante.
Photo: Jockey Chantal Sutherland, who was raised in Caledon, is returning to ride at Woodbine Racetrack after several years in the United States.
Photo credit: Courtesy of ChantalSutherland.com