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Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson continues her international leadership

Canadian jockey Emma Jayne Wilson (Photo: Dave Landry)Canada’s Emma-Jayne Wilson will captain “The Girls” team at this year’s Shergar Cup for the second year in a row. A unique race day named after the 1981 Epsom Derby winner, the Shergar Cup brings together an international group of 12 jockeys who are divided into 4 teams and compete against one another in at least 5 of 6 designated races on the race day.
 
Race meets such as the Shergar highlight the truly global nature of horse racing today where horses and jockeys travel around the world to compete. Just how challenging is it for jockeys to travel and then race ride within very short time frames, sometimes in quite different time zones?
 
“International jockeys plan a little further ahead,” says Wilson, remembering a time when her mother was concerned about her riding in a race at Woodbine immediately following a 16 hour flight from Hong Kong.
 
“What about jet lag?” her mother asked.
 
Riding and travelling go hand-in-hand for Wilson who is a frequent flyer; jet lag is not something she can be concerned about.
 
“I have a travel agent who works with me,” explains Wilson. “When I need to ride in a race in Kentucky, my agent and my valet make it easy.” 
 
In fact, she says, her support team make travelling within North America so easy that “it’s almost like driving to work. Instead of driving a car, you go and get on a plane. You get used to travelling. Once I know the routine, it’s easy.”
 
Jet lag is a question she doesn’t ask because, like riding well, “It’s all about mental preparation and having a good support team. That includes trainers at the track. They understand how much travelling we do and are supportive.”
 
Asked whether she sees opportunities for more Canadian jockeys to ride internationally, Wilson responds with an unequivocal “Yes. Simply put - horse racing really is just horse and rider competing against others, hoping to be the fastest, regardless of venue or continent!”
 
The sport can definitely take you places. “What’s most important, as a pro, is to always be learning,” says Wilson.
 
She acknowledges that there can be challenges for Canadians to overcome when riding internationally. In some places, for example, race tracks are “right-handed,” which means that the horses run in a clockwise direction. This is the opposite direction of tracks in North America, which are all left-handed or counter clockwise. And, there are other differences. Wilson remarks on her Hong Kong experience, explaining that horses are trained differently there than in North America so her instructions from trainers were different. Her willingness to learn, however, is part of a larger education that helps make her a leading jockey.
 
Asked about her long term future, she says she would love the opportunity to ride in Dubai and Japan as well as Australia.
 
“A neat goal would be to ride on every continent,” she says.
 
For the past several seasons, Wilson has spent her winters riding at Gulfstream Park in Florida before coming back to Woodbine for the season.
 
This winter she added some new personal goals to her life including a continued focus on her fitness.
 
“I’ve always been lucky in the game when it comes to my weight,” she says. Still, she decided to tailor her fitness regime to be more sports specific and include more cross-training, acknowledging that physical and mental fitness as a jockey at Woodbine are critical.
 
“Woodbine is tough,” she explains. “It’s the longest meet. It’s fast paced. You have to be flexible and prepared.”
 
Looking ahead to the coming months, Wilson says she is currently riding some exciting 2 and 3 year old horses for several Woodbine trainers. Having already won the Queen’s Plate in 2007 aboard Mike Fox, she is eyeing up the Oaks trophy this year.
 
“I would definitely like to add a win in the Woodbine Oaks to my resume!” she exclaims. “And, the Leading Rider is also on my radar.”
 
As competitive and dedicated as she is about her sport and its core – the horses – Wilson ends our conversation on a high note saying,
 
“I thoroughly enjoy myself every day I go to work, and I’m very grateful for the experiences and incredible opportunities that horse racing has given me over the years.“
 
When Emma-Jayne Wilson captains “The Girls” at the Shergar Cup on August 8th, horse racing can be grateful for jockeys like her who so passionately represent our great sport on the international stage.
 

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