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Horse Racing Next Gen: Portland Meadows Top Jockey Eliska Kubinova

Eliska Kubinova leads her horse down the stretch to the finish line on a muddy day during the recently ended Portland Meadows season.

By Ron Mason

Eliska Kubinova is living the American Dream, which, for her, means riding racehorses for a living.

Being a jockey was “not my plan,” but the 25-year-old from the Czech Republic is a good one. Kubinova captured the riding title at Portland Meadows, which capped its 49-day live racing season on Sunday, Jan. 26.

She led all jockeys in victories (55) and earnings (about $270,000).

“I like winning the most,” she says.

Kubinova notes that her male competitors “take it hard if a girl beats them.”

That also was the case in 2013 at Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash., where she claimed 55 wins and $500,000 in earnings and placed third in the jockey standings.

About 16 percent of licensed jockeys in America are women. It wasn’t Kubinova’s intent to be one of them.

Kubinova had been involved with horses since age 5, when she started participating in “Voltige” — a combination of gymnastics and acrobatics on horseback.

“My mom came up with the idea of jockey school,” she says.

Her training for that began at age 10. She raced a little (15 events) in Europe and then came to the United States about five years ago as an exchange student at Syracuse University. While in upstate New York and, after moving to Bellevue, Wash., in another exchange program, she also worked as a nanny. But she didn’t like babysitting.

She was kicking around at Emerald Downs during the 2011 season, begging trainers to let her exercise and ride horses. She finally got a break after meeting trainer Doris Harwood, a former jockey who saw her potential.

Kubinova’s first win in the states came at Emerald Downs in September 2011 on a 26-1 long shot.

In the Czech Republic, she had raced exclusively on grass and at greater distances than in the U.S. But she adapted easily to track conditions here, where most tracks are dirt.

The highlight of her career remains a 2012 come-from-behind victory at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., riding Valeria, a horse owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, who also owned Zenyatta, the 2010 U.S. horse of the year.

Kubinova was allowed to wear the Zenyatta colors during her race. The trainer told her the 5-year-old mare might be a little slow early because she gets nervous. “I just tried to calm her down and make a run,” Kubinova says. “Once I found room, I was confident.”

Read more at Portland Tribune

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