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Horse Racing Next Gen: Top Canadian Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson

She rounds a bend, a tiny figure in a green jacket perched atop a thundering horse. Standing in her stirrups, she leans into the cold dawn. The only sounds are thudding hooves, panting horses and the low roar of jets from nearby Pearson airport.

Alone in the grandstand, Mike Luider watches the horses and riders rush past on their training runs.

“That’s Emma,” he says proudly of the jockey in green. “She’s the alpha female of the track.”

Located at Toronto’s northwestern edge, Woodbine Racetrack is the epicentre of Canadian horse racing. This is a high-stakes and insular world of intense rivalries and friendships; a world built on lost bets that exist at a bizarre crossroads of barn smells and smokestacks; a world populated with millionaire horse owners, stable sweeps and small, gaudily dressed men. It’s also a world where Emma-Jayne Wilson has found her perfect home.

“As a kid, I’d come to the races here at Woodbine,” Wilson says. “For as long as I can remember since then, I’ve always wanted to be a jock.”

Wilson might not be a household name outside of horse racing circles, but the 33-year-old jockey is one of Canada’s most successful female athletes. Since her professional debut in late 2004, the Brampton native has personally earned more than $4.5 million (U.S.) in nearly 9,000 races, finishing first more than 1,200. She has no sponsors, she’s competed extensively overseas and she’s succeeding in one of very few sports where men and women compete head to head.

Read more of this story by Daniel Otis at The Toronto Star

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