Mon | Aug 21, 2017

RIDING PRO: Way to go for top Jamaica jockey Dane Nelson

Published:Saturday | February 6, 2016 | 2:00 AMAinsley Walters
Dane Nelson

THREE-time champion jockey, Dane Nelson, said his stint in Canada last summer exposed him to professionalism in horse

racing, making him a better horseman.

Sadly, he said it also opened his eyes to the poor state of local racing, so much that he intends to continue his career overseas.

"The horses, jockeys, trainers teach you a lot, it's like you're learning all over again. I find myself dealing with the horses different. It's good for every jockey," said Nelson, who finished fifth in the standings at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Canada, despite leaving Jamaica after the four-month season of live racing had started at the Manitoba racetrack.

Nelson, resting at home after suffering a broken nose in a spill two Saturdays ago, said the wait to be paid purses in Jamaica has caused jockeys to become touts.

"At CAN$80-odd to J$1, the purses are way better. I was second in the Northlands Derby and earned CAN$4,000. Everybody respect Jamaicans. Every morning, I can collect $50 easy, just galloping horses. Here, you either have to be winning or touting. In Jamaica, you work all week free for trainers, yet when the overnight comes out, you don't see your name.

JOCKEYS RUNNING AWAY

"I get my pay every Wednesday. Here, I have to wait a month to get paid. That makes no sense. When you go away, you don't want to come back. That's why the jockeys have to be running away," he said, also pointing to the frequency and number of apprentices which the Jamaica Racing Commission turns out on an underpopulated racing stock.

"It's the same horses running everyday, and all of a sudden, you have a whole new bunch of jockeys on the programme," he pointed out.

Nelson logged a 48-42-35 record in his first stint at Assiniboia Downs. He left the Winnipeg track before that season for Northlands. He won six races there before trying out Woodbine, Canada's biggest track, where he had two rides and finished second aboard one of his mounts.

"The reason why I can't ride at Woodbine now is you have to get a special contract for Woodbine. I could only ride for non-Canadian citizens," he explained.

"Elsewhere in Canada, I can ride for anybody. I am getting everything together. I am returning to either Assiniboia or Northlands in April, then hopefully, Woodbine. I will ride permanently at Woodbine when everything comes through," he said.

He doesn't believe he will be a small fish in a big pond at Canada's top track.

"Once you start riding in North America, everybody will know you. When I went to Woodbine, a lot of people already knew me. They saw the talent from Assiniboia Downs and Northlands. A lot of Jamaicans are there as well, and the people relate to me very well. They know everything about me. Remember, they're all people in racing.

RIDEAGAINST THEBEST

"At Woodbine, they simulcast Assiniboia Downs and Northlands racing. They know my talent and know it's great. Even the CEO at Woodbine wants me to ride there," he added.

In addition to enhancing his skills and financial security, 31-year-old Nelson said he enjoys being on top in Jamaica, but his dream is to ride against the best.

"I am on top, but my dream is to ride against jockeys from all over the world, Pat Day, Garrett Gomez, everybody wants to ride against the best," he said.

"In Canada, you also get to know the real professionalism of racing. You experience different types of tracks, some wider, some smaller. Those horses go really fast, so you have to know how to balance them. When I came back to Jamaica and riding these smaller and some slower horses, it's like ABC," he said.