Horse Racing

The unheralded exercise riders

Javis Edwards tells his story

BY RUDDY ALLEN
Observer staff reporter

Friday, August 18, 2017

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Long before dawn, before the rest of Jamaica stirs from its slumber, exercise riders are heading to work.

They work way behind the glare of public attention, morning after morning, sometimes in the sun, sometimes when it rains, they are always on call ready to get the job done.

Most of these unheralded exercise riders work and even teach young horses the ways of competitive racing when they hit the racetrack for the first time. They are in short, a vital cog of the horse racing machinery that especially trainers seek out in the mornings.

One such exercise rider who shows up each morning ready to work is 20-year-old Javis Edwards, a resident of the Gregory Park community, which is within walking distance of Caymanas Park.

Edwards was one of 21 exercise riders, who was enrolled in the jockey's training programme in 2015 along with the likes of Linton Steadman, Bebeto Harvey, Dane Dawkins and others including three females – Mellisa Ward, Andree Powell and Natalie Berger.

However, weight issues have put a dent on the young man's lifelong career goal of becoming an official racehorse jockey. But with the right attitude, determination and hard work, Edwards is confident that he can fulfil his dream.

“To be honest my weight was giving me some problems…it was the main issue that caused me to drop out of the jockey's school. Now I plan to re-programme to not make the weight issue be my downfall again.

“I am focused on what I am doing now and once I get my weight under control, I know that I can make it in the racing industry. It is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication but I am ready to face the challenges and I am ready to give my best,” Edwards said.

Even though exercise riders, according to Edwards, do not get much in terms of pay, he believes that the opportunity and experience gained in the mornings are most valuable to him.

“Overall, the exercise riders are paid $100 per horse but some of the trainers pay $150. Right now, I am with the Wayne DaCosta camp and I get horses to exercise in the mornings, so the work is not an issue for me. In terms of getting paid, I get paid on a weekly basis as I am on a contract with Mr DaCosta.

“Right now, I am not focused on how much money I get or anything like that. That is not the topic right now, the main focus is to make it into the jockeys' world. I really want to become a jockey and that is what I am focusing on.

“I have ridden around five times in the exercise riders race with my highest placing being second.

“I rode Devil's Child and got interfered with and finished third but the winner, who had interfered with me, was disqualified and placed behind my horse and I got promoted to second place,” Edwards noted.

Edwards shared how he got interested in the sport.

“I have been going to the track from 2006. My mother operated a shop at the racetrack and I usually am with her and after a couple of times at the races I fell in love with the horses and the whole business of racing.

“I usually watch the jockeys when they are riding and I was always telling myself that I want to be just like them and from there, I started to ride and I am still riding at the moment,” the young man informed.

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