Tag Archives: jockey PJ Cooksey

Grace’s Receipt (Yay!), Honey Bandit Bucket Fund for Oct., Jockey, PJ Cooksey and ZENYATTA does it AGAIN!!!


You were all so generous during September!  We hit RECORD numbers of tiny (and not so tiny) donations that really helped the Bucket Runneth Over!  Our largest booty yet – $900!!  Wahoo!  Well done.  A little bit from so many of you really did go a long way.  So, Grace the skinniest mare still alive, will have groceries and care from us for a while.  Thank you Thank you Thank you.  Awesome!  I will keep updating you on our Amazing Grace.  (If you missed it and would like to read Grace’s story, click here.)

I did hear that Grace has a new pasture mate.  It is a mare who is much larger than Grace but very gentle.  This mare lets Grace “mother” her and protect her.  So, the dynamic is wonderful, allows something for Grace to do and gives both the mares company.  I will post a photo as soon as one arrives.  Ahhhhh…  I love it when sad stories end well.


I know I am repeating a small portion of yesterday’s post here.  But, since our server meltdown last week seemed to have curtailed some of our readership, I wanted to post Honey Bandit’s story for one extra day so that we get as many readers to his plight as possible.  Thank you for tolerating this repetition.

In case you missed yesterday’s post, here is HB’s story.  Honey Bandit is our October Bucket Fund Baby.  You can read all about him and why we are helping here. HB is barely alive but he is fighting!  So, we are going to help the little one.  Please pass this forward for little HB…
Click here to view the thermometer for Honey Bandit’s Bucket Fund!

If you view this post via email, to donate click here.

PJ COOKSEY, the jockey

Now for something new…

When I was at the WHIA Conference two weeks ago, the guest speaker was PJ Cooksey.

I didn’t know the name but that didn’t matter because she is a force, if you know her or not!  But, let me tell you about her…  She is the third winningest female jockey of all time.  And, she is a remarkable motivational speaker.  I know.  I just listened to her.

Now, I’m not much of a race fan for all the reasons that we don’t mention at parties… but I am a fan of the fabulous Zenyatta (and her owners/team), Barbaro (his huge heart and his gift to his fellow race horses…) and of course, Secretariat (can’t wait for the movie to come out) and SeaBisuit (I still cry every time I watch it).

I’ve been behind the scenes at a racetrack a few times while filming.  In my opinion, it isn’t an easy place for a woman.  And, it certainly isn’t a place where women have equal footing.  So, when I heard that PJ had made it in that world, I was doubly impressed.

Lady Legends female jocks work horses together May 13 at Pimlico with Barbara Jo Rubin, in front, PJ Cooksey, left, and Cheryl White (center/white bridle), photo by Anne Eberhardt Keogh

I’ll tell you about her speech to us after this little bio interruption.  Here are her stats from the handout:

Cooksey started off as a groom at Waterford Park in West Virginia in 1978 and  a short time later, became an assistant trainer of a 30 horse stable. Then the bug to become a jockey hit her.On August 20, 1979, she won in her first race aboard Turf Advisor, quickly becoming the track’s leading jockey, both male and female. Her phenomenal career has provided her with many awards and records.

Cooksey was inducted into the “Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame” and in  the same year received the “Vince Lombardi Symbol of Courage Award” from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Past recipients include seven time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre. Fans, turf writers and jockeys selected Cooksey as the recipient of the 2004 “Mike Venezia Memorial Award” instituted by the New York Racing Assoc. to honor riders who “exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship.” At the 2004 Breeders Cup, Cooksey was honored by the National Turf Writers Association with the “Mr. Fitz Award” presented annually to an individual or group for “typifying the spirit of racing.”

She was the first female jockey to win a stakes race at Churchill Downs and still holds the record for most wins by a female jockey at historic Churchill. She retired from race riding on June 24, 2004 with 2,137 wins from 18,268 mounts, making her the third winningest female jockey in the history of thoroughbred racing.

Cooksey worked in the publicity Department at Churchill Downs and has served as expert racing analyst and commentator for WAVE-3 TV since 1999 during the Breeders Cup, Kentucky Oaks, and the Kentucky Derby broadcasts. She is a professional speaker and loves to share the excitement of thoroughbred racing.

In September 2005 Cooksey was appointed Deputy Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority to promote the Kentucky horse racing industry in the Commonwealth and nationally. On May 2, 2005, Cooksey was awarded the Governor’s “Unbridled Spirit Award for her commitment to the people of Kentucky and her passion for the Commonwealth, exemplifying the “Unbridled Spirit” of all Kentuckians. Cooksey was the recipient of the 2006 “Tower Award for Women in Government” presented by Presentation Academy of Louisville on August 8, 2006.

On July 1, 2007 Cooksey resigned as Deputy Executive Director of the KHRA and was appointed the Director of Public Relations to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, where she currently serves. She is the KHRC agency coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters, March for Babies and the Kentucky Employee Charitable Campaign. She has been recognized by the Commonwealth of Kentucky House of Representatives and the Senate. April 30, 2001 and July 3, 2004 have been proclaimed “Patricia Cooksey Day” in the city of Louisville, Kentucky.

On May 22, 2007 Cooksey was honored with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) “Winners Circle Award” which recognizes a Kentucky woman who has shown outstanding leadership and financial stamina and control; has contributed to her community through time and resources, understands and resolves complex issues; and is dedicated to furthering women in business through personal support and mentoring.

Cooksey’s hobbies include reading, hiking, camping, golfing, riding her motorcycle, horseback riding and spending time with her teenage daughter Chelsea. She is a member of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville where she is involved with the “Bible and Bridle” horse camp.


Well, I guess you can probably guess that PJ is a little powerhouse of a Keebler Elf kind.  She is tiny but walks, really, really fast.  (You know the type.)  And, she has that warm smile that draws you in but also lets you know that not a lot of hogwash makes it past her.

She stood up at the podium and spoke to us as if we were old friends and we were just sitting around gabbing.  Very relaxed.  (Probably why the horses loved her… .)  She told a few inspirational stories and I’ll try to re-tell two of them here.

My favorite was just a side remark.   Cooksey was speaking about how she would ride anything just to get a ride.  So, when a horse was known for crashing in the gates or was hard to load, she would step up and ride the horse – when no one else would.  As she was telling this story, she said that she would talk to the horse and stroke him and spend time with him before the race or ride.  She said she never had a problem if she would calm the horse beforehand.  And, she kinda laughed that the guys never figured out her “secret”.

Of course I was impressed because she stated the obvious that is so often overlooked.  Such a simple thing… yet so effective.

The other story she told hit home with me.  Basically, to me, it was about gracious persistence.

Lady Legends on the Pimlico backstretch during Preakness week, From left: Barbara Jo Rubin, P.J. Cooksey, Mary Russ, photo by Jerry Dzierwinski

As I tell the story, please forgive my lack of racetrack knowledge.  I’ll do my best…

To set up this story, I am assuming that most trainers have their own training jockeys that go out and ride daily.  Then, I think, there are jockeys who roam around, hoping to pick up rides.  I am also assuming that these pick-up riders are used frequently because it seems that they roam daily…

Now, the story goes… there are many trainers at the racetracks.  At this particular racetrack, it is kinda like a “Good Ol’ Boys” group of surly men who have a high opinion of their particular operations.  I guess when you have a bunch of money riding (literally) on these animals, you tend to get huffy and edgy.

Anyway, many of the Old Boys wouldn’t give PJ a second glance.  But, for her, one trainer in particular became her target.  My impression was that this trainer had good horses and was the biggest challenge.  For PJ, it became her daily task to walk by (I forget his actual name) Mr. Good Ol’ Boy’s open office door, lean in and say, “Hello Mr. Good Ol’ Boy!”.

Well, for the first year or so, he didn’t even acknowledge her.  But, one day, he grunted a retort.  And, for the next year or so, he grunted daily in response to her cheery salutation.  This went on for several months.  PJ never forgot a day of cheery good will.  Mr. Good Ol’ Boy remained the same.  Then, unexpectedly, his grunt became an actual word… after several months of a word, it moved into a lean-back in his chair…  Then, a head turn followed by a lean-back and then a word!  And Finally, after 4 years, Mr. Good Ol’ Boy actually replied back in kind.  Hmmmmm.

But, that’s not the end of the story.

Shortly thereafter, on a miserable, rainy, nasty day, PJ was making her rounds.  (By this time, she was no new-comer at that track and had actually made quite a name for herself.)  Anyway, on this miserable day, she stuck her head into Mr. Good Ol’ Boy’s office and said her usual greeting.  But today, Mr. Good Ol’ Boy called her in.  He told her that he wanted her to ride his filly.

Now PJ knew this particular filly was always run by another jockey.  And, PJ knew this jockey was probably home asleep in his warm and cozy bed on this bad day.  She knew that no matter what happened today, that jockey would be again riding that filly tomorrow.  But, she didn’t want to say NO (actually, she did want to say NO) so she agreed.

PJ saddled up and rode off in the race with this filly on a sloppy, lousy, scary day.  She came in second!

At the end of the ride, PJ graciously thanked Mr. Good Ol’ Boy for the opportunity.  He turned to her and said, “Thank YOU.”  And that was that.  She never rode for him again (as she suspected).

She may not have won the battle, but she won the war.  Good story.  Great inspiration.

SPEAKING OF RACING, ZENYATTA DOES IT AGAIN!!  19 Wins.  Wow.  Amazing.  Watch this video and shed a tear.


HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!