Animal Planet’s ‘Jockeys’ more personal this season, begins August 21

Every year, two jockeys die on a North-American racetrack.

The world of men and women who put themselves through grueling starvation and Bulimia, sweat boxes, workouts and who challenge each other on the race track is back Friday, August 21 at 10 PM (special time) – the show will air Fridays at 9 PM beginning August 28.

Season two of Animal Planet’s popular docu-drama, “Jockeys” returns as the jockeys are inching closer to their dream of riding in the Race for the Roses – the Kentucky Derby – the first of the prestigious Triple Crown races.

The new season follows Chantal Sutherland, Mike Smith, Kayla Stra, Alex Solis, Joe Talamo, Aaron Gryder and introduces two new jockeys Garrett Gomez and Corey Nakatani, who are at the height of their careers as they compete in the most dangerous two minutes in sports.

The premiere episode focuses heavily on Nakatani, who shares that his paternal grandparents were housed in the horse stalls of Santa Anita during the confinement of the Japanese in America during the World War II years.

He told Monsters and Critics a bit about his background, and family.

“My family is big,” shared Corey, “I’m one of 10 kids. My father’s side is Japanese American, and they were encamped during the war, and my mother’s side is from California. My wife and kids know that I’m in a dangerous sport, but that you can make a good living out of it.

Corey began his career in sports as a wrestler. “Some people may think my personality is aggressive, but I have always had to be stronger willed. In wrestling I was always half my opponent’s size. That made me mentally tough, and that’s the difference to me on the back of a horse.”

This season sees the series go from a half-hour to a full hour, giving justice to the complex world of horse racing as producers take viewers behind doors that are usually closed to capture every tense moment in the jock’s room or with the track stewards; they follow along into the evenings and during the pre-dawn mists for quiet conversations between jockeys and trainers, fathers and children, lovers and friends, and partners and rivals.

The natural competitiveness of these athletes, and their love of the sport pushes them closer and closer to the ultimate achievement – a chance to compete for the Triple Crown.

“Horse racing is a microcosm of the world at large where every day is a gamble and the risks we take define the lives we lead,” says Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet. “The challenges the jockeys confront – risk, trust, friendship and competition – are universal and have the power to resonate with all our viewers – from horse lovers to those being introduced to this remarkable world for the first time.”

Nakatani has a lot to prove. as does female jockey Chantal, shut out of the Boy’s Club.  Chantal shared with Monsters and Critics exactly when she knew she wanted this life: “I knew I wanted to be a jockey when I was 13. This was reaffirmed when I was 22 at university. I was in a psychology class, and we were asked about our occupation ‘sweet spot.’ Jockey was the only fit.”

In the new season, Chantal Sutherland decides to leave California to return home and race at Canada’s Woodbine track. This decision imposes serious implications for her relationship with boyfriend/Hall of Famer jockey Mike Smith.

All the way across the world, veteran jockey Aaron Gryder prepares to ride six-year-old Thoroughbred Well Armed, in the Dubai World Cup Race for the richest purse in the racing industry. When asked what it felt like the first time he raced, “I went through the whole range of emotions,” said Aaron, “excitement, nervous, anxious, happy and, of course, extremely proud. There is no duplicating that experience.”

Aaron’s favorite horse of all time Well Armed is old for his age and has experienced considerable health problems, making a win very unlikely. But, can this committed horse and jockey upset the odds and astonish a world crowd?

It’s personal for Panamanian-born Alex Solis. He’s not only a hopeful to ride in the Kentucky Derby, but he’s set to ride his son’s horse and industry favorite, The Pamplemousse. He rides and trains this Thoroughbred only to have the horse scratch the Santa Anita Derby just weeks before, but can Alex ride him skillfully enough to solidify a Derby mount? His work ethic is legendary. “I race five days a week. I practice four days a week, he shared with us.

Young Joe Talamo (19) continues to break records and stand as a serious competitive threat to his fellow jockeys. He credits his mentors, sharing with Monsters and Critics who he admired. “When I was little, I always admired Pat Day and Eddie Delahoussaye. Today, so many jockeys have taught me so many things. I will always be grateful to all of them.”

Talamo shared how his family factored into his success. “My family has been very supportive of me, but like all parents, they would have liked me to finish school first…I’m so fortunate to have had so much success. I respect all the jockeys, and I learn so much from them every day. It is an amazing feeling, though – beating them.”

Over the years, Mike Smith has become accustomed to his long-distance relationship with bombshell jockey Chantal who travels back and forth between California and her native Canada. His favorite place to race? “Any tracks in California, New York or Kentucky.”

This season, his career boasts steady wins which earns him a Kentucky Derby mount with ease. But, will his focus on his career pull his relationship with Chantal right out from under him?

Australian rider Kayla Stra is considered a superstar jockey down under, but up in this neck of the woods, she struggles to come up for air. When asked what she would do if she could not ride ponies for a living, Kayla said, “I’d be a riding instructor or teacher of some sort. I’d like to teach people to ride because being able to work with such beautiful, strong powerful animals is a magical feeling.”

This season, Kayla tries to convince the racing world that she’s got what it takes and faces unrelenting issues of sexism as she’s teased for being a girl among men.

But despite her diminutive size, Kayla must prove that nothing can stop her from showing the men and the world what she’s made of.  Even with her bravado, she shared with Monsters and Critics it was a tough road, “It’s not easy being a female rider in the United States in a male-dominant sport. In Australia where I was riding, it was more accepted for women to ride as there were always one or two girls in each state riding. Also at times, there are trainers who may look at me with a little wink in their eye. If I were a guy, that would never happen.”

Episode 1 – Life Is a Gamble

Game on! Santa Anita’s gates are re-opening, and the jockeys are back, ready to gamble with their lives for a chance to make history and to grab a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Last year, a devastating crash forced JOCKEYS newcomer Corey Nakatani out of the game for two months. Now, this “bad boy” of the horse racing world is ready to fight his way back to the top. Meanwhile, young trainer Kristin Mulhall is playing a high-stakes game of poker in what’s known as a “claiming race” with a promising horse named BullyBullyBully.

A claiming race increases a horse’s chance to advance its racing career; each horse entered is available for purchase at a fixed price prior to the race, and if a horse is selected, the owner must sell. Kristin and BullyBullyBully’s jockey, Chantal Sutherland, stand to win big – but only if they can keep the horse’s true talent a secret from the rest of the horse racing world.

Episode 2 – I Want Revenge

For jockeys, every day is judgment day. Each perilous ride could win them riches and respect or leave them seriously injured. Every loss is noticed. For JOCKEYS star Aaron Gryder, his trip to the six-million-dollar Dubai World Cup not only gives him a shot at big money but also a chance at redemption from his devastating Breeders’ Cup loss.

Santa Anita’s young Jockeys star Joe Talamo battles the blush of youth pushing his way toward the Kentucky Derby on a horse named I Want Revenge. And, Iggy Puglisi is fighting his way back from an injury that cost him two years of racing and his reputation as a top rider. These three athletes all have the same goals – getting their money and their glory.

Episode 3 – The Have-Nots

The gap between the haves and have-nots in the jockey colony is huge. It’s a man’s world, and the name of the game is winning. If you’re not on top, you’re out. Tensions rise in the male-dominated jocks’ room as Chantal Sutherland and Kayla Stra fight for their wins on and off the track. A different battle rages when fallen star Iggy Puglisi finally gets a shot in the biggest race of the day – a race that could help him get his career back on track – that is, if he can win.

Episode 4 – Split Decision

Chantal Sutherland and Jon Court are torn between their two great loves – their families and their careers. With their stars fading in Southern California, the clock is ticking, and they must make a decision that will change the rest of their lives.

Episode 5 – Tilt

Alex Solis and his son have a lifetime of dreams wrapped into one horse. And, the Santa Anita Derby is their ticket to the Kentucky Derby and possibly Alex’s seat in the Hall of Fame. But when ruthlessly competitive rival trainer, Bob Baffert, enters a “Rabbit” in the race and hires Aaron Gryder to ride him, all bets are off.

Episode 6 – No Such Thing As A Sure Thing

It’s the final days before the Kentucky Derby. With months of blood, sweat, tears and preparation in the game Mike Smith, Garret Gomez and Joe Talamo are about to learn the toughest lesson in horse racin g– there’s no such thing a sure thing.

Episode 7 – Nineteen Ways to Lose

The Kentucky Derby is a Kingmaker for jockeys. It’s the reason you brave the game. The moment of truth has finally arrived for Chantal Sutherland, Joe Talamo, Mike Smith and Garret Gomez. In the toughest two minutes in sports, there are 19 ways to lose but only one way to win. Everybody wants it—only one can have victory.



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