Page 48 - NM Winter 2023
P. 48

                  A MOMENT IN TIME
   From Saddle to Studio
It was in the stars for horses to be a part of her life. At the age of four, Kathy Craig moved with her family to a farm in Minnesota in the late sixties. She was surrounded by horses as the family showed, broke and boarded horses on the farm. Her mother led their 4-H group with all the children showing livestock and horses. They even saddled them up and took groups out on trail rides.
Being a natural on a horse, Kathy showed horses, rode high school rodeo and was a member of the state championship horse judging team. Since there was virtually no horseracing in Minnesota at the time, it never crossed her mind that she would ever enter the sport.
The young equestrian took up drawing through high school and planned on attending a local graphic art school but opted to accept a scholarship away from home. While at the University of Wisconsin
at River Falls majoring in Animal Science, she took an internship at Nelson Bunker Hunt’s Circle T Ranch in Roanoke, Texas. With about
eighty two-year-old Thoroughbreds to break, she started to learn more about the allure of the race horse world.
When the colts were shipped to the tracks in the spring, Kathy followed them to Louisiana Downs where she worked as an exercise rider for a couple of years and then at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “I kept seeing these little sixteen-year-olds getting their jockey licenses and so I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”
She remembers that right before her first race, she had carefully planned the whole thing out. Nothing was going to slow her down. She ran five miles a day for months before her first race to combat fatigue and strengthen her endurance.
At the starting gates, mentor jockey Pat Daly gently reminded her, “You might want to pull your goggles down.” Her other mentor Larry Snyder smiled, encouraging her to keep steady then turned and warned the other riders that they had a “First Timer”.
The gates opened and her mount – Automatic Shift broke well running the six furlongs consistently right along with the top favorites to finish in third place. “The only downside to my first race was when I attempted to switch sticks, I threw it into the infield. Oh well. You can prepare all you want, but you still get a little nervous your first time.”
Kathy enjoyed riding proven runners such as Cowboys Belief who was “almost Kentucky Derby material,” in Phoenix and Hot Springs. But it was at Canterbury Downs in Minnesota where she got her first win with Double Ready. Notorious for bolting and heading straight for the rail, the young rider was undeterred and under Kathy’s guidance, there was no infamous bolting that day as they surged on to win by twelve lengths.
During her ten-year riding career, Kathy worked tracks such as
Turf Paradise in Phoenix, at Rockingham Park north of Boston, and Finger Lakes Racetrack in upstate New York where she won four in
a row with Roman Fool. Her best riding moment was when she beat Faro – Phoenix’s track record holder with Cowboys Believe twice. She went to win the New Mexico Futurity while riding for Robert Ritchie with Token Gratuity and won some more Lineage, stakes and allowance races in Albuquerque and Santa Fe including five in a row on Livermore Lady for Todd Antonuk.
Racing was great for a while because, “You can travel anywhere and always make a living,” explained Kathy. Memories of riding on turf were her best because, “It was like somebody turned off the sound and there was silent running, the rider and horse were as one, gliding along the track with the others,” she continues.
Reprinted From The NMHBA 2002 Stallion issue
Kathy at work with one of the colts
 46 New Mexico Horse Breeder

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