His son was the artist, John Beaufain Irving II, my great, great grandfather.
Joe Judice, a Jockey at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, CA
On March 12, 1988, I did an interview at Golden Gate Fields with Joe Judice, a jockey nicknamed "The Juice" by his fellow riders. Judice was born December 19, 1960 in New Orleans, Louisiana and, at the time of my interview, resided in Dublin with his wife and two children. Below is an excerpt from the interview.
Joe is known for piloting Hajji's Treasure to an upset victory in the 1985 California Derby, the first time a locally-based horse had ever won the Derby. Joe was the leading rider at Jefferson Downs and Detroit Race Course, and was among the top reins men at Louisiana Downs, Sportsman Park, and Thistle Downs (Ohio) before shifting his tack to the Bay Area.
At the time I talked to him, his other stakes victories at Golden Gate Fields included; Nak Ack (1985 Berkeley Handicap), Songhay (1984 Berkeley), Aunt Stel (1985 Miss America), Nak Ack (1984 Billy Ball Invitational), Nak Ack (1985 Silky Sullivan), Songhay (1984 Silky Sullivan), King's Bet (1987 Sausalito), Pale Purple (1983 Countess Fager), Stuttering (1983 Sacramento) and First Song (1983 Bastonera II Invitational).
(LI) When did you first start to get interested in horse racing?
(JJ) I was eight or nine years old. My aunt had a little ranch in Louisiana and I used to go down there - it was a good place for me to get away. I'd go on trail rides and by the time I was ten, I'd lope horses and ride in match races, little bushes in Louisiana. There were about three or four different bush tracks that I'd go to on Sundays. They used to give me $5.00 a mount, $10.00 a winner. I used to ride like six or seven and win about six.
(LI) Is that a young age for a jockey?
(JJ) That's the limit. Sixteen's the age to get a license. And, I think the majority of your top riders in the country started at sixteen. Very few of them started around twenty-one or twenty-two. That's considered an old age for a bug boy to try and break into the business because people want to get a younger green kid on a horse because they know he's going to try and take more chances and ride hard. Because when you're twenty to twenty-one you're a little too wise, you've been around more, are smarter than a sixteen year old. A lot smarter. A rider that's young can go in and be a leading apprentice.
(LI) Approximately, how long is the training period for jockeys and what's involved with that?
(JJ) You get to have experience because you have to talk to the stewards. You have to get a jockey's license and then you have to have somebody that's going to put you on a horse. My connections began with the bush tracks and I was recognized by some people through here say, etc. Then, an agent approached me and I got my license the first day I went in. I was riding two days later.
(LI) How many races have you won?
(JJ) I've won close to 1,500. I've been riding ten years. I average about a hundred wins or more per year.
(LI) What is the race that you remember the most?
(JJ) The California Derby is the one that sticks out. There are a couple of them - I've won the Illinois Derby and the Michigan Mile was a really nice race. I've won a lot of really nice stakes in Louisiana. Well, the one I really remember the most was the first one. My maiden race. I broke my maiden on a horse nobody wanted to ride in the room. I'd just started and I really didn't have a whole lot of business that night and I said, "I'll ride him." So, it was like the second or third day that I'd been riding. I broke my maiden on him easy and the horse went right up the ladder and I won a stake race on it.
(LI) What's the average income for a jockey?
(JJ) It all depends on the race track, where you're riding, what kind of purses. You can be the leading rider of Wiltzer Park, which is probably the lowest in the country, winning two hundred races and you might not make $50,000. Here, you win two hundred races in a year and you'll be making $350,000. I think that a jockey's got to be like a salesman and his product is him. If you don't sell yourself you're not going to do any good. So, you've got to make yourself likable and you have to have a good attitude towards everything because it is an up and down business. One day it can be great and the next day it can be that you're out the door and the next day after that you're on top.
(LI) Is your trainer like your agent?
(JJ) If a trainer likes you it doesn't make any difference whether you have a good agent or not, the trainer is really who you have to impress. My agent gets a percentage of the business. You mainly have to impress the trainers here. The agents - you don't have to impress them. They're going to try to do everything they can to get you the livest mounts in the race. So, its mainly impressing these trainers because you deal with the trainers more than you do the owners. An agent just handles the deal. You go in there and push the product and he closes the deal.
(LI) So, would you say the principal dynamic is between the owner, trainer, and jockey but mostly the latter two?
(JJ) Yes, that's the combination. When I first came out her I didn't know a soul. I didn't even know my agent. I got a phone call from a friend of mine that was training her who put me in with a nice outfit and it developed into a good relationship between us that got me started. So, in that case, the credit was given to the agent.
(LI) A horse's record is the chief factor in good handicapping so how much control do you have over getting a good mount?
(JJ) I can go in and request that I'd like to ride the horse that I've watched and I look at the form to handicap the horse to see what kind of race he's in. I don't usually take the time to try to find horse's since that's my agent's job. I just go out there and talk to every trainer I possibly know that's interested in me. And, if I think I have a good shot in that barn I'm really going to work hard and say, "How's the big horse doing?" You go out in the morning and let them know you're thinking about that horse and that you'd like to ride him. That goes back to hustling mounts and selling yourself.
(LI) How much does the competition vary?
(JJ) There's a rider here right now for almost every horse. It's kind of thinning out but there's a lot of riders that fly down from Seattle. It's like a little winter haven. You get a lot of riders that come out of the cold areas - they come in here so they'll have a nice mild temperature during the winter and when it gets warm and everything opens up, they go.
(LI) What are some factors that can determine winning and losing streaks?
(JJ) Some of it can be psychological. You've got to have confidence when you're riding. If you lose a little bit of confidence, I think those horses can feel it. I'm a strong believer in that. I try to keep my head up, to keep a smile on my face. A losing streak isn't totally due to lack of confidence, it could be the horses you're riding. Usually, when you go into a little slump its after you win a bunch of races and you run out of stock with nothing to replenish it. So, you get the same stock that's maybe coming off a tough race. You've got to ride new stock in order to be on top.
(LI) How do you keep your weight down and your strength up?
(JJ) I take a lot of vitamins. My father owns a vitamin company and I pump them in everyday. If you work hard in the mornings you can usually eat a pretty nice breakfast and you're set until the end of the day. Then, every night I get on the scale.
(LI) It used to be that the average weight for a jockey was 95 pounds. Hasn't it gone up?
(JJ) Yes, its gone up a lot. Its usually about 114 - that's about the standard weight. Europe is really heavy. The bottom there is around 126. For me to do 114, I have to weight approximately 111 or 111 1/2 because I have to post these boots, pants, and my underwear. And, you've got to check in with your over girth - your saddle and irons.
(LI) Do jockeys ever take steroids?
(JJ) No, not that I've heard of because I think steroids would make you too muscular and increase your weight. The guys that use steroids are usually weight lifters or big football players. We're pretty much pound for pound pretty strong.
(LI) Do you lift weights for arm strength?
(JJ) No, you get on these horses in the morning and its like holding back 1,200 pounds. You don't want to even look at weights when you're done.
(LI) Do you have a role model or mentor who has inspired you?
(JJ) There's Delahoussaye. I've always admired his style. He's kind of a sit chill rider. I've liked Eddie ever since I was a kid. He's won the Derby twice and he's one of the leading riders down south in L.A. and Hollywood Park.
(LI) There have been some notable female jockeys like Robyn Smith and Julie Krone. What do you think about women participating in this sport?
(JJ) I give them all the credit in the world for at least trying it. It's a tough goal for a girl because she's got to deal with all these guys out here and its kind of rough on them. Julie Krone's one of the leading riders in New York right now. She's doing it - she's riding with the boys.
More family info:
|Drum Castle - Aberdeen, Scotland|
Bonshaw Tower stands on a sheer, rocky precipice above the Kirtle River in Scotland. William Irving of Bonshaw was my paternal 6th great grandfather. (b. 1663, d. 1742)