Thursday, September 12, 2013

Frank Lovato, Jr., Jockey World

A heart for horses, Frank Lovato Jr, is an extraordinary equestrian. From an early age Frank was obsessed with becoming a jockey. At the age 0f 13, Frank left his family to follow his dream. Frank lived in horse barns, sleeping on tack room floors, taking on inferior stable jobs, just to find his place on the race track. After 3 years, he began his apprentice jockey career. In 1980, Frank received the coveted Eclipse Award - Jockey Apprentice USA.

Now retired as a jockey, Frank continues to be an advocate to educate a horse racing nation. Besides being an equestrian, he is an author, innovator, entrepreneur, radio host, musician, and much more. Through his many horse-related programs, Frank shines in the world of horses….

Welcome Frankie!

Q: When was your first encounter with a horse? 
A: I was way too young to remember, I think I was 2 years old the first time I kind of remember; was at a farm where a trainer that my dad (who was also a jockey) was riding for was having a small party. I remember them bringing a horse out and letting me sit on it in the yard. I actually can kind of remember feeling exhilarated. Other then that, I remember going to the track during the morning training hours with my dad and once training hours were over, there were some trainers that would let me ride their stable pony (life size guide horse for the Thoroughbreds) around the barn's shedrow.

Q: You grew up around horses and the race track. What was it like?
A: Yeah, was not the farm life, unfortunately which instead of having a horse, I had a bicycle which I use to pretend I was riding races on. My dad was a professional jockey. We lived in suburb areas close to race tracks. I kind of had a normal childhood except I was so obsessed with becoming a jockey that I left home in New Jersey where my dad was riding at the early age of 14 to go live and work on a Thoroughbred farm in Ocala Florida to begin my training to become a jockey. In those days, it was quite acceptable to start racing professional at 16 years old, and that was my goal. My parents did try and slow me down, but like I said, I was obsessed with this jockey stuff since a very early age.

Q: Was your mother a rider, too?
A: My mom was not really a horse person at all. Was great at shopping though! My mom was always a great ear though as she had to hear me say, "I want to be a jockey" 9 zillion times before I was 10 years old. She tried her best to talk me out of it but was not possible.

Q: What is it like to ride a racehorse? 
A: Since all I ever knew was riding Thoroughbreds, once I retired from racing, I have been able to spend lots more time around other breeds. Really not so different and since Thoroughbred’s is all I know, I think I prefer Thoroughbreds! I do think that Thoroughbreds can get a bit of a reputation, but they are just horses and depends, like any horse, how they were brought up and worked with. I think some of them make amazing partners if someone would give them a chance!
Arlington Park. This was my last winner before I retired from racing.  

Q: Where is your favorite track?
A: I rode mostly the New York circuit for most of my career; Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga. Beautiful and historical facilities, but I fell in love with Arlington Park which was the track I rode over the last few years of my career during their summer meet. I loved it for the track itself, and the atmosphere. It seemed very festive and inviting from both my side and fans. Management does a great job there for everyone!

Q: What happened in the race when you had a spill and broke your leg?
A: It actually was in the post parade warming up for the race. The filly I was on could really run, I had just won on her the previous race, but she was very difficult to ride and get to the gates. Racing wise she was easy to ride, but the post parade, she threw a fit and flipped over on top of me. It happened in a split second, I could not avoid her.

Q: Of all the horses that you've ridden, do you have a favorite?
A: That is a very tough question, there are so many horses I loved and meant lots to my career. There was this one horse that I won the West Virginia Derby on back in 1980 or 81, his name was Johnny Dance. Anyway, he was so lazy to ride in the mornings, like an old cow horse, but at the races, he gave his all. Was the coolest horse ever.

Q: What is the Equicizer?
A: The Equicizer is a tool I developed to help me rehabilitate from my racing accident where I sustained a badly broken leg. It helped me regain the strength and flexibility I needed to make it just back to riding period and then it did more then that. It made me a better rider then ever before. It's a non-motorized spring loaded mechanical horse. I still manufacture them and now for all riders under the sun. It's a way to train, exercise and rehab safely and works for any rider, even for non-riders it offers a great safe exercise, great for the core and even people with disabilities can use very effectively!

Q: What is Stampede of Dreams?
A: Stampede of Dreams is our therapeutic riding program that my wife Sandy and I founded. Because of the Equicizer, we have met some amazing people over the years that inspired us to start our own program. Stampede of Dreams (also known as SOD) is in our 5th year, a 501c3 non-profit that is a certified PATH-International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) program. My wife Sandy is the program director and also a PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. We are located in Norwalk Ohio. We have an amazing staff, board of directors, volunteers, and of course student riders!

Q: Describe your daily routine....
A: Well, now that I am retired as a jockey, I primarily focus on the Equicizer business. I still manufacture them by hand and build them for riders all over the world. Along with that, I also founded my own organization called Jockey World, which is non-profit educational organization I mostly created to help our young racing fans who wish to work in the racing industry; learn properly about the business. I create some career building tools such as Jockey Camp, media such as YouTube videos, the Jockey World (internet) Radio Show, Jockey Camp is an annual event I host that is open to anyone. All these areas I provide my experiences and knowledge that helps offer a better foundation of knowledge and path they can follow to get them started. Jockey World also offers any fan of horse racing to learn really what horse racing is all about for the better enjoyment of the sport. So with these two businesses, I stay very busy, usually 7 days a week building and maintaining Equicizers and horse racing education!

Currently, I am working on a huge project called 365 Days of Racing Terminology. A video series that me and my star Jockey World student Kayla Jarvinen have created and committed doing a video for everyday of the year for 2013. Each video covers a racing term. These terms are from my Racing Terminology Booklet I created a few years ago. This project is an unprecedented effort to educate racing fans and bring more attention to my mission with Jockey World. So my days are pretty full!

Q: In a nutshell, what does it take to be a jockey?
A: Definitely a different breed, of course you have to be small, but that is just a tiny piece, you have to be fearless, hard working, resilient, patient, tolerant, willing to work 7 days a week for nothing for a chance to someday win, athletic, and most of all, lucky!

Connect with Frankie…

“There are those meant to lead, others meant to follow, 
then the rest of us that are just meant to ride.” 
Frankie Lovato
Elusive Road after an allowance race win. 


Daily Racing Funnies said...

Great interview with a wonderful man! Thank you!

Bobbi Needham said...

oloxhibGreat interview Frankie! It's wonderful that you have so many venues to get the word out about all the good you and Sandy do for "wanna be" jockeys, novice riders, horse lovers and those with special needs.
You two are a great team doing great things, and I'm proud to know you!