The Spa Spot: Another Davis climbs into the saddle
Retired jockey Robbie Davis gives his son Dylan a leg up for his first career race.
Dylan Davis made his debut as a jockey Monday, following his father, Robbie, and his sister, Jackie, into the family business.
While his relatives and friends cheered and applauded, the 18-year-old Saratoga Springs High School graduate rode Black Rhino to a fourth-place finish in the fourth race for trainer Wesley Ward. Davis was eighth on Ward's favored Fierce in the fifth race. Three other horses Davis had been named to ride, including one trained by his father, were scratched.
"It was very exciting, the whole crowd and everything," Dylan Davis said. "It's just a blast. You can't get any better than this, it's Saratoga."
Robbie Davis was a prominent jockey, winning 3,382 races in 20 years until a knee injury forced him to retire in 2002. He and his wife Marguerite became full-time residents of the Saratoga Springs area several years ago. Jackie Davis decided to become a jockey, is a graduate of the North American Racing Academy and has been riding professionally since 2008.
Dylan, 18, the youngest of the Davis' six children, has been preparing for a riding career by working as an exercise rider. At 5-foot-2 and 104 pounds, the former wrestler has the ideal build to be a Thoroughbred jockey. He acknowledged that he was weary after riding two races in a row and found racing to be more taxing than getting on horses in the morning.
"It's definitely tougher," he said. "I've been galloping almost two years and this is nothing like it. It's a whole different game. I got tired."
Ward allowed Robbie Davis to give Dylan a leg up - to help him climb aboard - on Black Rhino in the paddock prior to his first race. Robbie Davis was clearly nervous and was fidgeting
in the winner's circle while the first race was being run. He didn't realize that his son had Black Rhino battling for the lead early on.
"Boy that was a little better than I was expecting," Robbie Davis said. "I didn't see him break out of the gate. I thought he was last and the next thing you know Tom Durkin is calling Black Rhino head and head down the backside. I was a little confused.
"When I saw him going around the turn I said, 'Wow, he really did come out of there running.' He told me was ready and he wasn't lying."
Robbie Davis didn't have any trouble describing his feelings.
"I'm absolutely proud, just busting at the seams," he said.
Robbie Davis talked with his son for a moment before Dylan headed back to the jocks' room to get ready for the next race.
"To see the grin in his face was really exciting. He's pumped," Robbie Davis said. "I just wanted it to be a safe one. He kind of knows what he's up against a little bit now. I didn't expect him to be riding in back-to-back races. You kind of want to get your feet wet. He's in no shape or form ready to start races, but he needs to learn. He had gotten to a stage where - you can only learn so much in the morning - he needed to get in a field and see what it's like."
Robbie Davis said Dylan will probably ride a few more times during the Saratoga meet, get some more experience at Suffolk Downs in the fall and launch his apprentice career in earnest during the winter at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.