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Interviews

Interview with Rick Konwinski, Horse Owner

Interview with Rick Konwinski

Interviewed via Email by Tricia Psarreas on March 2, 2008

Rick Konwinski is a highly respectable horse owner who has been around horses and jockeys for the majority of his life. As an owner and a man who is deeply involved in the racing industry, Rick has an unbiased view on many of the issues in Freedom’s Rein. 

 

Tricia:             When did you first get involved in the horse racing industry and what is  your role in it now?

Rick:               Growing up in a town with a race track (Columbus Nebraska) ,I have been around racing since an early age.  I spent all of my spare time as a kid, at the track, wandering around the backside and watching races.  As I became old enough, I would help some trainers out by watching their horses on walkers, mucking stalls etc.  My cousin was a groom and later a trainer so I hung around with her whenever possible.  I have always spent time at the track but between school and work not as much as I would have liked.  Through the years, financially and time wise I have become able to get back into racing  as an owner with the help of  Trainer Larry Donlin Jr.  Larry is a top notch trainer and a better human being. When it comes to the care and health of a horse there is not a finer trainer in the business. 

I am very fortunate in that Larry is willing to teach me about the horse as well as training them.  He allows me to be a hands on owner.  From mucking stalls, hotwalking, getting horses ready before a race, to leading them over to the paddock.  Through my years of knowing Larry I have learned more about the horse and racing than I ever imagined possible. 

 

Tricia:             As a horse owner, do you think that a weight increase for jockeys would be dangerous for horses?

Rick:               Absolutely not! Horses are galloped and worked out every morning by exercise riders with average weights between 140 and 150 lbs.  No one seems to think this is a determent to the horse.  A skillful Jockey on a horse weighing 125 to 135 lbs is much less harmful than a less skilled exercise rider or a trainer on their back fighting to stay on. 

As a society we have grown a lot. We have better nutrition and health care today.  We are bigger, faster and healthier than we were in the past.  Were Jockeys left out of this equation?   Go check the offensive line from the Super Bowl winners from the 70s and 80s.  Compare them with Today’s teams.  They average from 50 to 80 pounds more per man!  Today’s scale of weights is archaic.  Also, take into consideration the health of the horse.  Between much better nutrition and veterinary science, horses are bigger and healthier than ever before. 10 pounds more weight on a 1200 pound horse is less than a 1% increase in overall weight.  Do we risk life threatening injury every time we pick up a quart of milk? That is the equivalent. 

 

Tricia:             What is the typical attitude you see on the backside of the industry regarding what jockeys do to make weight?

Rick:               It is our dirty little secret.  If we ignore it, it doesn’t happen.  If it is talked about, it is made the punch line in a joke or funny story.  Jockeys are just doing what they feel they need to do.  It is what has been expected for 100 years.  I know Jockeys who have had their teeth eaten away by stomach acids from constant heaving.  Most trainers are realists and they feel sorry for the Jocks.  Unfortunately, the ones in the national spotlight seem to speak out against higher weights.  They, such as Wayne Lukas are so far detached from reality it amazes me.  They are posturing to their owners as having the horses’ best interests at heart.  In reality, owners and trainers who have track records and personal glory as their only interest in the sport, are bad for the sport.  Time has passed the Lukas’s of the world by.  The public is interested in the horse and the human interest.  For example look at Barbaro.  Does the public think less of him because he didn’t set a track record in the Derby?  The record is inconsequential.  The Horse was the story.  If you polled fans at the racetrack, very few would care what the Jockeys weight scale was, as long as the weights were fair.

 

Tricia:             What are your thoughts on the low jockey weight limits?

Rick:               I could care less!  As long as all things are equal, it doesn’t matter if all horses in         a race are carrying 118 lbs of 128lbs.  I watch our horses work in the mornings under 150 or more pounds, so why would having Jockeys riding at a decent, obtainable weight worry me.  Actually, by having jockeys riding overweight or cheating the scales is much more detrimental to the integrity of a race than having them ride at a higher scale.  We are expecting the Jocks to maintain an unrealistic weight.  Basing the scales on 100 year old numbers is asinine. 

 

Tricia:             Have these low jockey weight limits affected your jockey friends in any way?

Rick:               Yes, absolutely.  I know Jockeys who have to flip every day to keep weight down.  It ruins their health.  It ruins their quality of life and in some cases has led to suicide.  Imagine having to throw up every day of your life once or twice a day just to keep your job!  I really feel sorry for the younger kids today.  They seem so tall.  It will be a long torturous struggle for them if some sanity isn’t brought into the weight scales soon.

 

Tricia:             Have you ever seen a jockey cheat the scales so he or she will be able to ride?

Rick:               No, not personally, but I hear about it all the time.  In Nebraska there is a severe shortage of Jockeys so we are a little less concerned about weight out here.  An announced overweight of as much as 7 lbs, up to 125 lbs isn’t uncommon.

 

Tricia:             Do you support Shane’s fights regarding higher jockey weights and better jockey insurance policies?

Rick:               Yes.  Shane has my full support.  Jockeys have needed a voice to unite them.  Try racing without Jockeys.  I have been amazed that there has never been a nationwide strike, even for only one day.  To the average horseplayer or fan weights are inconsequential.  They just want things to be fair.  Shane isn’t wanting something that will only be of benefit to him.  He is taking a stand for all jockeys.  He cut his career short for his beliefs. 

I know the cost of insurance for hazardous occupations, having raced stock cars for a few years.  The costs of a blanket policy could be offset with a contribution from the breeding industry, simulcasting profits or from purse money.  Less than 1% would add millions to funding for Jockeys insurance programs.  Visa and Dodge sponsored the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup, maybe Blue Cross or some other Health Insurance company could step up to the plate and sponsor some insurance plan for Jockeys.  In turn, a logo could be worn by all jocks and references made in television shows and interviews.  Look what NASCAR has done with sponsorship!

 

Tricia:             How do you feel about Shane addressing the issue of low jockey weights in a book?

Rick:               I am so glad he has had the courage to do it.  This can only benefit the racing industry as a whole.  The public needs to know this.  We see only the happy, feel good stories on T.V.  Never the dark side.  The public needs to know.  This is a gigantic issue.  I admire and respect Shane for bringing it to light.  He could have shrugged his shoulders and gone along fighting his weight but he chose to take a stand for what he believes is right.  Not enough people are willing to lay it all on the line for what they believe.  We need more Shane Sellers’s and less sheep willing to follow blindly what is wrong.   Keep fighting for all, Shane!

 

Tricia:             Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Rick:               Thank you Trish and Shane for the courage to get this story to the public.  Shane was one of the top riders in the country.  He did not need to take on this fight.  He did this for all Jockeys.  I hope your sacrifice will one day be appreciated for the magnitude of what you have taken on!  The truth will set you free!   

LATEST ADDITIONS

Congratulations, Calvin!
(02 May 2010)
Jockeys: Bringing Hope Back into the Game
(06 Feb 2009)
Freedom's Rein Specials
(05 Dec 2008)
Book Signing Update
(12 Jul 2008)
A Fundraiser and a Charity Announcement
(31 May 2008)

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