(Johnathon Curtsinger / From Facebook Page)

How Does It Feel to Win Your First Race as A Jockey? 

Amazing. Simply. Amazing.

By Dennis Trusty

Johnathon Curtsinger, a friend of mine, got his first win as a jockey on August 12th at Belterra Park in the Cincinnati-area. It came in the 5th race, and both the new rider and I wanted to take race fans through what it feels like to win your first race.

Here’s some background:

Johnathon is 26 years old. He was born and raised in Louisville, KY.  He started galloping for accomplished trainer Wayne M. Catalano about 4 years ago — back in 2019.

Johnathon was riding in races before then, but that’s when he felt like he was learning a lot about being a real, competitive and, eventually, a successful jockey.

The road to today has not been simple or easy, either. He didn’t take a normal route, as in a horse race. Not one start. Not one finish line. In this case, there have been several starts. There have been a few stops. But now, it appears, the career may be headed in the right direction at just the right time, too.   

Many of us will never have the chance or the privilege to ever experience such an exciting event. But, without a doubt, it is a challenging endeavor; it is a risky proposition; it is a tough trip; and it is very rewarding when you are sitting on a horse and on top of the world, at the same time.

So, in his own words, Johnathon takes us through what it felt like from midway in the stretch — when Monkey Zone started pulling away — to the moment both he and horse were walking into the Winners Circle? 

“Honestly, I have been in the lead before in the deep stretch and was caught and passed. And I knew the favorite was a closer and was rallying, and all I could think about is pushing him as hard as I could until I got to the wire. And then after the wire was the moment of realization, that this was finally THE ONE that I finally won. For me walking into the winner’s circle, one word, surreal,” Curtsinger said. 

What was it like to win for your father, who owned and trained the horse? 

“My dad was the reason I had the dream and wanted to become a jockey,” Curtsinger said. ” He’s really the one who pushed me and supported me every step of the way. There’s definitely some tough love in there as well because he tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. So, to win for him, especially the first time, it just made it feel more perfect.” 

What did it feel like riding in your first ever race? 

“It was at Turfway Park, I was a little intimidated, mostly excited, and a cold since it was at Turfway. And all of that went away when the gates opened”     

Who was the best horse you rode and what did it feel like? 

“For me Aloha West, and I rode him in the mornings before and after The Breeders Cup Sprint. And it felt like a special horse that was underneath me. We knew he was a brilliant horse. Up until when I won my first race, the biggest highlight in my career was helping him prepare for The Breeders Cup Sprint.”  

What’s the hardest thing to do as a jockey to get to the point of getting your first win? 

“The hardest part is training your body, and conditioning yourself to wake up every day, and continuing to workout, and stay as fit as I possibly can to do the best that I can for the horse, the owners and the trainers, during the races.”  

What jockey has taught you the most? 

“Joe Rocco Jr and Channing Hill have helped me out the most, for example when I won my first race, I used Channing Hill’s saddle. The people who taught me the most about riding races is the entire jockeys’ room at Belterra, especially John McKee.” 

Where can we look for you and what circuit are you on? 

“Breezing horses at Churchill Downs and The Churchill Downs Training Center, and at Belterra and riding races in the Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky circuits.”