Female jockey set to make history

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Female jockey set to make history

From Comcast SportsNet
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Chantal Sutherland will make history Saturday as the first woman jockey to ride in the world's richest horse race. She hopes many more will follow. Sutherland will ride Game On Dude in the 10 million Dubai World Cup, the latest breakthrough for the 36-year-old rider from Toronto. She is one of several dozen female jockeys racing in North America, and perhaps the most well known. "I don't feel pressure. I feel really honored and grateful," Sutherland said. "As soon as the gates open, I think I've made history. I hope I'm one of many to come in the Dubai World Cup and hope I see more women making it at this level. There are a lot of great female jockeys." Sutherland remains somewhat of an anomaly in the male-dominated, tradition-rich sport of horse racing where owners often hesitate to give females a chance and women lack the kind of role models and support network enjoyed by the male jockeys. But the 12-year veteran said things are gradually changing. More women are getting rides in big races like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic. Their numbers are slowly increasing in the U.S., Australia and Europe. The industry, too, is starting to recognize the benefits of female jockeys -- especially when it comes to attracting a new audience to a sport that is struggling to stay afloat financially. "Sometimes, it is a little bit of a boys' club. I think all women can agree with me," Sutherland said. "However, sometimes I get a lot of support because I am a woman," she added. "I've gotten a lot of media attention because I'm a woman. I've marketed myself and by marketing myself I've gotten more opportunities to get on other horses and other owners want to ride me because of that ... It kind of balances itself out." Hayley Turner, one of Britain's most prominent female jockeys, agreed that attitudes toward women in racing are changing. She, too, will make history as the first woman to ride in a thoroughbred race at the Dubai World Cup meeting. She is scheduled to ride Margot Did in the Al Quoz Sprint, a Group 1 race that precedes the World Cup. "It is a first, isn't it? People will make a big deal of it," said Turner, whose profile has skyrocketed after she won two Group 1 races last year. "There has to be a first for everything," she said. "Next year when there are a few more girls, it won't be a big deal. I think it's been part of my career having these breakthroughs. It has been nice to be able to do it. But then it's nice now that it's normal as well. People can accept you for a jockey, rather than as a girl riding well." Sutherland, who first contemplated becoming a jockey at 13 after seeing a female rider sporting a bandanna at her local track, admits the early days were a struggle. She was told by Hong Kong race organizers that they didn't see the benefits of using a woman jockey and then was almost pulled off a horse by an owner in California who didn't realize she was a woman until she was in the paddock. She won the race but the owner never used her again. She also endured heartbreak in 2009, when 50-1 long shot Mine That Bird charged up the rail to steal the Derby. Sutherland had been his regular rider, lost him for two races during a change of trainers, then showed up at Churchill Downs three days before the race with a promise from one of the owners that she would get the mount for the big race. It went to veteran Calvin Borel instead -- she learned about the change in the Daily Racing Form. Sutherland said she never let any of those incidents get her down, insisting she "couldn't care less" when an owner over the years has doubted her ability. "You have to stick it through and believe in yourself. You can't give up," she said. "So many times people told me I can't do this or can't do that. My nature is that I don't listen very well. I'm very determined and I believe in myself. My parents brought me up that way. Thank God for that. I don't let anything stand in my way." By persevering, Sutherland has emerged as one of North America's top jockeys. She has earned 45.6 million in purses and won 908 races in Canada, Florida, New York and now California. She became the first woman to win the Santa Anita Handicap last year on Game On Dude and finished an agonizing second in the Breeders' Cup Classic in November, losing out to the long shot Drosselmeyer, who was ridden by Sutherland's ex-boyfriend Mike Smith. With the success have come opportunities off the track -- turning her into one of America's most recognizable jockeys. She has had billboards dedicated to her in Los Angeles and has been the face for jeweler Caldwell Sutherland designs. She has also appeared in several television shows, including the horse racing reality show "Jockeys" and the recently canceled HBO series "Lucky." While some jockeys may grumble that she gets the offers only because she is a woman, Sutherland embraces her newfound celebrity status. Mobbed by cameras on her arrival at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, Sutherland gushed how she "felt like a superstar." "As far as the other jockeys, I'm sure at first there was some jealously for the attention. But now, I think they sort of blow it off as 'she is the princess'," she said. "I hope they see it as a good thing for racing. Without the attention and without bringing more people to the industry, we are in trouble." Her rising stature has brought expectations -- a victory Saturday could further bolster her status and possibly lead to a ride in the Melbourne Cup or Royal Ascot. A loss, in contrast, could raise doubts about her ability to win big races. But Game On Dude co-owner Bernie Schiappa insists he is sticking with Sutherland "win, lose or draw." "She is a competitor. She is fit. She works very hard at what she does," said Schiappa, recalling her extensive preparations before the BC Classic. "Everyone says you can have a different rider. But you know what? She earned the right to ride this horse and she proved she can do it."

Matt Beleskey out six weeks with a right knee injury

Matt Beleskey out six weeks with a right knee injury

BOSTON – Some key Bruins players have missed a handful of games here or there already this season, but only this week did they suffer one of their first major injuries to a key player that will knock him out for nearly two months. 

Matt Beleskey will miss roughly six weeks with an injury to his right knee after the feisty forward was caught with a hip check by Tyler Fedun near center ice in Buffalo over the weekend.  Beleskey tried to instinctively sidestep the oncoming attack, but instead his lower half caught the brunt of the big collision with a young Sabres attacker. 

Instead Fedun caught Beleskey’s right leg with his hip check, and the gritty Bruins winger was knocked out in the first period of last weekend’s win over the Sabres. 

Beleskey was spotted walking with a bit of a limp during and after Boston’s 4-3 OT win against the Florida Panthers on Monday night, and armed with what looked to be a giant brace or cast on his right leg. It’s clearly a bummer for Beleskey that he’ll now miss a large chunk of time due to a freak injury, and the Bruins have to be disappointed at the timing of it all given how well Beleskey has been playing lately. 

The injury certainly opens up the third line left wing spot for a player like Ryan Spooner, who has struggled to find his right place in the NHL, or a player like Frankie Vatrano as he gets over the hump in his recovery from foot surgery.

Beleskey has skated in plenty of games with Boston in 2016-17, producing two goals and three assists for five points with 23 penalty minutes in what’s been better described as “bedlam”  after a slow start to the regular season. 

Julien: Pastrnak 'coming into his own,' has been Bruins' 'best forward'

Julien: Pastrnak 'coming into his own,' has been Bruins' 'best forward'

BOSTON – The Bruins are running out of superlatives for 20-year-old David Pastrnak at this point. 

The right winger continued his torrid goal-scoring pace in a breakout season with the B’s by scoring a couple of goals, including a dazzling overtime game-winner, in a 4-3 OT win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. 

Pastrnak now has 15 goals scored in 21 games this season for the Bruins, and has matched career-high for goals scored in a single season already with nearly three quarters of the season still left to be played. Only Sidney Crosby and Patrik Laine have scored more goals than Pastrnak in the NHL this season, and it’s a scary thought to imagine where the 25th ranked Bruins offense would be without their ascending superstar from the Czech Republic. 

Certainly the Bruins wouldn’t have taken two points from the Panthers without him: Pastrnak ended the overtime session quickly when he wheeled up and out of the offensive zone after getting the puck to David Krejci, and then gathered speed before taking the puck from Krejci, blowing the doors off Florida D-man Mike Matheson with a couple of moves and then easily beating Roberto Luongo with a game-winning goal. It was a highlight reel, electric overtime game-winner by any measure, but it’s also the kind of thing that’s started to become routine for an offensive player with as much speed, skill and creativity as anybody currently playing in the NHL. 

“He’s coming into his own, I think. There’s no doubt about that confidence wise, it’s at its highest right now and rightfully so. I think when you look at him skate – and not only in the goal, but even before the goal – he went after that puck to get control of it before that goal even happened,” said Julien. “So once you’ve got control and he moved it around and then got it into Krech’s [David Krejci] hands, at that point when he came back from circling just in the neutral zone a little bit, he had caught their defenseman flat-footed. 

“With that speed I guess there’s not much that D could have done, but what a great move. Obviously taking the time to lift the puck up was pretty impressive – especially that last move. So a nice goal and a great way for us to finish with that win. I think he’s been our best forward since the beginning of the year. So, no doubt it’s nice to see him growing the way he is right now.”

The second period goal was just as impressive for Pastrnak for all kinds of different reasons. The young right wing started a puck possession in the corner when he battled to hold onto the puck from his knees, and eventually worked possession up to Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron fired and missed wide on his chance at the net, but Brad Marchand grabbed the loose puck and uncorked a no-look, spinning pass to Pastrnak waiting in front of the net. 

The natural born scorer fired a laser blast past Luongo and temporarily gave the Bruins the lead in a seesaw game between Boston and Florida. All three of the forwards on the Bergeron line touched the puck on that scoring possession leading right up to the score, and it’s been part of the learning process for a player hitting his offensive peak in his third NHL season. 

“All the games I play beside Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and Marchy [Brad Marchand] and [with] those two guys it’s such a pleasure to play [with them] and learn a bunch of stuff, learning every single shift,” said Pastrnak. “They talk to me, tell me what to do, and then I guess [I’m] trying to listen. We have a lot of guys here who have been around the league for a long time, so they [are] helping us young guys. It’s really helpful.”

Now it’s Pastrnak tearing up the league in just his third pro season, and playing like he’s going to be “around the league for a long time” just like some of the players on the Boston roster that have jumped from a talented young player to the pathway to NHL stardom. The sky is truly the limit for a player in Pastrnak that can win battles, score goals and skate around in overtime just waiting to embarrass any defenseman that dares try and stop him.