Hawthorne Racecourse (2/18/11)
Contact: Ron Uchman
Inez Karlsson is nothing if not determined. When one opportunity ceases to exist, she jumps right into another and gives it everything she has.
She’s had incarnations as a boxer, she was the second-ranked light flyweight female boxer in Sweden in 2005; she dabbled in the world of Standardbred racing in Canada; and then went on a tear as a Thoroughbred jockey and was the top apprentice rider at Arlington in 2008. Later that year, during the fall-winter meet at Hawthorne Race Course, Inez became the first female rider since Zoe Cadman to win the riding title. She finished second in the Eclipse balloting in 2008 for Outstanding Apprentice Rider in 2008.
Now, however, Karlsson’s riding career is on hiatus. The reason? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Inez was originally sidelined in 2007 by a condition called endometriosis, a painful and often debilitating gynecological medical condition involving the female reproductive system. She underwent emergency surgery late in 2007 to relieve some of the symptoms, there is no cure, but the condition returned with a vengeance and she was forced to take off mounts late in 2010.
The other reason? She’s pregnant!
“The doctors told me that if I ever wanted to try have a baby, I should do it as soon as possible and they didn’t even know if it was possible.
“So, I had to make a tough decision. It was either trying to start a family now or never or to continue with my career. I was 27 years old and faced with that. I decided to try to have a baby. I don’t regret my decision at all. If I hadn’t of done it, I might never have had a baby in my life.
“I’m happy being pregnant. It’s hard not being on a horse. I’m too competitive to be just walking horses. I like to ride. I like to win. But, I made the right decision.”
The other good news is that Karlsson’s riding career isn’t over. She’s due in July and plans to start her comeback soon after.
“I’ve kept contact with those I’ve ridden for. Some have felt sorry for me but I don’t feel that way. I feel that I’m back where I started. I’m more humble now and able to appreciate things better.
“I’ve had a lot of success and it happened quickly. Because of that, I was probably blinded to a lot of things. It wasn’t that I didn’t care but now that I’ve had time to sit back and reflect, I feel that I could have done things better. I could have been a better person.
“So many people helped me. I now realize what a lucky person I am. It humbles you.
“Frank Kirby has been there for me all along. He gave me a job as a hot walker, letting me stay engaged.
“I’m going to have another chance. I want to start off on a different note. This time I want to tell people how much I appreciate them helping me.”
INEZ YET AGAIN
“I felt awkward,” Karlsson confessed when asked about her first day as co-host of Hawthorne’s prerace handicapping show. “I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy and am more comfortable in jockey silks than I am in normal clothes. So, I have the camera in my face, I’m supposed to give out amazing information, and I don’t even know how to place a $2 bet.
“But, I do know horses. I’ve been on a lot of them. And, I’ve always handicapped since I’ve been riding. I study hard. I think that I’ll continually get better and by the end of the meet I’ll be far more comfortable.
“I watched replays of all of my races. I would watch replays of horses I was going to ride to see how they ran in previous races. As a jockey, you handicap more from a personal perspective because you want to know how the race sets up for the horse you are riding so you know how to ride the race. In this job, you are still thinking about how the race is going to set up for all of the horses. This is deeper because you have to consider so many different angles that you wouldn’t have necessarily considered before. It is good for me. I have to think more. This can only help me when I get back to riding.
“I always thought I could win every race, even if my horse was 25-1 and nobody else thought I had a chance. I had to believe it. I handicapped every race, planning a scenario in which I thought my horse could win. I don’t have to do that in this job.
“While I still consider every horse in the race, I know that certain horses are going to have a far better chance. These are the horses that I try to select.
“I try to pick horses that aren’t heavy favorites. Anybody can pick a 3-5 shot off the toteboard. I’m trying to give reasons why other horses in the race can beat those heavy favorites.”
When asked if trainers would give her “hot” tips, Inez started laughing. “When you are on the racetrack all the time, you hear a lot of things. You hear the other hot walkers talking, you hear the grooms, you hear things from almost everybody involved in taking care of the horses. But, you don’t hear a lot from the trainers. Obviously, if a trainer thinks he’s sitting on a good horse and that the horse is going to go off at good odds, he’s certainly not going to tell me and have me ruin his price.
“But, I do have an advantage over people that don’t make it to the backside. I know how many of the trainers condition their horses, how they get them ready. This is information that I can provide.
“I’ve been hot walking for trainer Frank Kirby for awhile now. He really doesn’t tell me much about the horses. I have to figure things out for myself. But, I do pay attention in the barn. I know what the horses look like. I know if their coat looks good. I know how they are eating. I know how they feel when I’m walking them every day.
“Working for Frank in this capacity has been a great learning experience. They have a lot of horses to take care of back there. I’m amazed how Frank keeps everything together and how the entire group back there works as a team. I’ve never seen anything like it. Things can happen to disrupt the schedule but then everybody pitches it to get problems corrected.
“Frank knows everything about every single horse that he has back there. To have that many horses and know everything about them is amazing. I have to give him a lot of credit and I’m glad to be part of that group.
“I’ve spent a lot of time handicapping and I’m looking at more angles than ever before. I can’t help but believe that this will help me when I return to riding.”
We hope that happens soon.
Hawthorne Race Course is in its 102nd year of racing under Carey family ownership. Hawthorne races Friday and Saturday in February, beginning February 11. In March and April, live racing will take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday through the end of April. First post daily is 1:30 pm. For more information on racing at Hawthorne, visit our website at www.Hawthorneracecourse.com.