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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (3/20/11)

Contact: Ron Uchman
(708) 780-3700

BUGS: Cassandra Buckley

Apprentice Cassandra Buckley was born to party. Not really, but when your birthday is March 17 (St. Patty’s Day) you would seem to have a reputation to maintain. However, we didn’t go there in this interview.

Cassandra, who will be 23 next week, always wanted to be a jockey. “I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I was never around horses when I was young but I read everything I could find and watched everything that had anything to do with them. I started riding show horses when I was 15, kept at that for a while, and just kind of made my way to the racetrack.

“I started out hotwalking in the morning for a trainer named Jay Bernardini and I also held horses for my boyfriend at the time. He was a farrier (equine hoof specialist).

“I rode my first race on June 25, 2010, at Louisiana Downs in Shreveport, Louisiana. I won my third career race on the 4th of July. I rode nine races in Louisiana, went to Remington Park in Oklahoma until November when I broke my wrist.

“After two months off, I went to Oaklawn and tried to ride there but it is a very tough meet and the weather was terrible. In that first month there, we canceled almost as many days as we ran. I think I only had 11 races the whole time I was there.

“I wanted to go someplace where I would have the opportunity to ride more and to ride better horses. I thought that could happen in Chicago. Plus, I like the fact that the tracks are so close together and I could have some semblance of a normal life. Rusty Hellman and Danush Sukie also helped to convince me to come here.

“It’s kind of funny but I have a lot of people, mostly my family, calling me up and giving me advice. The funny part is that they have never been around horses either. Except my grandfather. He’s not really my grandfather but he’s that close. He gives me a lot of advice. When I try to defend something I did and say others do it too he gives me that ‘If others jumped off at the sixteenth pole, would you too?' I know, I know. I’ll try to remember.

“I really love riding. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I really like it here. I came up here, rode for two weeks, got two winners, and got engaged (rider Danush Sukie). What could be better?

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

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