When Chantal Sutherland-Kruse comes to The Meadows on September 23, her attempt to break the North American under saddle record for trotters will last less than two minutes. However, the event, sponsored by the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, has truly been a lifetime in the making.
While the actress and model is best known for her achievements as a thoroughbred jockey, her early years were spent on a small farm in Ontario, and Standardbreds played a major role in her life.
Hugh Sutherland, Chantal’s father, is a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, but his career as an entrepreneur eventually landed him in the Toronto, Ontario area, where he raised his family on a small farm.
Chantal, one of three children, took an early interest in horses, and like many kids, wanted a pony. According to Hugh, “I bought a pony and my older daughter, Dominique, rode it. Chantal did the harnessing, the leading, the tack, and as they got a little older, we bought a ‘real’ pony I guess you would call it, just under the horse level. We went to a lot of horse shows and won every one of them. We won the Royal Winter Fair which is a huge thing in Toronto.
“Then my older daughter, who was the better rider at the time, was asked to be on the Junior Canadian Team. But I’d have to buy a horse I said, and they were talking substantial money.”
Hugh decided to take a slightly less expensive route, purchasing a two-year-old thoroughbred, but it wasn’t what the girls had in mind. “They said ‘no, it’s got to be about 10 years old!’ so we sent him to the track and he raced for a couple of years.”
The Sutherlands eventually brought the horse home and he became a Three-Day Event competitor.
As the family interest in horses progressed, Hugh eventually found his way into the Standardbred business, and met Ohio-based trainer Garry Martin.
“I was racing in the North America Cup with a horse named Set The Trap,” recalled Martin. “He didn’t race well in the elimination but still qualified for the final. I had a local vet check him over that week, and the vet happened to be neighbors with Hugh, so he introduced us. Hugh had a few horses at the time and started sending them to me to race at The Meadows.”
Sutherland said, “I bought some cheap horses, $2500 claimers. I’d send some to Garry, then I’d buy one and train it on the farm myself with the kids, and we went to the tracks up here.”
It was then that Chantal gained valuable experience with Standardbreds. “She was small, so it was all she could do to get the horses checked up,” said Hugh. “Then we would throw her on the back of the bike and go. She liked that. She didn’t want to do all of the other work, but she enjoyed jogging.”
While the better horses would end up at The Meadows with Martin, the Sutherlands raced around the smaller tracks in Ontario with the lesser stock. “I don’t think we raced for 600 bucks,” said Hugh, “but it was a ball.”
Since he had room at his farm, Sutherland decided to branch out, and bought a Standardbred broodmare named Sure Schatzie. It turned out to be his best decision in the sport. “We bought her right after a race at Batavia Downs, brought her right home, and bred her to Cam Fella.”
Her first foal, Sure Cam, brought Chantal and Dominique back to Martin’s door. “Chantal and her sister dropped off Sure Cam,” said Martin. “I said to them that the horse looked like a little doe. I had to call their dad and say ‘Hugh, what is this thing.’ ”
But the little family horse turned out to be something special. “He never got very big, only wore a 52” hopple, but he chased Life Sign and some others around the track and the family did well with him,” noted Martin.
Sure Cam took a mark of 1:53f and earned more than $300,000.
Hugh, who still owns four Standardbreds, continued his success in harness racing with other foals of Sure Schatzie, including Sure Mac (1:50.4, $435,270), Sure Vivor (1:53.2s, $164,867) and Sure Fold (1:53.4, $162,419).
Chantal’s career, however, took a different turn. She went to York University in Toronto after being recruited there from Canada’s Junior field hockey team. Upon graduating, she surprised everyone with an announcement. “I remember sitting in her father’s living room when she came in and told him she was going to be a jockey,” said Martin.
Hugh Sutherland picked up the story. “I said, ‘You’re not going to the track.’ Well, she went, and she won the apprentice award the next two years at Woodbine. From there, she’s dragged me all over the world, to Dubai, to Santa Anita, to the Kentucky Derby to Breeders Cups.”
But while Chantal Sutherland-Kruse has become a star in thoroughbred racing, she hasn’t forgotten her background with Standardbreds. On September 23, she will attempt to set a new North American record for trotters under saddle on a 5/8 mile track. DW’s NY Yank, a winner in 1:52 at Pocono Downs on September 7 for trainer Ron Burke, will join her for the time trial. The goal is to beat 1:59.2.
It will mark the first time in years that Chantal Sutherland-Kruse has ridden a horse competitively that is not a thoroughbred – but it’s not a first, according to her father. “Years ago we had a pacer in to qualify at Orangeville. I think I blew a tire so I told her just to go out there and ride him. She did, but the judges didn’t know what to do with it. They had never had that happen before. So they made me requalify the horse.”
Given that harness racing under saddle experience – not to mention her thoroughbred work – Hugh Sutherland is quite confident his daughter will make the record happen. “I know one thing, if this horse can trot, she will get the most out of him.”
“She’s an athlete,” added Martin. “She’s very, very smart and very athletic. I think this event is great for both sports.”
Both Hugh Sutherland and Martin plan to be there for the record attempt, and both men have advice for Sutherland-Kruse. “I hope she warms the horse up herself before the mile,” said her father. “She needs to know what his gait is like.”
Added Martin lightheartedly, “She’s used to thoroughbred racing on a mile track. I think I’ll have to remind her it’s a 5/8 mile track. ‘Chantal, it’s THREE turns.’ ”
Post time for The Meadows’ card on Monday, September 23 is 12:55 p.m.
Chantal Sutherland-Kruse - Biography
Birthdate: February 23, 1976
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada
Residence: Sierra Madre, Calif., and Toronto, Canada
Family: Married to Dan Kruse.
Web site: www.jockeychantalsutherland.com
Career Stats (through Sept. 10, 2013)
Mounts 1 - 2 - 3 Earnings
7,366 931 – 932 – 989 $47,321,674
• Sutherland-Kruse returned from a brief retirement of less than nine months on June 8, 2013 at Del Mar in California. At age 36, she announced that retirement on Oct. 21, 2012 after riding two races at Woodbine Racetrack in Canada.
• Schooled with riders and trainers in the U.S. before accepting her first mount at Woodbine in 2000.
• Won her first career race on Oct. 9, 2000 at Woodbine on Silver Bounty, who paid $54.50 to win.
• Recorded her first stakes victory on July 28, 2002 at Woodbine when Biddy’s Lad took the Bull Page Stakes.
• Won her first graded stakes riding for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens on Smokume in Belmont Park’s Grade II Tom Fool Handicap on July 15, 2005.
• For a decade, she rode regularly at Woodbine with occasional visits to the U.S. to ride major stakes races and partial meets at Santa Anita and stakes at Saratoga.
• At Woodbine, she was finished second twice (2008, 2009) and third (2010) in the jockey standings and won five races on a single card on Aug. 9, 2008.
• A two-time winner (2001, 2002) Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s leading apprentice jockey. She had 44 wins for $1.7 million in earnings 2001 and 124 victories with earnings of $5.7 million in 2002.
• Rode 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to three stakes victories at Woodbine (Silver Deputy, Swynford, and Grey Stakes) and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita as a two-year-old before he won the Run for the Roses with jockey Calvin Borel the following year. That was her first of four career mounts in the Breeders’ Cup.
• In 2011, moved her tack to Southern California on a full-time basis after “commuting” between there and Canada from 2007 - 2010.
• Became first female jockey ever to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in 2011 and Grade 1Hollywood Gold Cup in 2012, both aboard Game On Dude.
• Also became the female rider ever to compete in the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup in 2012 with Game On Dude.
• Was narrowly beaten (by Drosselmeyer) aboard Game on Dude to finish second in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
• Had her best year in 2010 when she finished 13th among all North American jockeys with 152 wins from 1,050 mounts and $8,778,038 in earnings.
• Although Chantal was born on the Canadian Prairie, she grew up on a farm outside of Toronto where her father, Hugh, who owned a Canadian automobile accessories store, trained Standardbreds.
• Began riding at the age of five and soon started showing horses and taking part in dressage and jumping competitions.
• Graduated from Toronto’s York University where she majored in both psychology and mass communications. Played field hockey in college and competed for Canada’s junior World Cup team.
• Named to People Magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People” list in 2006 alongside such celebrities as Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman, she has also appeared in Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines.
• Appeared in the Animal Planet TV series “Jockeys” and the HBO show “Luck.”
by Jeff Zidek
for the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association