“This is a roller-coaster business and I was more than happy
to get the call.”
You better believe he’s glad he took that call! Johnny V. is the jockey who rode Animal Kingdom to victory in this year’s Kentucky Derby. How the two found each other and raced into stardom is a tale so improbable that if Dick Francis had put it into one of his novels, old timers at the track would have shook their heads and said no one would believe it. A substitute jockey and a horse that had never raced on dirt team up to win the fabled Derby? No way, Jose!
Three things had to go wrong for Johnny and his horse to ride their way to the Winner’s Circle. First, Johnny lost his original mount, Uncle Mo — the Derby favorite — when the horse had to be scratched due to illness. It was the third time in three years that Johnny’s Derby ride had vaporized for one reason or another. Second, Toby’s Corner — another Derby contender — suddenly came up lame, forcing his trainer, Graham Motion, to find another contender. He picked a colt named Animal Kingdom. Third, Animal Kingdom’s regular rider broke his nose.
So Johnny V. ended up on a horse he’d seen only on video — a rookie colt that had only raced a few times only on artificial turf. But in the end, none of that mattered. The feisty horse and the fearless jockey blasted their way to stardom.
The secret of their success? Their attitude. “He was so relaxed,” Johnny V. said of Animal Kingdom. Though they were bottle-necked in 12th position on the backstretch and the noise was deafening, Animal Kingdom just cruised along until Johnny asked him to step on the gas. “When I asked him to run, it was amazing,” Johnny said. Instead of trying to control the horse, the wise jockey adjusted to his rhythm and let the horse run his own race. Fantastic!
As writers, we’re in a roller-coaster business, too. So often, in our writing and our lives, we fight for control, when what we really need to do is to let go. When we give up “efforting,” that’s when the magic happens. Have you found this works for you? Where’s your rhythm today? Write on!