By Steven Buckner
Monday, April 27, Oldsmar, Fla.— After a good meet at Tampa Bay Downs, Rosemary Homeister Jr. is focused on the Kentucky Oaks on Friday May 1.
Homeister will ride Include Betty in the $1 million Grade 1 stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The Oaks, at 1 1/8 miles on dirt, is annually the feature race the day before the Kentucky Derby.
The Oaks will allow Homeister another opportunity to pilot Include Betty to the winner’s circle in a graded stakes.
On April 4, Include Betty was last in an 11-horse field after a half mile in the 1 1/16 mile Fantasy Stakes (Grade 3) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Under Homeister’s calculated ride, Include Betty rallied on the outside and won by a neck over the fast-closing Oceanwave.
The victory earned Include Betty enough qualifying points to make the 14-horse Kentucky Oaks field.
Homeister describes Include Betty as the “best horse in a big race.” She has ridden Include Betty in her last four starts–two of them wins at Tampa Bay Downs (TBD).
Include Betty’s sire is Include, a multiple stakes winner who also was a deep closer. She is trained by Tom Proctor, one of the many top TBD trainers for whom Homeister rides on a regular basis.
Homeister had 42 wins in 362 mounts at TBD this season. That places her fourth in wins for the meet that closes May 3.
It came as no surprise in the Fantasy that when asked to pour on the speed Include Betty responded well.
That was plan A, Homeister said during an interview at TBD on April 22.
But she always has a Plan B, in case the Plan A fails. Pre-race tactics and homework with the trainer set plan A. Included are the post position and field size.
Homeister likes to understand what the horse prefers and where the horse will naturally gravitate. Is it in traffic, or wide and out in front or in the back of the pack?
Horse racing is unique because it includes two minds. Homeister works hard to interpret her horse’s personality. It also must happen quickly. Many times she is scheduled to ride in back-to-back races.
“ I read the ears of my horse during the seven-minute warm up right after saddling,” she said
Homeister also utilizes the handling pony along side her horse to help keep her horse focused and settled. When the race begins, she takes control and works with the horse as one to be the smartest and fastest by race end.
A Racing Family
Homeister is warm and personable. She has a large following, she is a winner and racing is in her blood.
Homeister, who is 42, is a native of Hollywood, Fla. Her parents, the late Jim Homeister and Rosemary Homeister Sr., were both jockeys. Rosemary Sr. is a trainer with horses that run at Calder Casino & Race Course in Miami Gardens and at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.
The younger Homeister began riding in 1992 at Calder. She has 2,750 career wins as of April 24 and is second in all-time wins among women jockeys.
She looks forward to the prospect of breaking the retired Julie Krone’s record of 3,704 wins.
But that might have to come with a break in between. Currently, Homeister plans to race another two years until her daughter Victoria Rose begins school.
Victoria Rose is the center of the universe for Homeister. Before a race and after, she is thinking about her daughter. The 3-year-old loves to see her mother ride and she gets as excited as the fans seeing her mother race.
After work, the pair like to play by visits to Disney, zoos and water parks.
The petite mother does not work out or go to a gym to maintain her lean body.
“A race is equal to 20 minutes in the gym, plus the mental effort to win,” she said.
Surprisingly, Homeister does not desire to see her daughter to continue her path into horse racing.
Homeister has a winner’s circle ritual that she performs—either pointing directly into a camera, or a raised finger pointed to the heavens. The point to the camera is for Victoria Rose and the point upward is in remembrance to her late grandparents. Both randparents had great influence on her during her formative years.
Homeister says race strategy boils down to “move forward and turn left”. Accordingly, she attributes a successful race as one that has her finish safely and hopefully a winner.
“I must win,” she says with eyes flashing as she looks forward to the Kentucky Oaks.
*Include Betty is sixth in qualifying points for the Oaks.
The field looms as one of the strongest in the race in recent years. Birdatthewire, winner of this year’s Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade 2) will be among the favorites. Oceanwave also will be in the field.
Include Betty won the Fantasy at 18-1 and likely will be 10-1 or higher in the Oaks. The post position draw will be this Tuesday evening, and we will report on it.
The Oaks will be Friday’s 11th race at Churchill Downs, with scheduled post time of 5:49 p.m. Eastern. It is the feature on a day that will have six stakes races.
The NBC Sports cable channel will carry Friday’s Churchill Downs races from 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. TBD and Gulfstream will simulcast the full Churchill Downs cards on Friday and Saturday.
* This will be Homeister’s second trip to Churchill Downs to ride on Oaks-Derby weekend.
In 2003, she rode Supah Blitz to a 13th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Earlier that year, she and Supah Blitz came in second in the Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) and fourth in the Florida Derby (Grade 1) at Gulfstream.
* Homeister can be found at http://www.jockeyrose.com/
* Starting Wednesday, HorseracingFLA will have preview stories on the Oaks, Derby and other upcoming stakes at Churchill Downs. A big part of our focus will be on horses that ran at TBD and/or at Gulfstream this winter.
On Friday, we will handicap and publish our selections and suggested betting strategy for the Oaks. On Saturday morning, we will do the same for the Derby.