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(Note: This is an expanded version of an article posted Nov. 21 on HorseracingFLA.com)
By Jim Freer
Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. is taking what she calls a leave of absence from riding and has started a career as a personal fitness trainer and nutrition adviser.
“This is not a retirement,” said Homeister, who is second to the retired Julie Krone in all-time wins among female jockeys in North America.
In a phone interview this past week, the 43-year-old Homeister said she is not ruling out a return as a jockey. But she emphasized that she feels the timing is right for a career change, partly to cut down on travel so that she can spend more time with her four-year-old daughter Victoria Rose.
For most of the past decade, Homeister has spent winters riding at Tampa Bay Downs and the remainder of the year based in Chicago while riding mostly at Arlington Park and Hawthorne.
Homeister was fourth in victories with 42 during Tampa Bay Downs’s 2014-2015 meet. Officials of the track in Oldsmar had expected that she would ride in its 2015-2016 meet, for which opening day is Saturday Nov. 28.
But Homeister recently told The Tampa Bay Downs publicity office that she instead is staying in the Chicago area to work as a personal trainer and launch a fitness and nutritional advice web site.
(Note: The photo on the home page is of Rosemary Homeister Jr. riding at Tampa Bay Downs in April 2015. It was taken by Steven Buckner, our Tampa Bay correspondent and photographer).
She is starting as a personal fitness instructor at Heroic Fitness in Hoffman Estates, Ill., where she already has a base of several clients.
Homeister said she is fulfilling “a passion for helping people stay fit and have a healthier lifestyle by improving their diet and nutrition.”
Record as Jockey
For 23 years, Homeister has shown a passion and dedication to her work as a jockey.
She has 2,784 wins. Krone has 3,704.
“It would take at least five years and maybe ten to catch Julie, but that has never been my focus,” Homeister said. “I want to spend as much time as I can with my daughter and be the best mom that I can be.”
Homeister also has won legions of loyal fans through the combination of her riding skills and outgoing personality.
She is a native of Hollywood, Fla., and grew up in that city that is near Calder Casino & Race Course and Gulfstream Park.
Her late father James Homeister and her mother Rosemary Homeister Sr. were both jockeys. Rosemary Sr. is a trainer who raees horses at Gulfstream and at the Gulfstream Park West meet now being run at Calder.
Rosemary Jr. began her jockey career in 1992 at Calder. She won 172 races that year and earned the Eclipse Award as champion apprentice jockey.
Calder was her April to December track during the first half of her career. She has won 1,037 races at Calder, putting her among that track’s top ten in all-time wins. She led jockeys in victories at the 1992-1993 Tropical at Calder meet.
In addition, Homeister led jockeys in victories at Hialeah Park in 2001. That was the most recent year in which Hialeah had thoroughbred racing.
Homeister said her biggest racing thrills included riding in a Kentucky Derby, a Breeders’ Cup race and a Kentucky Oaks. All of those races are Grade 1.
She finished 13th on Supah Blitz in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. As the only female jockey in the race, she was a celebrity in Louisville during the week before the Derby.
“It was an unforgettable experience,” she said. “Everywhere we went, people knew me. Some of stores put up signs that said ‘Go Rosemary.’”
When Homeister and her mother arrived at Churchill Downs on Derby Day they were taken to a reception where they met, among others, Donald Trump and daytime TV star Susan Lucci.
“They were as excited as we were excited to meet them,” Homeister said.
Prior to the Kentucky Derby, Homeister at Gulfstream rode Supah Blitz to a fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and a second place finish in the Fountain of Youth which was then a Grade 1 race. Supah Blitz was trained by Manny Tortora, the all-time winning trainer at Calder.
In 2009, Homeister finished second on Cloudy’s Knight in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita Park.
This year, she rode Include Betty to a ninth place finish in a field of 14 in the Kentucky Oaks
Earlier in 2015, she rode Include Betty to victories in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and in the Fantasy Stakes (Grade 3) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
Homeister retired from riding in late 2004 and became a real estate agent in South Florida. She returned to riding in 2006, when the housing market was in early stages of what would be an epic downturn.
In addition to her real estate license, Homeister has a personal trainer’s certification and is a notary public. She is studying to earn a sports nutritionist certification.
“I have always had a back-up plan in place,” Homeister said. “As a jockey, you can get hurt any time. I wanted to be ready to make a change if I needed to stop riding.”
Homeister’s injuries from spills in races have included a broken hip and two broken arms
She noted that jockeys always need to focus on diet and exercise to keep their weight down.
Like other jockeys, she has needed to work out to maintain a fitness level while recovering from injuries.
In addition, Homeister gained 50 pounds during her pregnancy. She learned more first-hand about fitness training and nutrition while losing wight to return to riding in 2013.
Have information about her work as a fitness instructor and in distributing nutritional products, as well as her guidance about exercise and eating right,
Homeister said she plans to live in the Chicago area for several years and then move to the Tampa Bay area.
And while not using the word “retirement,” she is talking as if she has ridden her last race.
“I have loved the fans and the horses, and have had a lot of excitement over 20-plus years,” she said. “I decided it was time to stop. I am thankful that I can walk away on my own terms.”
Homeister’s most recent race ride was in the eighth at Arlington Park in Sept. 26. She rode Spark Kit to a second place finish.
Whether or not that was her last race as a jockey, one thing can be said in certainty: Rosie, it has been a great ride for you and your family, friends and fans. You have made a lasting mark on thoroughbred racing, especially in Florida,