Jockey does it his way, and it’s starting to pay

Jockey does it his way, and it’s starting to pay / Harvey has been on roll since spring

Photo of Larry Stumes
baymeadows_190_df.JPG Jockey, Barrington Harvey gets weighed after the 4th race. Bay Meadows Race Track in San Mateo , the longest continually running racetrack in California may soon close. Deanne Fitzmaurice / San Francisco Chronicle
baymeadows_190_df.JPG Jockey, Barrington Harvey gets weighed after the 4th race. Bay Meadows Race Track in San Mateo , the longest continually running racetrack in California may soon close. Deanne Fitzmaurice / San Francisco ChronicleDeanne Fitzmaurice

Barrington Harvey has eked out a meager existence as a jockey for years, riding longshots for trainers who rarely win and, thus, rarely winning himself.

From 1998 through this year’s winter-spring season at Golden Gate, Harvey won with 147 of 2,459 mounts — 5.98 percent. Since then, he has won with 35 of 245 — 14.29 percent — and he led all jockeys at the San Joaquin County Fair with 11 victories.

“I just keep working at it, and I’m being rewarded for my perseverance,” Harvey said. “I always knew I could do it, and I’m getting better opportunities now.”

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Harvey was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and at age 43 he retains only a slight accent.

Harvey moved to the West Coast in the early 1990s on the advice of trainer Quentin Miller, who also grew up in Jamaica.

“He told me I’d be able to do all right because there are so many levels of racing, from Santa Anita and Hollywood Park to Bay Meadows and Golden Gate to the summer fair circuit,” Harvey said.

Harvey’s recent success began at the Bay Meadows spring season, where he went 8-for-48 after a typical 3-for-92 meeting at Golden Gate Fields. While three of his winners at Bay Meadows paid more than $30, he also had ones that paid $4.80, $7.60 and $11.20.

Trainer Ellen Jackson has been using Harvey regularly.

“I’m one of those trainers who like to have a rider in a race who gets on the horse in the mornings (for workouts),” Jackson said. “He gets along with all sorts of horses. One of the reasons he had trouble getting mounts in the past is that he doesn’t keep an agent. I think he would be a leading rider if he would ever have a decent agent.”

Harvey also differs from other jockeys in the methods he uses to control his weight. Instead of spending hours in the steam room — or sweat box, as it is not-so-affectionately called — before the races, he can be found jogging around the track or jumping rope.

“The sweatbox can be physically and mentally draining,” Harvey said. “You can come out of there light in the head and dehydrated. I like to run 5 miles four or five times a week.”

Harvey has four mounts today at Golden Gate Fields, including American Patrol, one of the favorites in the eighth race. He is scheduled to ride one horse Saturday and four more Sunday.

“I try to get him whenever I can,” said Jackson, who will give Harvey a leg up on 8-to-1 shot Northern Comet in today’s sixth race. “He’s lovely and so honest and straightforward. It’s not for a lack of work ethic that he hasn’t done better. Some riders won’t work a horse for a small-time trainer, but he always does. He’ll come back after a race or a workout and give good information on a horse. He’s helped me out and my horses are running well because of him.”

Harvey receives $50 per mount, so if he can ride 15 horses a week, he can get by, but that hasn’t always been the case. The real money comes from winning because a jockey then receives up to 10 percent of the horse’s purse earnings.

“I’m really excited because I can look forward to making a comfortable living,” Harvey said. “There’s no going back to what it was like before.”


— Larry Stumes

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