Here's an interesting article on Kayla Stra:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 1BTA41.DTL
Aussie jockey on rise after northward move
Larry Stumes, Special to The Chronicle
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... z0f6enkhxU
(02-05) 20:39 PST -- Kayla Stra moved from her native Australia to Southern California in 2007 to enhance her career as a jockey, not to become a reality show celebrity.
The jockey part didn't go well, so in October she moved to Golden Gate Fields, where her reputation from participating in the Animal Planet television show "Jockeys" preceded her.
After winning just 17 of 410 mounts in her two years at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Fairplex, the 25-year-old Stra went 12-for-76 in the fall meeting at Golden Gate Fields and is 10-for-69 in the winter-spring season.
"I came to America because I had ridden so many races on so many tracks in Australia, and I wanted to learn more, challenge myself and do something different," Stra said outside the jockeys room at Golden Gate Fields.
Stra chose Southern California, even though she knew the jockey colony there was one of the world's toughest to break into, because her maternal grandparents lived in Fountain Valley (Orange County).
"I expected it to be really hard because I was coming from a different country and I'm a female," she said. "But I thought I would get more opportunities than I got. I never got the chance to ride the better horses. I thought, 'Well, they're testing me, seeing if I can improve slow horses.'
"I rode some longshot winners and thought that might make people use me more. Sometimes I would work (exercise) horses in the mornings for a few months straight, but they put someone else on them when they raced. A long time would go by when I didn't win any races. I just got so frustrated."
Stra's role on "Jockeys" also caused frustration because of the scripting and editing that occurs in all reality shows, but the money she received helped tide her over.
"I was really struggling just to pay the bills," she said.
During the Los Angeles County Fair meeting in September at Fairplex Park, Stra met Bay Area trainer Dennis Ward, who was planning to run a lot of horses at the ensuing Big Fresno Fair.
"By the time I talked to Dennis I was ready for something else," Stra said.
She began commuting from Fresno to Golden Gate Fields to work horses and become familiar to other local trainers.
"I would drive 3 1/2 hours to work horses here and then drive 3 1/2 hours back to ride in the afternoon in Fresno," she said. "I wanted people to see that I was all about hard work and dedication."
As a youngster in Adelaide, on the southern coast of Australia, Stra didn't always have a positive ethic.
"I got into quite a bit of trouble," she said. "I left school at 13. I had no goal in life; I just wanted to do whatever I wanted."
That changed when she got a part-time job for a horse trainer, Ray Moore.
"Once I left school and focused on horses, there was nothing else I could see myself doing," she said. "It kept a focus in my life."
Stra rode in her first races on bush tracks when she was 14 and had her first winner on an official track she was 17. She spent 4 1/2 years as an apprentice jockey and won more than 500 races in Australia.
While Stra has received mounts from many of the trainers at Golden Gate Fields, Lloyd Mason has put her on the most horses and they have combined for six winners.
"She is a very accomplished rider," Mason said. "She never gets nervous. She's calm and confident, and she translates that to the horses. The TV program helped because one of my owners, Ed DeNike, was really impressed by her appearances. He said, 'Put Russell (Baze) on first and her second' and that's what we're doing."
There is nothing wrong with being second call behind the winningest jockey of all time for a productive stable
"I'm riding consistently competitive horses," Stra said. "I'll be happy to stay here as long as that goes on."