Three years after scoring a milestone victory aboard Jaz N Tap, jockey Sophie Doyle is back on track with the 6-year-old-gelding.
The two first became acquainted when Doyle was establishing her riding career in Kentucky after being a successful jockey in her native England. On Nov. 26, 2014, at Churchill Downs, she rode Jaz N Tap to win her first race in North America. The victory served as a steppingstone for Doyle, who has won more than 140 races here.
In May, trainer Larry Demeritte told Doyle that Jaz N Tap had been retired after earning $108,844 in 39 starts for owner and breeders Mervin and Barbara McNamara. Doyle had ridden the son of Jazil to three of his four wins.
“I asked Larry if I could have him,” Doyle said. “I told him I had been waiting for him to retire.”
Doyle has started reschooling Jaz N Tap for a new career as a lead pony in which he will accompany other Thoroughbreds to and from the track for their morning workouts. The gelding, who had his initial retraining at Demeritte's nearby farm, here at Keeneland has received more advanced schooling in proper lead pony etiquette, which includes standing still as other horses cruise around the track.
“He is still racehorsey,” Doyle said. “He does not know he is retired.”
One technique Doyle uses to refocus Jaz N Tap's attention is riding him in circles, which teaches the gelding to wait for her next cue rather than following his former routine of sailing into a gallop shortly after arriving on track. These days galloping is rarely on his schedule.
“He needs to learn to relax so we spend a lot of time just trotting and walking,” Doyle said.
Jaz N Tap tends to be exuberant when his lessons begin but is more relaxed when he completes his sessions. On a recent morning, he was content to stand with other lead ponies as they and their riders observed the other Thoroughbreds in action.
The gelding has made steady progress in his transformation and likely will be a full-time stable pony this winter at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where Doyle again will spend the winter.