in the saddle
jockey Lumpkins finds solace
on his Trimble County farm
travels the country each week to race
PROVIDENCE, KY. (September 2005) Jason Lumpkins is sore.
While seated on a black, L-shaped sectional couch in the family room
of the Providence, Ky., home he shares with wife, Dawn, and their three
children, the jockey explains to a visitor that three days ago, during
the seventh race at Delaware Park, he was unseated from his mount while
exiting the starting gate.
by Kathleen Adams
Jason Lumpkins admires some of his trophies from past races that
hang in his Providence, Ky., home.
The starter, when he released me, my left knee interlocked
with his right knee which threw me off balance, and the right-side of
my body raked all the steel when that horse came out. And I lost the
right rein because I hit my elbow. I tried to stay on the horse with
one arm. Forty yards out
I finally land on my head, and it didnt
Badly bruised, Lumpkins, 35, knocks three times on a wooden table and
says during a 17-year career hes never experienced a serious injury
on the racetrack.
In fact, Lumpkins says his worst spill came six months ago during a
race a Golden Gate in northern California. Thats when his mount
clipped heels with another horse, and Lumpkins was thrown to the ground.
When I went down, I pulled all the cartilage from the chest cavity,
Lumpkins said. When I quit rolling, she (horse) landed on top
of me. I had multiple fractures.
It was two months before Lumpkins fully recovered from his injuries.
Fearlessness is a characteristic many successful jockeys share. Taking
a 1,000-pound thoroughbred through tight, seemingly invisible holes
at 40 mph requires a sense of
Born: Martinsburg, W.Va.
Race Record: (as of 8/20/05):
In 529 starts, he has 90 wins,
71 seconds, 92 thirds.
Total Purse Earnings:
More than $2 million
(17 percent winning percentage)
fearlessness. Jockeys must also possess nerves of steel
in order to make split-second decisions as traffic on the racetrack
is in a constant state of flux.
When asked whether he has any fears, Lumpkins, who as of Aug. 20 ranked
84th nationally by earnings, hesitates for several seconds before responding.
I do have fears, but I dont bring them to the racetrack,
he said thoughtfully. Especially since my good friend, Mike Rowland,
was killed two years ago at Turfway Park. What if I was killed? What
if Im paralyzed? You have to think about it, and I do.
Worrying about his sons safety on the racetrack isnt something
that Phillip Lumpkins devotes much time to. Indeed, it is with complete
confidence that the elder Lumpkins proclaims his son the luckiest
boy in this world.
You sympathize with anybody who gets hurt, said the former
construction worker who lives just outside of Cleveland with wife, Marlene.
Jockey is one of the most dangerous jobs.
by Kathleen Adams
with son, Steve,
and daughter, Amanda.
Although born in West Virginia, Lumpkins grew up in Maryland
void of any particular fondness for horses. He remembers going on the
occasional trail ride with his mother, but claims he wasnt interested
in fast horses. Instead, Lumpkins was drawn to fast cars.
Always small for his age, Lumpkins parents placed him on growth
hormones for three years. But when medical intervention didnt
increase his size, Phillip and Marlene encouraged Jason to pursue a
career on the racetrack.
We figured hed be good because of his weight and size,
Phillip Lumpkins said.
As a teenager, Lumpkins initially rejected his parents suggestion.
It was a tug of war, Lumpkins recalled. I always wanted
to work on cars. It took a while. I wanted my own thing.
When he was 15, Lumpkins parents drove him to Pimlico, the historic
Baltimore racetrack where the Preakness the second leg of the
Triple Crown is run. He snuck onto the backside.
A sympathetic thoroughbred trainer put Lumpkins on a barn pony and something
clicked inside of the teen.
That was a great experience, Lumpkins said. It always
stuck in my mind.
Not long after, a cousin introduced Lumpkins to Dawn. The pair eventually
married in 1988. He was 16 and she was 18.
That was a crazy year, Lumpkins recalled.
Needing to support a family, Lumpkins opted for a job on a Maryland
For a year, he worked six-days-a-week grooming horses at Bonita Farms.
It was during Lumpkins second year at Bonita that he started exercising
thoroughbreds in the morning.
The only thing between you and that horse is what theyre
thinking and a bit of leather, he said. It was a lot of
work. I wasnt physically fit. It takes a month or two to get the
muscle tone correct to hold your own body weight up. Take all that stress
and multiply it by five to eight horses every morning.
Next, Lumpkins took out his jockey license, and on Mothers Day
in 1988, he rode his first race at Delaware Park.
Youre out in front of the grandstand with hundreds of people,
said Lumpkins who finished fifth in the six-furlong race. The
whole family was there. It was pretty intense.
Shortly thereafter, Lumpkins notched his first win aboard the filly
Su Ling Yourself, owned by sportscaster Jim McKay.
Dawn Lumpkins, 37, says when she married Jason, she had no idea what
it meant to be a jockeys wife.
by Kathleen Adams
and Dawn pose on their farm.
The stay-at-home mother and college student estimates
the family has moved some 28 times since 1988. Having lived everywhere
from Maryland to Florida to California to the Middle East, Dawn Lumpkins
says all three children, Amanda, 17, Steven 16, and Jayden, nine months
Its a juggling act, she said. He doesnt
get to come home much and when he does, it is rush, rush, rush trying
to do a million things.
As a group, Dawn Lumpkins says jockeys are as high-strung as the horses
they ride, and that affects family life.
Theyre high or theyre low, she said. Theyre
aggressive people and very competitive. The kids and I know if we watch
the races, and hes had a bad day, we scatter. He takes it home.
You know, people love a winner.
Part of the reason why the family moved three years ago from suburban
southern California to a 160-acre farm in rural Kentucky was so Lumpkins
could keep the racetrack at the racetrack, said Dawn.
We lived in a little house, and there was no way for Jason to
burn off energy. He loves living here. He loves living in the woods.
Scan the walls of Lumpkins living room, and its obvious the jockey
is comfortable outdoors. An avid hunter and fisherman, there are no
less than six deer heads mounted on the walls. A 35-pound salmon and
6-pound bass are also displayed.
Engaged in an unpredictable profession, Lumpkins wont speculate
as to how much longer he will ride. Ill do it as long as
the good Lord is willing to let me. I like the game now. Its in
Because horse racing is so volatile, Lumpkins says he wouldnt
encourage his children to take up the sport.
Youve got to be strong, he said. Believe me,
when youre down, it feels like rock bottom. You feel like everybody
is against you. Youve got to have the will power to go back out
there and keep hoofing it.
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