Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, May 03, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/03/2012 #

In Today's Notes: Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. Starting a New Life; Arlington Opening Also Offers Mid-America Triple Preview at Churchill

Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. may be a new name on the Arlington racing program this summer, but she's hardly a new name to racing fans around the nation.

Her mother and father were both jockeys, her own distinguished riding career began 20 years ago, and during the summer of 2009 she surpassed the legendary Patti Cooksey to become the second leading female rider of all time behind Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone.

After riding her first race at South Florida's Calder Race Course in March of 1992, she moved her tack to New Jersey's Monmouth Park that summer to earn leading apprentice honors at that Jersey Shore oval and later won that year's Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding apprentice jockey.

She's won leading rider honors at Hialeah Park and Colonial Downs, been second leading rider at Tampa Bay Downs and Laurel Park, ridden once in the Kentucky Derby, and barring the unforeseen, the 39-year-old (and proud of it) native of Hollywood, Florida will reach the 2,500-career win milestone soon after the Arlington season gets underway Friday.

Why is her name Rosemary Homeister Jr.?

"It all began because my mother and I have the same exact first, middle and last name," she has explained on her website. "When I started my riding career the public thought that mother was training and riding for other trainers. That caused a conflict of interest with the bettors, so I came up with the idea to put the 'Jr.' at the end of my name and it stuck. I am legally not a Jr. – only in racing."

However, to confuse things further, now Rosemary Homeister Jr. has a daughter – Victoria Rose, born eight and a half months ago.

"I had to retire briefly last year to go home and have my baby," Homeister Jr. said this week in Chicagoland, where she has been in residence for two weeks while breezing horses in the mornings at Arlington for locally-based trainers like Christine Janks, Donnie K. Von Hemel, Michele Boyce, Mike Stidham and Mike Dini."To be honest, I wasn't too happy when I first found out I was going to have a baby," Homeister said. "I knew I'd have to give up riding – at least for awhile – and during the course of my pregnancy, I gained 50 pounds. Shortly before I delivered, my weight topped out and 162 pounds and I thought I'd never get to be a jockey again. I felt trapped in my own body.

"But as soon as they pulled that baby out and laid it on top of my stomach, everything changed for me," Homeister said. "They told me that a baby usually bonds with the mother right away, and as soon as they gave her to me she stopped crying and starting cuddling with me. I felt this immediate rush of love – this absolutely overwhelming feeling of love came over me. It was a truly amazing experience. The best blessing I have ever had.

"Now, I feel like I'm at a great stage in my life," Homeister said. "I went back to the gym soon after my daughter was born, hired a personal trainer and began to lose the weight while building my strength back as soon as I could. I'm very happy to be back riding even though I've already had an awesome career. (Trainer) Eric Reed and his wife Kay have been very helpful to me in getting my riding career back. I like to say he is my manager but he is also my daughter's godfather. Now, I want to do everything for her. Her health and happiness are my main concern, but I also feel very blessed to be back riding once again and being able to stay in one place all summer long by riding at Arlington."


It's opening day of the 2012 Arlington Park season Friday in Chicago, as well as Kentucky Oaks Day in Louisville, with full-card simulcasting from Churchill Downs available for Arlington's guests throughout Friday's gala afternoon.

However, in addition to the 138th running of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday as the feminine counterpart to Saturday's Kentucky Derby, the Twin Spires oval will also host the 20th renewal of its Grade II $200,000 American Turf for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16-miles over Churchill's Matt Winn Turf Course.

Churchill's American Turf serves as a precursor for Arlington's Mid-America Triple over Arlington's grass, beginning on May 26 with the 78th running of the prestigious $125,000 Arlington Classic, continuing with the 97th renewal of the Grade III $200,000 American Derby on Million Preview Day July 14 and concluding with the 36th running of the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes as part of Arlington Million Day Aug. 18.