he starting bell barely begins when the horses are already lurching forward, pulling child-sized jockeys on their backs who hold on with tight grips, as the horses race toward the finish line like rolling thunder.
The competitive spirit in the air has a celebratory feeling of nostalgia at the Hazel Park Raceway, where thoroughbred racing has not been allowed for 30 years-that is, until this summer. As the horses approach the finish line, lucky gamblers raise their hands with cheer and losers clinch their fists in disbelief. But it's all a part of the fun.
Jockey Glenmore W. Mayhew, who rode the horse "Sunny Isles Girl," came in third place. Not bad for the first race, he says. He will ride four more different horses before the night is over.
"My goal is to win. I'm riding hard to pick a good spot in the race and pick it up from there," says Mayhew, 51. A native of Jamaica, he has been racing since 1977. And, he explains, winning a race takes an equal effort from the horse and the jockey.
"It's like 100 percent with both of us. You've got to help each other. If your horse is not fit enough, there is a problem. And at the same time, the jockey has got to position himself enough in the race so that he can win," Mayhew says, explaining that jockeys must know how to shift their weight so horses can run faster at crucial times. "'Save some for the finish,' as they say, because you have to have strength in the finish."
Mayhew recently had a bone implant in his shoulder after suffering multiple dislocations. But since his return, he says his shoulder-and his will to win-seem to be holding up fine.
First-place jockey takes 60 percent of the prize money, second takes 20 percent and third place, 10 percent. As for the best part of his job, besides the money, Mayhew says, "It's fun. It's a great game. And I like riding out."