Q-Racing Blog: Cody Jensen on The Mountaintop

This top rider is riding to win.

Quarter Racing Journal

This top rider is riding to win.

Jockey Cody Jensen has been from the highest mountain tops to the lowest valleys and back again.

He is 40-years-old old with a pair of champion jockey awards with two wins in the All American Futurity among his 38 Grade 1 wins. He may equal his Grade 1 wins and his age in next weekend’s $1.2-million Rainbow Derby on July 23 and the $1 million Rainbow Futurity the following day.

Jensen qualified five horses for the Rainbow Futurity, including four for trainer Mike Joiner, and has the potent First Valiant Sign in the Rainbow Derby. He has a better chance to take both major Grade 1 stakes than any other jockey; je could be on the favorite in each race.

With all of his achievements, Jensen has met more orthopedic surgeons than he can remember.

“I couldn’t even start with as many injuries that I’ve had,” said Jensen while sitting under a cool tree by the Ruidoso Downs’ saddling paddock. “From nine major concussions, broken face, broken jaw, broken back in seven places, broken pelvis, femurs, knee surgeries — you name it, I can’t even begin to start.”

He also has a well-deserved reputation and one of the toughest riders in Quarter Horse racing history. After nearly every one of his serious injuries, when word gets out that he is coming back, the usual comment is, “He’s back, already?”

“I’ve always come back too quick, always,” said Jensen “You don’t get paid if you’re not riding. If you want to make a living, you get back on that racehorse. We don’t have the luxury of guaranteed contracts and the like. I’ve been fortunate to get injured in California and had to take a long time off. Even in a workman’s comp state (like California), they help you out generously. But, if you want to get paid, you get back in the saddle. If you don’t want to get branded in a negative light, you get back in the saddle.”

Jensen’s mounts have earned more than $1 million in 13 consecutive years. That includes nine years of $2 million or more in earnings and three years above the $3 million mark.

It’s about the money. “Winning another champion jockey would be great, it’s gravy, it’s icing on the cake. Winning another All American would be much more important,” he said. “Those are the things I look for now. The personal accolades are nice because everybody likes to be recognized for their hard work. The only leading rider title I want is that one to the far right of the column that has a dollar-sign in front of it.”

Jensen is the main rider for the Joiner barn.

“I’ve rode a lot for Mike over the years, a lot of back-ups for G.R. (Carter) when G.R. was riding so many horses for him. I rode a lot for his son Cody in California. So we’ve always done a lot of business together. So with G.R. retiring last year and with me riding so many of (R.D.) Hubbard’s horses, which were going to be in Mike’s barn anyway, it just kind of made sense and we hooked up.

“This is my first year riding first-call for him and we did fairly good in the (Ruidoso) trials, everybody has worked real hard — the grooms, the assistants — and now in (the Rainbow) trials we’ve worked on the things that the first set of trials showed that needed to be worked on and those horses have run a whole lot better with a race or two under their belt.”

Jensen understands that horses have ups and downs in their form. He uses that in his decision on which horses to ride.

“You pretty much know going into the trials which colts are coming around and doing well and which colts you’ve had your eye on for a long time. You know how much progress they’ve made between their last start and the trials. You just feel who’s trending in which direction.

“You kinda have it all figured out, unless something major happens, like one gets shin sore or there is a major hurdle for him to overcome that might influence your decision.”

The immediate objective is the Rainbow Futurity and Derby. The ultimate goal is for the horses to peak for the $3 million All American Futurity (G1) and the $2.5 million-est. All American Derby (G1) on Labor Day weekend. So far, so good.

“We had good horses in the favorable times of the day (during the Rainbow trials). When you get favorable conditions, you want to have a good enough horse in there to take advantage of those favorable conditions.” said Jensen.

“I’m starting to come around a little bit. I had a setback at Remington Park. I had a pretty decent go in the Ruidoso and things are looking up. I’m back to halfway healthy. It was a myriad of things. Twenty-two years of doing this catches up with your body.

“I’m still doing good and still enjoy it. We (with wife Amy) are starting to look at the end of it. The biggest thing is that you just need to have fun. When it quits being fun, it’s not worth doing it. It’s a job and nobody likes a real job. We’re damn sure in good shape (financially). We’re keeping it up. The getting hurt part is getting a little tiring.”

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqharacing.com.