Jock Talk: Emma-Jayne Wilson

Stat pack

  • 1,797 career wins
  • 126 stakes victories
  • Grade 1 wins: Interpol, 2015 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes; Lady Speightspeare, 2020 Natalma Stakes; Say the Word, 2020 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes
  • Top horses include Mike Fox, Just Rushing, Hunters Bay, Lady Speightspeare, Brooklynsway, Knocker, Magic Broomstick, Excaper, Count to Three, Tell It as It Is, Stunning Stag, Llanarmon, Shakhimat, Interpol
  • Posted 87 wins, including 13 stakes, in 2022, and recorded $4.1 million in earnings. Finished fourth in the Woodbine standings in both earnings and wins. Won four stakes with Who’s the Star (Grade 2 Autumn, Grade 3 Valedictory, Grade 3 Durham Cup, Niagara), a trio of stakes with Lady Speightspeare (Grade 2 Nassau, Grade 3 Trillium, Grade 3 Seaway), and Grade 3 Tampa Bay with Shirl’s Speight. Wilson is a finalist for the 2022 Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion rider

A banner season

“We were fortunate to have a lot of highlights from 2022. Looking at the Sovereign nominations list was a testament to that and to see so many of the horses I had success recognized. That was very humbling, to be part of those teams and see multiple horses up for year-end championship awards. Lady Speightspeare, Who’s the Star, Ready for the Lady, just to name a few. I think 2022 was an important season. It was the first full season where we’ve gotten back to the swing of things, post Covid. To have the year we did, to win the number of stakes we did, and stakes win percentage, it was a fantastic season. When I got the email to let me know I was a finalist for the jockey Sovereign Award, I was honoured. It’s something you work very hard for, to get that recognition, so to be on that shortlist, it’s pretty amazing.”

Hard work, strong will

“There were a couple times during the season that reminded me of how long I’ve been doing this. In 2018, it was bash and crash, and in 2019, it was the same thing. Then, in 2020, we had to deal with Covid, so there were a lot of hiccups along the road the past few years. I’ve been riding since 2004, so it’s been a while. I’ve won the Woodbine riding title twice, which obviously meant a lot. Any time you have a big season, you fight for it every chance you get. We have a deep and powerful riding colony, so it’s not easy. Those challenging years – we always say as jockeys that injuries are ‘when’ not ‘if’ – I hope they are behind me. I’m looking forward to having another big season and carrying over that momentum from 2022.”

Bouncing back

“I remember when I broke my arm, the first major injury I had. I had a liver laceration in 2010 and had to take time off. It was just giving my body time to heal. It took time, but it wasn’t that difficult, to be honest. When I broke my arm in 2019, that was very close to being career ending. I essentially shattered my arm and shoulder. At the time, you think you’re okay, that it’s just a separated shoulder. There’s a lot of hardware in there! In hindsight, you realize all the work you had to put in, the rehab, and the time you had to put in to get back. Going through that, it’s a part of the game just like it is for any professional athlete, you have a greater appreciation for the time it takes to get back in action, and what it means to stay fit and primed to compete at the top level.”

Looking ahead

“I’m really looking forward to being around the horses, good, fast horses. The top-level animals we get to throw our legs over, they are the greatest athletes I’ve ever been around, the ones who know what this game is all about. I find working with young horses fascinating as well. Being down here at Payson Park and Gulfstream, having that opportunity early in the season to watch horses develop and contribute to their education is really great. When they are 2, you have to teach them to be a racehorse. It’s the fine-tuning to help them reach their highest potential. That is just rewarding to be part of.”

Finish line

“As a woman in the racing game, the questions are often brought up to me surrounding my role in a male-dominated sport. Typically, it’s not a focus of mine, but I do recognize what it means to be a role model over the years to young girls everywhere. That’s an important thing I take very seriously. Having my own family, my own two girls, they are six and they understand the sacrifices we have to make. I’m in Florida and they are at home at school. We make the choice to go back and forth, here and there. They watch the races, they see the races, even when I’m at Gulfstream. Those two kisses I blow into the camera after I win are for them. It signifies the understanding of what they mean to me. Even though Mamma isn’t home to pick them up after school, they are on my mind and with me every single day. It’s important to be that role model for them as well.”