Ferrin Peterson, a 26-year-old from Roseville in Northern California, is an honors student in her fourth year of studies at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
She also rode Chocolate Goddess for trainer Aggie Ordonez in Friday’s second race at Del Mar, plus has another mount Sunday at Santa Rosa.
And you thought you had a busy and complicated life, didn’t you?
“I did have an agent, but then when my schedule at school got too complicated I decided to be my own agent the last few months,” Peterson said during a short break between exercising rides on six horses for three different trainers.
Peterson spent the month of June between Kentucky and Japan on a veterinary internship and the month of July in Dubai in a similar assignment. She returned just a few days ago.
“It took time away from the jockey thing, but I figure the stewards will give me the time back, because I had already started my bug (apprentice weight allowance) and hopefully I’ll get to keep it through Del Mar of next year,” she said.
Riding what amounts to part time since February, she has recorded seven wins from 65 mounts with five seconds and 14 third-place finishes. That’s three wins shy of having the “bug” dropped from seven to five pounds, where it will stay for the remainder of a one-year apprenticeship.
The Chocolate Goddess call was her first opportunity to ride a race at Del Mar. But she’s familiar with the track.
“I galloped horses here all last summer, mainly for Andy Mathis and Steve Miyadi,” she recalled. “I didn’t think I’d be back down here. I remember the last time I rode on the track last year thinking ‘I’ll never get to ride here again.’
“We don’t get a summer vacation the last year of vets’ school, but it worked out that I have a week’s vacation and got into an allowance race. I was blown away, I didn’t expect it at all.”
Peterson didn’t grow up in a horse racing family, but one that had some attachment to equines.
“My mom rode, casually, and she taught me how to ride.,” Peterson said. “I rode dressage growing up, but my dream was always to be a jockey.”
In the 13th day of the meeting, she was the first female jockey to ride at a track that, for one recent meeting, had five women in the jockey colony.
“No way!” Peterson exclaimed when informed of the situation.
“It’s a bummer that things haven’t progressed more. But personally, it makes me more excited. I’d like to take it on. Horse racing is male dominated, I know, but I like a good challenge.”
Chocolate Goddess, a 4-year-old daughter of Square Eddie, has three wins in 20 starts.
“I’d been working with the trainer (Ordonez) and we talked about how we both wanted to race at Del Mar,” Peterson said. “She told me, ‘I have this filly that might be my Del Mar filly,’ so I got on her to breeze her.
“I had to be at the (veterinary) hospital at that day and I live an hour from Golden Gate. So I drove there, worked her, and made it back to the hospital on time.”
The routine went on for a few weeks. Then Peterson had to leave for Dubai.
Races during Peterson’s stay in Dubai were considered as possible starts for Chocolate Goddess. Other riders had to be recruited for morning workouts, complicating the decision for Ordonez and the owning McLean Racing Stables whether to save the mount for Peterson or award it to another rider.
Peterson monitored the situation anxiously from Dubai.
“I was so excited when the owner texted me in Dubai and said I had the call on Chocolate,” Peterson said. “That was all I could think about the rest of the week there.”
Peterson’s given name, not exactly common, has significance in the family.
“It means ‘Iron,’” Peterson said. “Ferric is iron on the periodic table. My first chemistry class, when I saw that, it all made sense. My parents always told me, ‘You have an iron will and you’re tough.
“It kind of works with my science background too.”