12/27/2012 1:57PM

2012 Year In Review: Q&A with Chantal Sutherland

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Shigeki Kikkawa

One of the top newsmakers of 2012, the Sovereign Award-winning jockey appeared on the HBO series “Luck,” got married, rode Game On Dude to victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup, lost that mount after a defeat in the Pacific Classic, and retired in October with 931 career victories, including the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap with Game On Dude.

How would you describe this year for you? I’m happy I did well. I got back with my old agent, Tommy Ball, and got married to Dan [Kruse], got to travel to Dubai, won a race at Woodbine for my brother, had success with Game On Dude, and I’m happy that I was able to step away without any serious injuries. I had a couple of concussions during my career, but other than that, the worst thing I had was a broken fingertip. That’s the only bone I ever broke. And I got to finish riding on a horse for my father at Woodbine.

Did you want to finish in front of family at Woodbine? That was my plan. My family was happy with my career. But they are also happy I’m retired.

Were you getting pressure from them? Not pressure, because they’ve supported everything I’ve wanted to do. But being a jockey is physically and mentally demanding. You’re up at 4 o’clock in the morning and you keep going until 7 at night, every day. When you’re in it, you don’t notice how much you don’t see your family and friends. But I met someone like my husband and also realized how much I was not seeing my family, and realized it was time.

Were they happy you decided to retire? When I mentioned it to them, it was like they went, “Whew, thank God.” I would rarely see my sister, rarely see my cousins. Now I get to see everyone. I’m not complaining about what I did. Being a jockey was great. But when you’re in it, you don’t realize how much else you are missing. It’s nice to have weekends off.

Are you going to be able to spend time with them during the holidays? My dad has had a house in the Dominican Republic for eight years, and we’re going there for the first time early next year. My sister came here and visited, and I spent a week with her in Ottawa. My mom is coming to visit. We’re doing lots of family stuff.

Are you and Dan going to take a honeymoon? We went to Hawaii before our wedding, so that kind of counts. We’re also going skiing later this month, and we’re going to Las Vegas for his daughter’s 21st birthday.

You had great success with Game On Dude, but you were taken off him after the Pacific Classic and before he ran in the Awesome Again. What did that horse mean to you? He was one of my favorite horses. Riding him was the most amazing experience. Even though what happened with him was heartbreaking, I wouldn’t trade the experience. I was happy he came back and won the Native Diver with Mike [Smith] on him. He’s such a neat horse. He knows when he loses. He knows when he doesn’t go to the winner’s circle. He’ll go to the back of his stall and put his head down.

What’s next for you? I would really love to be on a talk show, either as a host or co-host. I’m going to take acting lessons. I have the time now.

Did working on “Luck” whet your appetite for acting? I loved it. It was fun, interesting. I loved working with the directors. Actors get to do all the fun things. You work for a few months, then get time off. It’s not like being a jockey.

How disappointing was the cancellation of “Luck”? That was a bummer. But if it hadn’t ended, I’m not sure my relationship with Dan would have progressed. I was introduced to him when I was doing the show. I was working until 6 or 7 at night, sometimes 9. I had no life when “Luck” was on. When it ended, I was able to see him more often.

There was a lot of speculation that you retired in part to start a family. True? Not really. Dan has two kids. I used to want kids, but now I’m not really sure. I’m going to be 37 in February, so I still have time, but right now, it’s not something I’m looking to do. When I did the reality show [“Jockeys,” on Animal Planet] with Mike, I wanted do to it. It was something I thought of as the next thing you do next. But I’m not at that place now. Every relationship is different.

Do you miss the track? I love horses, but being a jockey is really hard work. You wake up in the middle of the night – “Did I miss my alarm?” You’re always on edge. But I want really badly to do some hosting at the Kentucky Derby. I was told I need more experience as a commentator, so I’m going to work on that. And I’m still going to come to the races every now and again, and once in a while maybe even work a horse, just to feel it.