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Jay Hovdey: Joy Scott's life a story worth telling
The six-furlong Arabian Derby scheduled atop the Friday afternoon program of Barretts Racing at Fairplex Park was billed with a $16,000 purse and drew eight of the dish-faced, high-tailed little critters, with both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds welcomed. A quick scan of the field revealed that almost all of them were bred in Texas – yee-haw – but a deeper drill into the nine running lines of the recent Ferndale maiden winner Vaz Djets On came up with a familiar name from a race at Fairplex exactly one year ago. Her rider that day was one J.M. Scott.
Without much doubt, Joy Marie Scott would have been riding in the Arabian Derby, as well as a few other events on the card, were it not for the events of six months ago when she was dumped and then trampled by a high-spirited young Thoroughbred on the backstretch at Santa Anita Park.
It happened on March 12. Over the ensuing weeks Scott, 54, was subjected to a brutal round of surgeries designed not only to repair the damage to her right leg but also to stave off the ravages of possible infection from compound fracture wound. I’d rather not draw a picture, so let’s just say the word “amputation” was mentioned more than once and leave it at that.
Through it all, Scott maintained a positive attitude that put a premium on what would happen next and how she would do everything in her power to turn a rotten piece of luck upside down. This was not her first orthopedic rodeo. That same right leg had suffered a terrible break a dozen years before. The message was clear, however: She would no longer be able to go to work as a jockey, no matter how deeply that identity was imbedded.
“The right leg is now shorter than the left, and I’m walking very unevenly,” Scott said from her residence in Pasadena, just down the road from Santa Anita Park. “That’s very disappointing for someone who’s been fit and strong all of my life.
“On the other hand, I can say that I’m glad to be alive and have my leg. You have to learn that your life is always going to keep changing, and you have to adapt. I’ll continue to appreciate my friends, my son, and all the love and concern I’ve been shown. I’ll appreciate what I have and work on the deficits. And I’ll write my memoirs.”
It should be a heckuva story.
Scott has been a paid professional since the age of 11, when she came to the attention of other horse enthusiasts at the Hansen Dam arena in the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles.
“I was riding around on a little blind pony with no bridle that I trained myself,” Scott said. “People would pay me to me get on their horses and straighten them out. When I was 15 I was breaking ponies for a woman named Loretta Crabtree, then I worked for the widow of the former L.A. police chief William Parker, exercising her horses.”
Scott’s early riding career took her all over the country before single motherhood convinced her to stay put in Southern California where she could raise her son, Jesse Sanchez, in one place. As a result, Scott knew her opportunities would be limited by the level of the circuit’s competition. Still, she rode all manner of longshots and managed to win nearly 500 Thoroughbred races.
“I didn’t have it very easy growing up,” Scott said. “I’m proud of the fact that I was able to make a living and provide some stability for my son.”
Sanchez now works for a non-profit educational organization based in New York.
“And he’s going for his master’s,” Scott said.
As a jockey, there was no brand of horse Joy Scott wouldn’t ride. When her business with Thoroughbreds suffered as a result of her 2001 injury she doubled down on Arabians and became the breed’s leading rider in California through the first decade of the new century.
“I rode endurance races – 25, 50 miles – before I came to the track, so I was very familiar with Arabians,” she said. “They’re easy to ride. And when I went to the races at Pomona last weekend I realized how much I really wanted to ride. It just feels so normal to get on a horse every day. You get up, you put your boots on, you get on a horse. And you know, my leg would have been okay. But not my back. I’ve got to have surgery now for collapsed discs, and there’s a fracture. I’m told they’ll probably need to insert some metal for stability.”
Scott is hoping for at least the semblance of a happy ending to her memoirs, one that finds her back in the saddle atop her pleasure horse, riding carefully around a ring.
“I know that I’ll be as healthy as I possibly can be,” Scott said. “I go to the gym every day for physical therapy. I eat right. I’m juicing. As far as writing, though, it’s easier to write about yourself as if you were someone else, but I know for something to have an impact it has to be personal.
“I went through life realizing that my life was anything but average, and very unusual. The world of the racetrack is like no other world, and some riders have a close relationship with their horses that most people just wouldn’t understand. But at the same time, the love of animals is universal, and the close relationships people have with their pets. I hope they’ll appreciate what I’ve been able to experience with horses in my life.”
Jay just got through reading you're wonderful and mean it 'Wonderful' story on Joy. And like her name states, Joy is what she brings to everyone who has met her,
Thanks again for another informative, well-written column
Hello Joy, it's been a pleasure following your career, when you were riding 4 1/2 furlongs at Los Alomitos your were hard to catch on the front end $$$$$, God bless you!!!
You go girl! Never give up, never. I wish I had half your bravery and strength. I wish you the best. Ms Scott's story is another reason to remember the DJF. They need our help and we should never forget that.
The chances of every day injury, or death, is part of the sport,,, that being said, your career, more than not, got young women thinking on those lines of a professional career as a jockey...RC
Thanks, Jay. And great to see that not everything on this site is for DRF+ users.
Met her earlier this year in the morning at Santa Anita. A lovely lady. I wish her nothing but the best.
What a great story. I hope she does write a book. I'll buy it
Thanks Jay for this well written story and update on one of racings family members, keep being strong Joy and at the end it will all come together just like you see it, I'm looking forward to buying your book and reading it. May God continue to look over you and your son Jesse and lets get that book published, it's a story that needs to be told. Best wishes on your continued recovery.
what a great story, thanks Jay
Offered to buy her a beer at Del Marabout 35 yrs. ago, she declined of course. Saw, and waved to her in the parking lot @ Hollywood Park, about 25 yrs ago, and finally talked to her @ Carlos's bar in the club house @ Santa Anita 2 yrs.ago. She even showed me the scar on her shin when she took a spill @ Los Al. Enjoyed meeting Her. What a cool Lady She is, so sad to here about her injuries...........