06/15/2005 12:00AM

Loseth hangs up tack, moves to next phase


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Chris Loseth, the all-time leading rider in victories and stakes wins at Hastings, has retired. Loseth made the surprise announcement midway through Sunday's card.

"I woke up Sunday morning and just decided that this was the last day I'm going to ride," he said. "I normally pull two or three pounds in my whirlpool at home, and when I got into the pool Sunday morning, I felt good about it being the last time."

Loseth, 50, won 3,668 races in his career, and his mounts earned more than $32 million. In addition to being the leading rider at Hastings eight times, he won the Sovereign Award as the leading apprentice in Canada in 1976 and as a journeyman in 1984. His best day as a rider was on April 9, 1984, when he won eight races from 10 mounts. While most of his victories were at Hastings, he also had success at Longacres and at northern California tracks.

Those are pretty impressive numbers for someone who was told by more than one person that he would never make it as a rider.

Loseth, who grew up primarily in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, had wanted to be a rider since he was 10 years old. After reading an article about John Longden winning his 6,000th race at Hastings (then called Exhibition Park), he told his parents that when he grew up he was going to be a jockey. His first mounts were on horses used by hunting guides, allowed to roam free on the ranges near Fort Nelson when they were turned out during the off-season.

"Any horse that my brother Jim and I could catch, we would ride," he said.

When Loseth graduated from high school, he headed to Hastings and hooked up with trainer Alan May, who wasn't exactly encouraging about Loseth's chances of being a jockey.

"He told me that I was too small," said Loseth. "He said I could be a hotwalker, though, and that's where I started."

According to May, Loseth deserves all of the success that has come his way.

"There wasn't much to him, but he worked extremely hard to build himself up," he said. "He was so small that he could only fill the water buckets up halfway, and then he would fill them after he hung them up. He was dedicated, though, and he would move about six tons of hay every day in order to build up his strength. He's still one of the hardest workers around."

May also said that Loseth had a lot of learning to do after his first full season of riding at Hastings, in 1975. He recommended that Loseth spend some time at the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita that fall.

"He learned a tremendous amount down there," said May. "When he came back in 1976, he was a complete rider, and he won his first jock's title that year."

Loseth recalls how green he was when he rode his first race at Kamloops in 1974.

"It was on a horse for Dave Forster named Too Many Things. I finished second and interfered with every horse in the race except the winner," he said. "But, I got him, too. I almost put him over the fence when we were galloping out. Aubrey Davies, who was the racing secretary at the time, told me I would never make it as a rider and that I should start looking for another career."

Loseth avoided any serious injuries throughout his career, and his strength and athleticism probably had a lot to do with that. One of his most memorable rides was when a horse he was riding in the mid-1980's was forced into the rail approaching the first turn at Hastings. Loseth actually came off the horse, bounced off the rail, and landed back on the horse.

"I think I ran about three steps on top of the rail before I was able to get back on the horse," he said.

Loseth lists his victories in the Longacres Mile aboard Travelling Victor and Kid Katabatic as his proudest achievements. His favorite horse was Delta Colleen.

"She was truly special," he said. "I've never ridden a horse that kicked in like she did. I'll never forget when she won the Belle Roberts at Longacres. We must have been 15 lengths behind at the quarter pole, but by the time we hit the top of the stretch we were in front by two. It was an incredible feeling."

Loseth isn't looking back, though. He's looking forward to being an assistant trainer for his wife, Tracy McCarthy.

"One of the reasons I retired was because I wasn't totally focused on riding," he said. "On post parade I used to think about how I was going to ride that particular race, but lately I've been thinking about the horses Tracy and I are working with. The time is right. I'm healthy and I'm really looking forward to devoting all my time to our horses."

Loseth thinks the reason he was so successful at Hastings was his aggressive style.

"You have to get a good position going into the first turn," he said. "I was never afraid to put a horse in the race early when it might not have been his preferred running style. I won a lot of races that way."

Loseth is the president of the Jockeys' Guild of Canada, and he plans to carry out his duties until the end of the year.

Keith Smith, senior steward at Hastings, summed up the way many people at Hastings feel about Loseth.

"His talent, integrity, and overall contribution to racing has been unequaled at Hastings," he said. "He'll certainly be missed."