Following a winter in which she held her own riding against the best jockeys in Southern California while also participating in a reality series, Chantal Sutherland is coming home to Toronto.
And her focus will be trying to win the riding title at the Woodbine meet and continuing the quest to win a Queen’s Plate.
The 33-year-old Winnipeg native, who grew up in Toronto and was voted Canada’s top apprentice rider in 2001 and 2002, plans to ride full time this year in the Woodbine meet. She’ll come home for the opening weekend of the meet, beginning Saturday and concluding through to early December.
Last year, she ranked third in the Woodbine jockey standings before leaving early to ride in California. She also participated in a new series called Jockeys, which explored the world of professional race riding.
“I want to be top three in the standings. I actually want to be top two,” she said. “I’m going to work very, very hard. These are my dreams. These are my goals.
“If I am the leading rider, if I’m not, it’s OK. I’m happy — as long as I’m happy, healthy and making money. And that’s where I’m at. That’s my focus. My agent is working hard. I’m going to give it my best effort this summer.”
She has a desire to win the Plate and follow in the footsteps of Emma-Jayne Wilson, who became the first woman to win Canada’s most storied thoroughbred race two years ago.
“Emma is the queen. I want to be the queen,” Sutherland said. “That would be fun. I would love to win that prestigious race because I’m Canadian and I’m proud of that.”
As for the Jockeys series, which was shown on the Animal Planet network and broadcast in Canada on the Discovery Channel, it documented in part the relationship Sutherland has with fellow rider Mike Smith.
The two have been dating for four years. The series just wrapped up filming for a second season and will be broadcast early next year.
“I feel like I’ve marketed myself well,” she added. “I think to this point I’ve made some good decisions. People were saying I made a bad decision leaving Canada doing the Jockeys show. I think it worked out. As I saw it long term, I was hoping it was going to be a success, but I took a gamble there because I was doing so well.”