Jockey Seefeldt set for Special, Preakness

STAKING HER OWN WAY

May 12, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

It was evident to Carol Seefeldt, a professor of early childhood education who has written 17 books on the subject, that her daughter, Andrea, loved horses, almost from the beginning.

"The children had show horses, and it was a really nice hobby," Carol Seefeldt said. "Everything you could want for children. They are up at 5 a.m. They muck the stalls and they tend to the animals as well as ride them. It's great for adolescents. But I failed to get them off those horses."

Andrea went on to become a jockey, and her older brother, Paul, is now a trainer. Neither completed college.

"To this day, I don't go to the races," Carol Seefeldt said. "I just don't enjoy it. But as a baby, when she could barely talk, I remember [Andrea] saying, 'Horsey Seefeldt, Horsey Seefeldt.' "

Andrea Seefeldt, 30, is about to ride three horses, collectively worth a couple of million dollars, in a series of three races that includes the Pimlico Special Saturday, possibly the Preakness next Saturday and the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park on Memorial Day.

Seefeldt graduated from South River High in Anne Arundel County with straight A's in 3 1/2 years, said her mother, who thought Andrea was taking an accelerated course load in preparation for college. However, Andrea wanted to speed through high school and start working at the track.

She has been a jockey on the Maryland-Delaware-Pennsylvania circuit for 13 years. But her early years in the business were a bust. It was a serious spill, when she fell and broke her pelvis in three places in 1988, that changed her career.

"I was pretty naive when I started," Seefeldt said. "I thought I would be this great jockey and that would be it. But I had trouble catching on in Maryland. I moved to Penn National, and there I pretty much accepted defeat.

"But then I broke my pelvis. During the three or four months I was off, I had this big talk with myself. It made no sense going back to riding if I was going to have that same kind of career. I thought I had been giving 100 percent. But I wasn't. So, when I did come back, I really applied myself."

About a year later, trainer Dick Small noticed her. Now, she rides the powerful string of stakes horses trained by Small, most of them owned by Baltimore County philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff. In 1993, Seefeldt had her best year, winning 10 stakes races and more than $1.3 million in purses.

That success is carrying into 1994. Through the first third of the year, most of it spent with a division of the Small stable in Hot Springs, Ark., Seefeldt won six stakes, and her mounts have earned more than $400,000.

She credits Small and Meyerhoff, "who have confidence in me and allow me to ride these wonderful horses." She is the barn's principal rider, but Small spreads out assignments among several jockeys.

"I don't ever assume that I am going to ride a horse back in its next race," said Seefeldt, who has been taken off horses in favor of better-known, male riders. "But it's an arrangement that I've come to accept. I feel it's just a gift to be able to ride these horses."

Small, in turn, gives credit to Seefeldt. "She concentrates well and is focused," he said. "She knows all the horses and is with us in the mornings. Every horse is a puzzle, and she helps me figure them out.

"Andrea and I bounce ideas off each other and try to keep an open mind about each horse. We talk about the horses and evaluate them every morning. A lot of people think that a flashier rider could do better. But that's not true. Andrea is a good rider. She's smart and knows when a horse is ready for a hard race.

"She's not afraid to tell me what she thinks about a horse after a race," Small said. "She's not some jockey making up a story to try to stay on the horse. A lot of times, she perceives things during a race, and we can translate that into some action to help the horse."

One example of Seefeldt's prowess is her handling of the filly Star Minister, a temperamental type who hated to be saddled, BTC hated the whip and "didn't want to be messed with at all," Seefeldt said. She wound up winning seven stakes, six of them for Seefeldt, and $458,600.

"Andrea is very talented and rides with an awful lot of finesse," said Jimmy Edwards, regional director of the Jockeys' Guild. "Star Minister is the classic example of what she can do with a horse. This was a very difficult animal to ride, and Andrea got as much run out of her as anyone possibly could."

Seefeldt's mount in Saturday's Pimlico Special is Valley Crossing. He is "so comfortable, riding him feels like sitting on a sofa," she said. "He's big and wide and tall and moves real smooth."

She could also ride in the Preakness if Meyerhoff and Small decide to run Looming. Looming turned in a sharp workout at Pimlico yesterday -- he breezed five furlongs in 59 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.

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