Move over honey, I'm riding through Jockeys: Amy and Alciabades Cortez are a rare daily double a husband and wife who race against each other.

January 07, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

At first, Alciabades Cortez believed his wife was joking.

"I really thought it was bull," said the veteran rider on the Maryland thoroughbred circuit. "She talked about it, but I never thought she wanted to really be a jockey. This was like a big surprise. But I said we'll try it and see what happens."

Amy Cortez -- with some prompting from trainer Jerry Robb -- was dead serious about entering her husband's profession and, as an apprentice rider, is getting occasional mounts from Robb, one of the state's heavyweight horsemen.

So, Maryland racing now boasts one of racing's rarities: The Cortezes are the only wife and husband competing against each other as jockeys at a major track, according to officials at the Daily Racing Form. There have been a few in the past -- John and Mary Bacon come to mind -- but mostly at obscure tracks.

"We've been in a few together," said Amy, a native of Vermont who met her Panamanian husband when both were working at California tracks. "But, to be honest, I never even give him [Alciabades] a thought. He's another jockey."

That was obvious on Dec. 28 at Laurel Park, when Amy, an apprentice, scored her first victory aboard the Robb-trained filly Alden's Rainbow and overcame some steering problems to out-duel her husband -- on My Court -- through the lane to win by a neck.

Before the breakthrough, Amy had enjoyed several seconds and thirds. "I know she will do good because she's doing better every day," said Alciabades.

It was Robb who launched Amy's career, urging her to try the track after her long history of galloping horses here and in California.

"He asked me if I was interested, so it was kind of a mutual thing between Jerry and me," she said.

"I talked her into riding and she's coming along real nice," said Robb. "At first she had a little trouble at the gate. She was tensing up a little. But she's gotten over that now."

According to Amy, that problem involved only "one particular filly. I had a hard time with breaking her out."

If she needs tips, however, she need go no farther than the conversation at her dinner table. Alciabades is willing to help.

"Sometimes, she asks me things and I tell her how to break out of the gate," he said. "Pretty soon she'll be riding almost every day like me."

"He's been very helpful, as have all the jockeys," said Amy. "I didn't have any equipment, jockey pants, goggles, saddles, it was all given to me. Everyone has been real nice."

Included is fellow female jockey Jennifer Stisted, who was "a big help on what you have to do. We [female riders] have our own room and it's easy to talk."

Amy said if she had to battle a weight problem -- as some riders do daily -- she would quit in a minute.

"To be honest, I just wouldn't ride," she said. "That would take the pleasure out of it. Al is light, too.

"And I'm not in it for the money. I just love the business. That's why I always wanted to gallop and never tried riding before."

Amy's start was delayed last August when she broke her collarbone in a riding accident. And she didn't want to launch her jockey career at Timonium, the five-eighths-mile track with tight turns that can be dangerous.

So, her start came at Virginia's Colonial Downs in October.

"I'm still galloping and still undecided about riding full time, getting an agent, all that," she said. "We'll have to see what happens."

Pub Date: 1/07/98

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