When jockeys mount their horses, they lean on their faith to keep them safe.
Just one verse each day.
We often read of baseball giants and football stars who are happy to share how their faith has played a huge role in their success, but a recent article in Arkansas Catholic gives us some insight into the importance of Catholicism for some other sports stars.
When jockey David Cabrera climbs onto his saddle, he is never without his scapular with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, sharing: “I wear it all the time. I never take it off.”
The racing champion has had a special devotion to our Heavenly Mother since he was a young boy. In fact, the native of Mexico explained how he reached out to Our Lady of Guadalupe when he was an 8-year-old boy struggling with school:
“I prayed with all my heart. That miracle that I needed, it came true. So, I always think, no matter what it is, if I ask with a lot of faith and with all my heart, eventually things come around, and things smooth out.”
Cabrera’s love for Our Lady of Guadalupe was also on display — far from the racetrack — when he took part in a procession for a special Mass in December: “I always wanted to do something like this. They were looking for volunteers to help carry the statue because there were not enough guys. It was heavy. It was a blessing to me, to be able to carry her.”
The winner of last season’s riding title at Oaklawn Park also talked about the importance of prayer before each race, explaining: “I pray a lot before the races and sometimes after the races, just to thank God for his blessings.”
And Cabrera is not alone. Cristian Torres, a 25-year-old jockey, shares how he has seen other jockeys relying on their Miraculous Medals that they insert into the back of their helmets before each race.
While Torres doesn’t wear any Catholic sacramentals, he does rely on Scripture in his risky profession, explaining:
“When I go into the (starting) gate, I always say to myself, ‘I’m in your hands in this race, God,’ and I feel I’m covered. Every morning, my mom will text me a prayer, and she lets me know she’s always praying for me. I go peacefully to work.”
Veteran jockey Jon Court, 62, also talks of the role of faith in his profession over the years:
“Through the years, I’ve seen some riders adamant they wear a certain saint medal or crucifix. I’ve seen them down on their knees, kissing a medal.”
Court, who has been described as an “unfailingly polite man” by ESPN, also relies on the Word of God:
“Throughout the day I meditate on certain Scriptures. I guess my go-to is Psalms and sometimes Proverbs. I enjoy the Old Testament equally as well as the Gospels. It does a lot of things. It gives me confidence. It gives me a sense of presence and a sense of security. It’s very dangerous out there. We have to make split-second decisions.”
And Venezuelan jockey Francisco Arrieta, 34, gives a little insight into the clergy who are at hand to also lend their support to the riders:
“We have the chaplain in the jocks’ room, and he prays for everyone for safety, for everyone who works with the horses. Every time I get on a horse in the post parade, I say, ‘God, please take care of my horse and take care of me, in Jesus’ name.’ I’ve been doing that a long time. I put my trust in God.”
This trust helps Arrieta to keep things in perspective when things don’t go as planned on the track. “He has a reason. He knows everything. He has the last word.”