Roy Brooks is a legend in quarter horse racing. The jockey has won more than 1,700 times in his career and ridden in more than 12,000 races. At age 71, Brooks is still actively riding race horses today.
I started in 1967. I have been a jockey 45 years. There was one other rider from Michigan older than me, whether he retired this year or not, I don't know.
Maybe this year I will retire. I won the Heritage Derby (at Remington Park) in May and a reporter called me and said I became the oldest rider to ever win a race. I was 70. I take pride in that.
More than one person has asked me why I am still riding. I think that is what keeps me young and keeps me going. I get around pretty good.
I used to work harder at it. I am probably better because I don't worry about winning or losing now. I just go out and do my job.
The last couple of years I haven't ridden many races because in 2010 a horse flipped on me and broke my pelvis. The horse landed right in my lap. When 1,200 pounds land in your lap, that's not fun at all. Then last year I had a bad concussion.
Everybody asked me why I came back (after the injury). I am just a competitor. I just like the competition even though I'm much older than everybody that I ride against.
I grew up in Blanchard. I was always into sports when I was growing up in high school. Not too many people believe this, but I played football in high school. They listed me on the program at 125 pounds, but with my pads on I might have weighed 115. I was a halfback and defensive safety.
I started out riding when my dad bought some race horses. My uncle had race horses as long as I can remember. Jack Brooks is my cousin. He's got the big statue at Remington Park and he has won the All-American seven times as a trainer.
My dad had bought these race horses and one day I decided, ‘Hey, I'm little enough,' I will just learn how to ride them. I've told more than one person that I fell off a horse more than I was on 'em the first years I rode. I hit the ground a lot.
The horse racing business is more competitive now. There are lot more people that have good horses than when I first started riding.
In 1971, my cousin Jack Brooks had a stable of horses at Raton, N.M., at La Mesa Park. It's closed now. I went out to work for him. I took a leave of absence from my job at Western Electric. I won the Oklahoma Derby that year and I decided I might as well not go back to work (for Western Electric).
I have won a lot of races since then, but I can remember that like it was yesterday. I was so thrilled (to win the Oklahoma Derby) I couldn't even talk.
Riding a racehorse is like floating on air. The horses are running so smooth that you don't even feel them hitting the ground. And if you get to the front, that is even more of a thrill.
It's easy to keep my weight down now, but when I first started riding I had some trouble. I've had to do without food a lot to keep my weight down. But the weights of jockeys have gotten higher than when I first started.
I probably weigh now 122 or 124 pounds. The most I have ever gotten up to is 130. That's usually during the winter.
I just ride quarter horses. I rode at the ol' Blue Ribbon Downs (in Sallisaw). They had a track, Ross Meadows in Ada. I rode races all over Texas and Oklahoma. The last few years I have mainly ridden in Oklahoma, Texas and Ruidoso, N.M.
I rode in match races in Old Mexico for about 10 years. That was different. You couldn't pay me enough to go to Old Mexico now. I was pretty well known down there. Everybody knew me at every track I went to. They had a guard that stayed with me all the time to make sure nobody messed with me.
I think Remington Park is one of the nicest tracks around. I think it is one of the top tracks in the United States. I never thought I would see a racetrack like that in Oklahoma. I didn't think it would last. I thought it would run two or three years and then it would shut down. They have survived. Indian gaming has really helped a lot.
If you are going to be a jockey, you have to really work at it. You have to prove yourself every year.
I've heard stories about fixing races but I never knew about it. If they did, they kept it from me.
A few times I have gotten into fights (with other jockeys). The other jockeys didn't like the results. Normally, it's over a race, if they cut you off in a race or something like that.
Years ago when Remington first started, I was riding a lot of races and everybody knew me. They pulled this rider off (before a race) and put me on the horse. I won the race. The jockey was saying I was stabbing him in the back. He was mouthing to somebody else, but I overhead the conversation. I hit him twice and he hit the ground.
I always wanted to win the All-American Futurity. It will probably never happen. I've run second and third. In 1997, I was second and it paid $300,000.
My son, Jimmy, is a jockey. He is pretty good. He is 47. I get a lot of pleasure out of watching him.
This may be my last year. I just don't have the desire to get out there and get beat up. That's why I don't ride very many races anymore.