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2 out of 5 Stars
Who doesn’t want to travel the world and ride horses for a living? Thoroughbred racing has been the wealthy man’s pastime for the past century and is considered by some to be among the classiest organized sports. So it’s natural to assume jockeys are sophisticated men with adventurous lifestyles and easy jobs. Animal Planet’s “Jockeys” aims to debunk these myths by offering a glimpse into the harsh reality of the profession. Unfortunately, the myths are more entertaining than the truth.
“Jockeys” is filmed documentary-style, following seven professional jockeys through their successes and failures. The show focuses mostly on Joe Talamo, the arrogant young gun; Australian newcomer Kayla Stra, the undiscovered talent; Jockey Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who is determined to stay on top; and his girlfriend, Chantal Sutherland, a successful jockey in Canada who is trying to break into the tougher, male-dominated American circuit.
Apparently, being a jockey doesn’t just consist of sitting on a horse, steering it every once in awhile and hoping it’s fast enough. “Jockeys” makes sure to clarify the fact that these professionals are skilled athletes and racing is an extremely dangerous sport. The opening credits of “Jockeys” prepares audiences for a thrilling and action-packed view of a treacherous profession, featuring majestic shots of sprinting horses and dramatic silhouettes of jockeys. To top it off, Kanye West’s “Stronger” is used as the theme song. It quickly becomes clear, however, that “Jockeys” consists mostly of lengthy interviews. All the promised action is contained within a single race, which is over in one minute.
Sadly, jockeys also don’t live lavish, adventurous lifestyles. They are only paid the big bucks for winning a race, and they receive just a small fee for their efforts if they don’t finish in first. The show relies on the crucial incentive to win to increase the drama, but the emphasis on jockeys’ monetary struggles is just depressing and redundant.
Still, the show seems to be heading to more promising pastures. The relationship between Sutherland and Smith becomes increasingly strained when they begin competing against each other, and it won’t be long until the veterans need an outlet for the frustration the overconfident Talamo is causing. “Jockeys” uses the little suspense horse racing has to offer to its advantage, leaving some serious cliffhangers at the end of each episode. The premiere episode ended with a jockey falling from his horse in a race, but the show did not identify who fell. So if nothing else, “Jockeys” at least has compelling cliffhangers.
Animal Planet advertised “Jockeys” as a gripping documentary series, which created high expectations. In actuality, the show lacks any real excitement, leaving viewers with a boring and disappointing half hour. “Jockeys” would do better as a longer TV special since it doesn’t contain enough content to warrant an entire series. Viewers looking for suspense and drama in horse racing would be better off renting “Seabiscuit” than tuning into “Jockeys” on a weekly basis.