Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: From Mixed Martial Arts To Horse Racing 101

Theirs may be the only love story that begins with a conversation about Husqvarna chain saws and Thoroughbred horse racing.

Chel-c Bailey and David Kembrey met almost by accident. Each was in Las Vegas for a different reason; Bailey was living there and trying to make a go as a professional MMA fighter, and the English-based Kembrey was in the States for a bachelor’s party.

Somehow, they wound up in the same bar and got to talking.

“I guess you could call it fate,” Bailey said. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be a jockey, and he knew about racehorses.”

Today Bailey is living out that dream alongside her now-husband in Hot Springs, Ark. As a 10-lb apprentice jockey at Oaklawn, Bailey has won two more races since claiming her first victory on Feb. 28.

“We kind of took a leap of faith when we moved to Hot Springs,” Bailey explained. “He didn’t know anyone here, I didn’t know anyone here, but we heard they needed riders at the farms around the track.”

Bailey grew up around horses in Seattle, but never had much formal training. She would ride other people’s horses whenever she was offered the chance, and rarely bothered with a saddle because it just took too much time. Despite her passion for horses, Bailey got into wrestling in middle school.

“The passion for horses was always still there,” said Bailey. “Any time I’d drive by a horse, I’d stop and try to pet them!”

Workouts with the wrestling team quickly took up all Bailey’s free time, and she wound up a state champion in high school. The notoriety earned her a college scholarship to Oklahoma City University, which had the best women’s wrestling team in the country at the time.

When a few of the guys from her high school team decided to make a go at fighting mixed martial arts, they brought Bailey along for the ride. In 2016 she appeared in The Ultimate Fighter 23, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)-produced reality television series.

Eventually Bailey moved to Las Vegas with some other MMA fighters, and she won all three of her professional fights – the most recent was in 2018.

It was meeting her future husband that helped Bailey make the shift over to horse racing.

The couple landed with trainer Chris Hartman, and Bailey credits his wife, Hilary, with teaching her everything from hotwalking to galloping racehorses.

“Fighting and riding racehorses are both dangerous sports,” Bailey admits. “I’ve always liked going fast though, and I picked up on it quick.”

In order to make weight as a jockey, however, Bailey would have to drop 10 pounds of muscle from her five-foot frame. She contacted a few nutritionists and changed up her workout routine, and now tacks at 106.

“Wrestling and fighting uses every single muscle in your body, down to your toes,” she explained. “I had been building and bulking up my entire life, so now I’m doing a lot more running, more plyometrics. It’s kind of like a prison workout, just using your own body weight and focusing more on thighs, back and shoulders.”

There are some similarities between race-riding and MMA, Bailey said.

“In both sports, you really have to rely on your own intuition, your own knowledge,” she said. “You have to feel it out under you … You can have all the arm strength there is, but there’s a lot more finesse to it.”

Bailey aboard Babadoook for trainer Chelsey Coady at Oaklawn March 6

With the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, Bailey isn’t sure where her burgeoning career as a jockey will take her at the end of the Oaklawn meet. Kembrey has been galloping for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer at Oaklawn, and right now both are grateful to have the opportunity to go to work every day.

Wherever they go next, Bailey plans to aim high. She has no qualms about going after what she wants, and she’s willing to put in the work to get there.

“There’s no books for this, so it’s all been a learning process,” Bailey said. “You only get so much ride time in the afternoon, so you really have to work on doing the homework at home and working on it. I have a makeshift Equicizer right now, and I’m saving up to buy a real one.

“I’ve also been talking to a lot of jockeys about what I can work on. You know, with MMA and wrestling, you have a coach and the fights are one-on-one. Out here, it’s you against everybody else, and it’s so much more competitive … but I know that I have potential, and I’m going to keep on fighting.”

The post Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: From Mixed Martial Arts To Horse Racing 101 appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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