By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Flashing a million dollar smile, 23-year-old exercise rider Bailey Heggie jokes that she loves food too much to consider pursuing a career as a jockey.
“It was my dream as a little girl,” she says, “but I enjoy getting to go fast while galloping horses in the mornings. It’s enough to fulfill that thrill.”
Heggie does admit, however, that if she could ever manage to combine her love for horses with a television gig, she’d jump at the chance.
The petite Edmonton native got her first taste of riding and appearing on camera at the same time during the summer of 2014 at Alberta Downs Racetrack in nearby Lacombe. “I didn’t have any experience at all but they asked me to be a racing analyst from the paddock and talk to riders and winning jockeys on track for their simulcast television coverage,” Bailey says.
Lo and behold, it led to her appearing on national television with CTV during the network’s coverage of the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park in 2014 and 2015. Her assignment – on horseback – was to cover the post parade and interview the winning jockey.
The Northlands setting was familiar to Bailey, where her father Rod is a long time trainer with weekend help from her mom, Pam, a full-time nurse.
“My parents gave me my first horse (“Slewpy”) on my eighth birthday,” Bailey says. “That’s when I started show jumping. I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and travel to Florida to learn how to gallop on a private farm that some of my friends had recommended.”
She returned to Northlands to gallop horses for Greg Tracy before heading for Vancouver last year, where she worked for trainer Sandi Gann both at Hastings and during the winter season at Turf Paradise.
“I wasn’t aware that Sandi had put in a good word for me to Mr. (Glen) Todd, who watched me gallop and exercise horses for two weeks before hiring me,” Bailey says. “Now I’m a proud member of what I call Team Todd.”
And while she says she has ruled out a career as a jockey, Bailey continues to be on the lookout for opportunities to combine her passion for horses in front of a television camera.