From an early age, Kyle Frey knew that he wanted to be a jockey. His grandfather, Paul Frey, won over 4,000 races in his career, mainly in the northwest. His father, Jay, spent time as a trainer and exercise rider and is currently a valet. Now, it’s the youngest Frey’s turn to be in the racing spotlight.
Just two months into his career as an apprentice jockey, Frey, 19, is starting to make a name for himself at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California. Through his first 45 mounts since getting his license in November, Frey has three wins, two seconds and five third place finishes. Frey’s career is headed in the right direction.
“Kyle is working hard, he has a bright future,” said his agent Ray Harris, who also books mounts for all time wins leader Russell Baze. “ He does everything we ask him to do. He talks to me about certain things and he talks to Russell a lot. To be successful you have to have a feel for it and be intelligent. He’s got a lot to learn but with the people around him, it’s not hard.”
Frey didn’t take the traditional route to wearing the silks. Instead, his path was full of ups and downs.
“When I was a little kid, my dad bought a horse off someone for a dollar. I rode it everyday for a couple of years,” Frey said. “ Then, when I was about 10, we had to get rid of the horse and I quit riding for a while.”
The “while” lasted about four years, years that Frey spent away from horses and away from his passion.
“I always wanted to be a jockey, It’s always been a dream of mine, ” he said. “It was hard not to ride for those years, but I knew eventually I would do it again."
His chance came when he was 14 and he began riding horses at his step-mothers ranch, where she taught horse jumping.
“Right when I got back on a horse, my smile went form ear to ear. I was just having so much fun,” he said. “ My step mom would tell me I’m a natural and give me a few tips and I guess I caught on pretty well
Frey made up for lost time by getting on as many horses as he could over the next few years. When he was 17, he went to Washington to work horses on a ranch, and after a while ended up living in a tack room at Emerald Downs, working horses for pay. He was working up to 28 horses a day until the business gradually decreased.
“He was up in Washington working horses and he told me he wasn’t getting on as many, so I said it was time to come home,” said Jay. “So he came down here and started working horses.”
Once back at Golden Gate Fields, Frey was given a boost by trainer Steve Miyadi. He cleaned stalls, walked horses and did whatever he could. In return, Miyadi gave Frey experience he needed on some of his horses. Finally, Frey was ready to make it official. Just a few months shy of his 19th birthday, he got his jockey’s license.
“My dad told me I can’t do it, more because he didn’t want me to get hurt,“ Frey said. “ He would show me some bad accidents on tape and say ‘you still want to do this?’ and I’d say lets go man, saddle them up.”
Frey’s first career win came aboard a 13-1 shot named Terina, on just his eighth mount. Ironically, he failed on his prior mount, an odds-on favorite, two races earlier. He said later that he rode hard on his winner because he was still mad from losing on a favorite. He showed a similar determination just two weeks later. Frey was unseated from a mount at the start of a race, when his foot hit the starting gate throwing him off balance. After escaping injury, he got up off the track, and won on his very next mount that day, a 56-1 long shot named No Nibbling. Frey is carving out his own niche as a rider, but he knows he has a lot of help.
“A lot of people told me you can’t learn how to race ride, until you race ride,” he said. “ I’ve got a lot of tips from Russell (Baze) and Leslie Mawing has helped me a lot. I felt I was ready. I would watch a race and want to be in them. I wanted to get out there and do some damage.”
When asked if the danger of the sport had him scared, Frey replied in a way that shows he is ready for all that comes his way.
“I always joke with my dad saying I’m too stupid to be scared. Once I’m in the zone, I don’t think about what can go wrong I think about what can go right.”
So far, a lot has gone right for him.