If you’re familiar with Woodbine’s big runners such as Marchfield, World Approval and Tepin, there’s a good chance you already know or have seen Jason Hoyte at the racetrack.
Although the Barbadian rider can’t take credit for riding the stakes champs under the wire come race day, Hoyte does get on them in the morning. Either in the shedrow or out on the track, the exercise rider is a key player in prepping them for their next big win.
Looking towards his future in the industry, the 33-year-old exercise rider is now eager to ride in the irons on the afternoon race card as well.
Hoyte actually re-launched his jockey career back in Barbados over the winter. The island, where Hoyte was born and raised is the same place where he began race riding nearly two decades ago.
Hoyte’s passion for horses obviously predates his passion for the sport itself. As a young teen he would ride horses in the Waterford neighborhood by the Combermere school. In 2000, at the tender age of 15, Hoyte got his exercise rider’s license at the Garrison Savannah racetrack. A year later he rode his first race at the Garrison, finishing third with Pillow Talk. Not long after he won his first race with Bill Marshall’s trainee Tikashar.
In 2004 Hoyte ventured up to Canada and began working as an exercise rider at Woodbine Racetrack.
“My first year in Canada I worked with Steve Owens,” said Hoyte, who then transitioned to Mark Casse’s barn a year later.
Casse’s racing outfit would be Hoyte’s home for the next decade and a half.
It’s easy to spot the stark red-and-white trimmed saddle cloths worn by the Casse fleet as they head out for morning training on Woodbine’s backstretch.
Look closer and there’s something else standing out among the fleet: a rider wearing a blue and yellow helmet with a trident – the colours and symbol that showcase and represent the Barbados flag. It’s also the helmet worn by Hoyte as he breezes horses from Casse’s contingent around the track.
Hoyte has ridden a lot of horses for Casse over the years. Not surprisingly, the rider doesn’t skip a beat in recalling several well-known stakes horses he was able to ride at the outfit.
“I rode Sealy Hill. I got on horses like Marchfield. I rode Tepin when she came here for the Woodbine Mile. I got on World Approval,” said Hoyte, who also goes by the nickname ‘Jet Lee.’
While Hoyte rides a handful of horses day in and day out on the backstretch, Tepin is one of those special horses the rider will always remember.
“Actually when Tepin was a two-year-old we were in Keeneland – David (Adams) and I. I was getting on her down there. When she broke her maiden I was there too,” said Hoyte of the multiple graded stakes winner. Among her list of achievements, Tepin claimed top honours in the 2015 Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Mile, the 2016 Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot as well as the 2016 Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
Back in the Game
Last season Hoyte was inspired by another rider and fellow jockey to get back into race riding.
“My really good friend Keveh Nicholls started riding last year and he got his weight down well. He had a really good program. He suggested that I try it. I did try it and the weight started coming off. I went to Barbados in December and gave (racing) a try,” said Hoyte, who knows that fitness is a key part of this game. Hoyte will be looking to tack 118 lbs. (with tack) come race day at Woodbine.
After almost a decade and a half out of the irons, Hoyte rode his first race back on Boxing Day at the Garrison ‒ an experience he will not forget any time soon.
“Honestly, that day I was so excited, my first race I rode. The funniest thing, when we went to the starting gate we had a 20-minute delay,” said Hoyte.
No doubt, with the sun beating down on the track, the anticipation continued to build in the jock’s mind.
Hoyte shakes his head before continuing. “When we got in the gate, I knew it was all business.”
While Hoyte didn’t hit the wire first, getting back into the irons definitely reignited the spark for race riding.
Later on in the day he guided Joshua to a fourth-place finish in the Gr. 1 Diamonds International and Crown of Light Stakes. Heading into the new year, the jock continued his riding campaign at the Garrison. In late January, Hoyte and Joshua teamed up once again, this time in the Hilton Barbados Resort Trophy Handicap. The duo were narrowly beaten by Voldemort and champion Barbadian jockey Rasheed Hughes.
Returning for the 2020 Woodbine meet, Hoyte is currently exercise riding for several outfits on the backstretch including Paul Buttigieg, Lorne Richards and Tedston Holder.
A date for the racing meet is still up in the air given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Hoyte will have to sit tight before he can fashion the silks in the afternoon. Since horse racing is deemed a non-essential business, Woodbine will not be able to resume regular operations until the Government of Ontario sees fit to do so.
On the bright side, as the weather does get warmer the Barbadian rider is still able to work and partner-up with some four-legged athletes in the morning.
“Honestly, the nice horses just give me encouragement. I love the horses,” said Hoyte.