An Interview with Kristina McManigell

By Michael Lipack at…

The question was basic, but the answer was a surprising. Kristina McManigell, the 22-year old jockey from West Salem, Illinois was asked “What was the greatest moment in an 800 plus start racing career?”

You would figure it would have been the first race she won on January 7, 2010 in Tampa Bay aboard Real Stormy. It was not. Or it was winning the apprentice title the same year at Tampa Bay. Wrong again.

You would have thought it was one of the 77 races she has won in her 894 mounts. No it was wasn’t.

It’s a tough business for Kristina. All the glamour people think envelopes the racing game really amounts to a lot of hard work. But, like so many things in life, work is only way to go to the top. An average day for Kristina starts at 6 AM exercising horses at Parx. “The jockey colony is quite competitive and you must get out there, work, and meet trainers to get your mounts,”┬áKristina told me.

Later in the day, she makes a two hour drive to and from Penn National to catch a mount, making distance traveled each day substantial. But there are no complaints from Ms. McManigell, just a laugh. “I needed to catch up with my sleep, I was tired after my long day” which included four hours of driving.

A graduate of the Chris McCarron’s North American Riding Academy in Lexington who grew up near Ellis Park and cleaned stalls while in high school, she spent a few years in jockey school and received three horses to care for a year before moving on.

Kristina’s resume would show three rides at Churchill Downs, and exercise riding for the sports greatest trainer, Todd Pletcher. “That was a great experience riding for Pletcher”. One of McManigell’s goals is to ride in a race for Pletcher’s stable, as well as winning a graded race like the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup event.

McManigell admires Emma Jayne Wilson and her rising abilities. They rode for a short time together and shared the jockey room at Parx. Others who helped her in her career are Rosemary Homeister Jr, Jill Jellison, and the great Calvin Borel.

Right now Kristina’s campaigns on the Philly circuit. It’s her against the guys, but this doesn’t bother her. However, its tough on her, with the constant idea of needing to prove she is ok after her January 17 accident on a 7,500 claimer named High Fly Amore. High Fly Admore had taken the lead in upper stretch and began to edge away “I thought I had another winner”. Instead the filly broke down, sending McManigell headfirst to the track.

Kristina scoring her first victory on Real Stormy (inside).

It was quite a scare. Her agent Joe Pagliei was quoted as saying “When I got to her she was moaning and didn’t know her name”. It took few months to recover from a fractured neck. But this didn’t stop Kristina, but it was important once she got back to prove she was not scared to go through any opening in front of her or ride any horse.

She also needed to prove losing the 5lb bug was not a problem, and that she could win as a journeyman. Her record for the year was 225 mounts with 25 winners, 25 place finishers, and 26 thirds answers that question.

But after all the accomplishments, the spills and thrills, what was the highlight of her short career? It was September 2, 2010 at 5 PM. She rode 13-1 shot PJs Lil Toni to a second place finish at Saratoga getting beat by Ramon Dominguez. Finishing second after leading by as much as 3 lenghts was a disappointment because
McManigell does agree ‘winning is everything”, but riding with the best is the thrill all jockeys strive for.