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Fort Erie Exercise Rider heading to C Cup Classic in Calgary

FORT ERIE, September 27, 2018 - Becoming a jockey has always been a dream for Kate Pendergast, an exercise rider and pony person Kate Pendergast at Fort Erie Race Track. She will be getting the opportunity to live her dream when she takes part in the annual C Cup Classic (formerly the Powder Puff Derby) at Calgary’s Century Downs Racetrack and Casino in October.

Put on by the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society as part of their On Track to Beat Cancer initiative, with the assistance of the Canadian Amateur Jockey Association, the race involves amateur jockeys raising funds for cancer research through pledges. Although the race has been held before, this year it will be an official pari-mutuel wagering event for the first time.

Pendergast grew up riding horses on her family farm. She started working as a groom in 2003 at Fort Erie Race Track, and became an exercise rider the next year. She always wanted to be a jockey but says she is too tall to make it work as a career, however her love for horses and passion for the sport has kept her involved in the racing industry. “Fort Erie is my home away from home, and the horses are second to none in terms of feeding the soul,” said the rider, who is also an AutoCAD technician at Oakhill Environmental in St. Catharines. “I’ve worked at other places but I keep coming back to Fort Erie. It’s a great environment with such good energy. I love it.”

Although she has lived around horses her whole life and is familiar with horseracing, Pendergast has gone through three months of vigorous training to prepare herself for the race, similar to what is needed in order to get an apprentice jockey licence. She had to get recommendation letters from racing officials, undergo special training on the track and starting gate, and also pass a physical and eye test. She will even be required to make a weight of 135 pounds in order to participate in the race.

Pendergast said she has received a lot of support from the barn that she works for. Trainer Rob Johnston has been giving her extra horses to gallop, and colleague Danielle DiBert, who has many years of experience as a jockey, has been coaching her along the way. “Riding in an actual race is a different style of riding than what I am used to, and Danielle has pushed me out of my comfort zone and has been coaching me through it,” she said of her colleague who encouraged her to take part in the event. “I know I wouldn’t be able to do this if I was doing it on my own.”

The cause is one of great importance to Pendergast, who was five when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. “My mom is a cancer survivor, and the only reason she is still here is because she was an advocate for herself and went to three different doctors when she knew that something was wrong with her health. Part of the reason why I’m doing this is because I want to raise awareness about cancer and encourage people to get tested.”

There are currently seven amateur jockeys who will take part in the race on October 6. This year, all funds raised will be donated to the Calgary Prostate Cancer Centre.

On Sunday, September 30, Pendergast will have a booth set up at Fort Erie Race Track during racing to answer questions and accept donations. First race post time is 1:20 p.m.