Jockeys premieres Friday at 9 pm, February 06, 2009, on Animal Planet. I received the press material kit and was able to watch episode one. My copy had no commercials so it was a crisp and very watchable 22 minutes. Episode one and Episode two will be shown back to back from 9pm-10pm on the 6th.
The series is a behind the scenes look at seven Jockeys. It was filmed at the 30 day Oak Tree meet @ Santa Anita this past fall. It is filmed in typical "reality TV" style with quick edits, voice overs, music beds and interviews of the jockeys.
Episode One, titled "Starting Gate" eases the viewer in, with the wise choice to introduce only 4 of the 7 jockeys featured in the series. The remaining 3 Jockeys are introduced in Episode two, titled "One Good Horse". We also get to see Zenyatta in Episode Two, and what fan would complain about that?
Episode one starts with a feature on the budding rivalry between 18 year old Jockey Joe Talamo and Aaron Gryder. The episode features both racing at Fairplex Park, two days before Opening day at Oak Tree. The episode than jumps to Santa Anita, where Canadian female Jockey Chantal Sutherland comes to California to race the Oak Tree meet. We learn that she has been dating Mike Smith for 1.5 years and will be moving into his condominium. Like all good reality shows, you got to have a romance, and it is clear that the producers will focus on this romance throughout the series.
Animal Planet does not pretend that the series is a hard core look at racing. The series narrator (never seen on camera) even describes basic information such as what a "scratch" is. The producers have written the narration as if they expect many of the viewers to be track maidens.
The press materials released by Animal Planet describe it as a "docu-soap". That is exactly what it is, and the series is heavily edited and packaged to emphasis the personalities of the Jockeys.
For those who only look at racing as "gaming" and not a sport, I doubt this show will appeal to you. If you only care about numbers and reading Past Performances don't even watch the show-you will hate it. You will not here the words "takeout" "ADW" or "Return on Investment" mentioned although they do not totally ignore gambling. Episode one features Jimmy the Hat, a professional gambler stating: "People come to the track to gamble, they are on a drug called action, and from they moment they place a bet, to when the bet is over, that is what makes this whole thing work".
But gambling takes a back seat in this series with the emphasis on the competitiveness between the jockeys, the on-going romance between Smith and Sutherland, and the danger. They amp up the danger aspect of the sport and show a couple of falls during episode one, including one on Opening Day at Oak Tree.
Overall the production quality of the series is excellent. It is a very visually appealing show to watch. Animal Planet is available on most cable systems in High Definition, and I had the benefit of watching episode one in HD.
If you like action, like the sports side of racing, and like learning about the "drama" of the Jockeys involved in the sport, this is a show for you.