Horse racing: Utah native Jensen seeks third All-American Futurity
Most quarter horse jockeys only dream of winning the All-American Futurity.
Not Cody Jensen.
Born in Logan and a graduate of Mountain Crest High School in Hyrum, Jensen won back-to-back All-Americans in 2005 and 2006. He shoots for his third victory in his sport's most prestigious race Monday, when he rides a horse named Houdini at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico.
Another win in the $2.6 million All-American would cement Jensen's place among quarter horse racing's all-time top jockeys if he's not there already.
Jensen likes his chances with Houdini, which has won four of five career starts and is 5-to-1 in the morning line.
"He's a nice horse," Jensen said. "He had a little trouble running straight early in his career, but he's coming into his own. ... I'm confident in him."
Jensen also rides in Sunday's $2.8 million All-American Derby. His horse, Wicked Courage has won nine of his last 10 races and is the 3-to-1 favorite in the morning line.
"He's been superb," Jensen said. "I wouldn't want to be on any other horse in the Derby."
Should he win with Houdini and Wicked Courage, Jensen's share will be about $250,000.
Not bad for a jockey who cut his professional teeth at small tracks in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming whose first win came in an $800 race in Malad, Idaho, in 1993.
"My dad was a rider for 22 years," Jensen said, "so I grew up around. At first, I didn't have a real interest in doing it. But once I got started, I got hooked."
In the mid-1990s, Jensen emerged as one of the top jockeys in racing's minor leagues. He wanted to try the big time in California but didn't want to throw away the success he had started to enjoy.
"I had worked my way up," he said. "I thought, 'If I go to California, nobody will care how many races I won at Wyoming Downs.' "
Jensen's big break came when he started working Utah-bred gelding named Catchmeinyourdreams, which was headed for California. The horse's connections invited Jensen along as his jockey.
"It spring-loaded my career," he said.
Catchmeinyourdreams ended up winning 14 of 51 starts and earned over $1 million.
Utah-based trainer Chad Giles, a former jockey who used to ride against Jensen, thought he would be successful.
"It took Cody a couple of years to figured it out," Giles said. "But I knew he'd make it because he wasn't afraid to work. He was always one of the first ones on the track in the morning."
Like most jockeys, Jensen has overcome serious injury.
In 2003, he fractured his leg and tore up his knee. His surgeon told him he'd be "walking pretty good" in a year.
"Unacceptable,"Jensen said. "I told him I needed to be riding in six months. He laughed at me."
But Jensen was riding in six months. In January 2011, Jensen was thrown from a horse and hit the rail. The ball of his right hip smashed through the socket and shattered his pelvis.
Again, doctors told Jensen he'd be sidelined a year.
Again, he was riding in six months
Jensen's wife, Amy, was not surprised. The two met at Wyoming Downs and have been married almost 16 years.
"I know how stubborn he can be," she said. "I knew if he wanted to come back, he would. When Cody sets his mind to something, he's going to do it."
Cody Jensen file
Hometown • Logan
High school • Mountain Crest
Birthday • Oct. 31, 1976
Profession • Jockey
First win • 1993 in Malad, Idaho (BCR Easy Copy)
Biggest wins • 2005 All-American Futurity (Teller Cartel), 2006 All-American Futurity (No Secrets Here)