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A Tall Tale




Your prototypical jockey is usually slight of frame, fairly short, with a low body mass index (BMI). Occasionally youíll find a variant, someone slightly taller but even thinner, or someone short but a bit heftier, but generally riders will fit that depiction.


And then thereís Tanner Riggs.


Tanner is taller than your normal rider, quite a bit so. In fact, heís often the tallest person in the winnerís circle, a place he frequently inhabits. However, he isnít the tallest to ever ride. That honor probably went to 7í 7Ē Manute Bol, a former basketball player, when he rode in a charity event. Louise Moeller, from Denmark, rode professionally at 6í 1Ē. The six-foot Deshawn Parker is a mainstay at Tampa Bay Downs. Tanner is shorter than they are.


ďI donít know how tall I am,Ē replied Riggs when queried about his height.


Contrary to common wisdom, being far taller than most of their competition, isnít always a handicap. Tanner is a case in point. He currently (through April 13th) leads the Hawthorne jockey colony in wins and is second to Florent Geroux to money won. Tanner won his first jockey title during the 2010 Spring meet at Hawthorne


The 22-year-old, a native of Mitchell, South Dakota got his start working on farms in his area. ďMy Dad always had horses. I grew up around quarter horses on the farm. He had a couple of Thoroughbreds around but not that many. I was on horses since I could walk. Thatís pretty much what I did. The average school kid grew up playing sports and such. I rode. I was working on the farm and when we had time, we were on horses. I often helped to break horses.


ďI would go to the races with my father when I was young but I never really knew about the different aspects of racing. I didnít know what went on on the backstretch.


ďThere was a local fair meet where they raced horses. Not many jockeys went there because the purses were so low and because it was kind of wild but, when I turned 16, I was still light and I thought I would give it a try. Iím not going to lie, I was horrible. They were all telling me that they didnít know if I was going to make it.


ďBut, I kept at it.


ďI went to Minnesota that summer to gallop horses. I was there for about three weeks to a month but it was tough being away from home at such a young age. So, I went home and went back to school.


ďWhen I could I went to the meet in Columbus, Nebraska. Thatís where I really started riding. I got on a bunch of horses and tried to learn as much as I could. From there I went to Fonner Park and then back to Canterbury for the summer and spent a couple of meets.


ďItís been a work in progress.


ďIíve been riding since July of 2005, with a couple of breaks for school. Plus, I got hurt and had to take about a month off. I came up here for a while, hoping to ride, but I still had school and I really couldnít handle it. I was only 17 or 18 and Iím from a small town. There was too much hustle and bustle for me, at that young age.


ďBut, Iím used to it now. I hope to stay here, riding, for a long time.


ďI struggle with my weight. I always will. There are riders taller than me that donít have much trouble keeping their weight down but that isnít the case with me. I donít go into the sauna much. I prefer to just jog to keep my weight down. I have to limit what I eat. I try to eat two meals a day, breakfast and another, but I often go home after a day of riding and just have a glass of water and a granola bar.


ďI always wanted to be a farmer when I was young. Thatís what I would tell people when they asked me what I wanted to do with my life. If you would have asked me when I was 16 if I was going to be a jockey I would have said Ďneverí.But, Iím at the point now where I donít want this career to end.


Neither do we.




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