CHESTER, W. Va. (WKBN) – A local jockey from East Liverpool made history this week at Mountaineer Racetrack in West Virginia.
Deshawn Parker was on the number 8 horse Monday, one of half a dozen he rode that day. This one was especially significant, however. The 45-year-old husband and father of two was going for his 5,000th victory.
At 5’10” tall and weighing just 113 pounds, the soft-spoken jockey has been racing since he was a 16-year-old in high school.
Parker has been around horses since he was a little boy because his father worked as a race official.
“Every time he’d get off his pony, he’d put me on the pony and let me ride the pony around and everything,” he said. “So I’ve just been a racetrack kid.”
He says he never really focused on reaching this milestone but over the last 26 years, the wins kept piling up.
“To have a great year you’re averaging 200, 300, I had one year I won 400 races. I was lead rider in the nation,” Parker said. “You have to win, win and come second, a bunch of times. If not, you’re just struggling like everybody else but I mean, a jockey’s life is tough…Everybody wants to think that you have a great career but if you’re not winning, you’re not making any money.”
Parker has spent most of his career at Mountaineer and is well-known in racing circles.
“We have a lot of people that follow Deshawn,” said Rosemary Williams, Director of Racing.
Not only do jockeys have to be short of stature to stay on the horse and maintain the proper weight, but they also need to have stamina. They need to stay curled up on top of an animal that weighs a thousand pounds and is bred to run 35 or 45 miles an hour.
“I tried to explain it to people, just kind of kneel down and just sit like that for a minute and see just how tired you get,” Parker said.
Add to the list numerous broken bones over the years competing in more than 30,000 races.
Parker has also ridden at tracks around the region and in Florida, often riding in a half dozen races five days a week.
He says even with this week’s milestone, he plans to continue racing at least a few more years.