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Former Jockey Driving Horses

Published: March 18, 2010 11:13 am ET

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Having already guided thoroughbreds, arabians, quarter-horses and mules into the winner’s circle, Karen Isbell has now set her sights on getting pictures taken with the trotters and pacers.

A jockey on and off for some 25 years, Isbell received her Q (qualifying) license earlier this month and hopes to eventually become a driver at Cal-Expo. The 52-year-old native of Louisiana admits she would love to get her name into the record books with this unusual feat.

Isbell always had a love of horses, but riding thoroughbreds came into her life pretty much by accident when she was 17 years old.

“I was taking my dog for a walk near Cal-Expo one morning and he literally dragged me to the racetrack,” she recalled. “When I saw the horses galloping, I knew right there and then I wanted to be a jockey. A man named Art Goldsmith heard me, and invited me to come back the next morning.”

Isbell won her first race in 1979, a mile and one-half affair over this track, and spent the next decade and a half adding photos to her album. A good deal of those victories came aboard arabians for trainer Terri Eaton, including some stakes scores.

It was just recently that Isbell and her husband, Allen Aldrich, became harness horse owners, partnering with driver/trainer Jason Maier on Bob Lee, who scored in the first start off the claim for the team.

“I met Jason when I was looking to board my horse, and he is just so much fun to be around and really encouraged me to give the driving a try,” Isbell said. “I’ve been getting behind four or five horses every morning and now I have my Q license. We’ll have to see where it leads.”


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