Racing down the track at over 60 kilometres an hour, horse racing has continued to define one Albertan’s life after years of dedication to the sport.
“I’m so competitive,” said long-time jockey and Cochrane resident Chris McGregor. “If I see it, I want to go out and do it. I hate it when I can’t do it.”
After a career spanning over 20 years, McGregor is set to be inducted into the 2024 Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. Over the course of his time spent as a jockey, McGregor has accumulated over $13 million in winnings.
McGregor’s family moved to Alberta years ago from Switzerland. Wanting to be involved in sports, horse racing piqued his interest after watching a race at the Millarville track south of Calgary.
Recognizing his height put him at a disadvantage with other sports, McGregor felt horse racing was the perfect activity for him.
“I’m only five foot one, so I guess I could only do certain things,” McGregor said. “I was there watching the races and I thought, ‘I should do that’.”
At the age of 16, McGregor quit school and started working at a track cleaning stalls. After cleaning stalls for four years, McGregor took up the position of exercising horses.
Four years later, McGregor’s journey of horse racing took off.
McGregor faced many challenges during his time as a jockey. He highlighted one experience as one of the most serious, leaving him in hospital after an accident on the track.
“I crushed three vertebrae and broke my back,” McGregor said. “I was in a race in Calgary and just hit the wire, a horse came over on me and I ended up clipping heels and went down. So that wasn’t too much fun.”
A year later, McGregor made a full return to the sport he loved. He said being fit is a crucial component to the job.
“When you crash and you’re fit, usually you can walk away– but not all the time,” he said.
Looking back at his career, McGregor said a major milestone was receiving the most improved rider award. The award is voted on by other jockeys.
He said it felt nice to be recognized by his fellow companions for all the work he had put in.
“They picked me and that was a big thing because it’s coming from riders,” McGregor said. “To me it meant a lot.”
McGregor said he is thankful for those who helped him along his journey. He said there are people who will always be willing to help you.
Proud of his accomplishments, McGregor said it took hard work to get to this point in his career. He hopes people will recognize him once his name is officially added into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’m just hoping people will see it and go ‘I know that guy,’” McGregor said. “I had people say I’ve earned everything I’ve got because I worked for it.”