By Melissa Bauer-Herzog
While the weather in Portland, Oregon has been tough on horsemen, horses and jockeys alike by delaying Portland Meadow's closing day for weeks, the meet's current leading jockey is just happy to get the opportunity to ride at the track.
During the last two Portland Meadows meets, 22-year-old Kassie Guglielmino sat in the top 10 by wins, ending the 2015 winter meet ranked fourth with 25 wins. But she's easily beat that number during the 2016 meet with 37 victories as of Jan. 14, two more than her nearest competitor at the meet which is tentatively scheduled to end Jan. 24–if track conditions improve.
Guglielmino grew up on a cattle ranch in Northeastern Washington where her earliest memories come while riding horses. Like many young riders, she wanted to be a jockey as a child, especially after watching the movie Seabiscuit. She took the next step toward that goal a few years later when contacting a family friend who was involved with racing.
“My dad had a friend in the local area where I grew up who had some racehorses,” Guglielmino said. “I gave him a call and asked how I could get started. He and his wife helped me get started in the bush tracks in British Columbia and on the unrecognized fair tracks in Eastern Washington.”
Her first rides at recognized tracks came in 2012 when she rode 19 races with one win and six other on-the-board finishes. In her short career, Guglielmino has traveled around the West Coast, racing in four states and two countries (the U.S. and Canada), including one start at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in California.
While she has won multiple stakes races, including two on Oregon Champions day in late December, and ridden a race at one of the premiere tracks in the United States, Guglielmino finds it hard to name just one race as her biggest accomplishment, in part because of the challenges she's faced to get where she is.
“My biggest success is just being where I am today,” she continued. “It's hard to pick a specific moment that I view as my biggest success. Every time I win a race, no matter the purse, it feels like my biggest success. They all feel that way. There are a multitude of challenges that I have been faced with as a rider. The biggest challenge has probably been just to disregard all the negativity, take away what is useful, move on and continue to take steps to becoming a better rider. There can be a lot of negativity at the track and it's important to not become caught up in it.”
As for those who aren't sure how to get in to racing, she has some simple advice for anyone from potential jockeys to trainers.
“My advice for anyone that wants to get into racing is to just be resilient, don't let too much get to you, and work hard. If you work hard for long enough someone will notice,” she said.
Entering her sixth season at the track, Guglielmino is taking her own advice. She hopes to expand the number of tracks she rides at this year in addition to winning more races. But before she moves on to her other goals, she's focused on wrapping up the title at Portland's extended meet.
“It is very exciting to be currently leading the standings at Portland Meadows,” she said. “I'm so grateful to all the trainers that have given me a fair shot, and of course to all my horses for their extraordinary efforts. It's been such a fun year.”