OLDSMAR — Rosemary Homeister Jr. is an open book. Thumb through the pages, read her racing feats and review her positive approach to life.
"I might be the happiest person you ever meet," she said. "I'm very positive, very focused. We all have our ups and downs, but I try not to let it consume my life."
Homeister, one of Tampa Bay Downs' top riders, has won an Eclipse Award and ridden in a Kentucky Derby. Today, the 36-year-old Hollywood, Fla., native will tap into her memory bank. It is Cotillion Festival Day at TBD, an 11-race card featuring two $65,000 stakes, Sandpiper (Race 7, 3:16 p.m.) and Inaugural (Race 10, 4:37 p.m.). All 134 entries are 2-year-olds. That's the age at which Homeister got the itch to be a jockey.
It has been a historic month for Homeister. On Dec. 18, she scored her 2,000th career win with Sam Cronk trainee Rustyshouldrun. It was her latest achievement of many: first female to win an Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice rider (1992), twice-leading female winner in the nation (2000-01), first jockey to receive the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award for courage (2003) and induction into the Calder Race Course Hall of Fame at Miami Gardens (2006). In 2003, Homeister became the fifth female to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Her mount, Supah Blitz, finished 13th to Funny Cide.
Homeister has 2,006 wins from 14,981 career starts, purse earnings of $34,690,488 and 80 stakes wins, two at Grade II. She ranks third all time in victories by a female, behind Julie Krone (3,704) and Patti Cooksey (2,137). This year she is third among women with 151 wins.
She had family support from the start. Her father, James, was a jockey who died when she was 12. "He won 500 races, and I have all of his win pictures," Homeister said. Her mother, Rosemary Sr., also was a jockey who now trains at Calder. Grandparents Frank and Phyllis Sangi, New Jersey residents, watch her races via simulcast at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford.
"I love my grandparents," she said. "My grandfather is 91, and he's my biggest fan. I blow him a kiss to the camera every time I win."
Homeister arrived at TBD last year at the urging of trainer Tim Ritchey. She treasures her support system: agent Mark Mace and jockey James Lopez. But Homeister says, "Without the fans, racing would be boring."
One other source has been a key for Homeister. "I read the book The Secret, and it really has got all my affirmations … how I want my life and future to be," she said. "Right now, my focus is totally racing. I love it and thank God every day that I'm able to do something that I truly love."
Jockey dies after fall: Jockey Sam Thompson Jr. died Christmas Day, five days after he was thrown from a quarter horse following a race at Los Alamitos, Calif. Thompson, 36, had been on life support at Los Alamitos Medical Center since the Dec. 20 accident. His family had him taken off life support Thursday, medical center spokesman Orlando Gutierrez said.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.