Stacy Locke is now a mother and no longer works with racehorses as a rider. Her job as the system operator for Trakus during the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club meet returned her to work in an equestrian environment.
“I’m still using my knowledge,” she said.
Locke, a Bonsall resident and the wife of San Luis Rey Downs Thoroughbred Training Center trainer Tony Locke, has a background in horses rather than computers and had given up an analyst job to return to her equestrian lifestyle.
When the Trakus position became available, Locke sought and successfully obtained the position. “It’s kind of a nice change,” she said.
The Trakus transponder and graphics system came to the Del Mar racetrack in 2007. It is also in operation at the Keeneland track in Kentucky, at Toronto’s Woodbine course, and at a standardbred track in Canada, and it has recently been installed in France.
Tags on the saddles relay the positions of the horses, allowing for a screen with the numbers of the horses and their “real-time” positions.
“I just think it’s a neat new company,” Locke said. “It’s just technology doing its thing again, bringing us some more information.”
While official times are only for the horse in front, Trakus provides times for all horses in the race.
As the systems operator, Locke checks for the computer acknowledgement of the transponder tags when the horses are first brought onto the track and verifies that the tags are submitting information. If a tag is not working she calls her contact in the jockeys’ room who can equip a horse with a spare tag.
When the horses are loaded into the starting gate, Locke ensures that all tags reflect the horses’ proper post positions. “Then it’s mostly watching the race,” she said.
She will put a “do not finish” designation on a horse who has stopped or lost its jockey, and she tracks the screens on the toteboard to ensure that the system is working properly.
After the race Locke verifies the order with the placing judges and communicates with Trakus headquarters in Boston to inform Trakus of any switches in the finishing order.
She also reviews the official times for each increment and checks the differences between the Trakus and official times to see if they are within 2/10 of a second of each other.
Karen Denovel was the Trakus system operator at Del Mar in 2007, but Denovel obtained a year-round position at Santa Anita. Locke, who had worked as an exercise rider before her daughter was born, knew Denovel from the racetrack since Denovel’s previous Del Mar positions included working in one of the tack supply stores.
After Denovel notified Locke that the Trakus job would be available for 2008, Locke sent a resume and was interviewed for the job. “They mainly wanted someone who was a horse person, who had experience with horses themselves,” Locke said.
Locke’s lack of a professional computer background wasn’t an obstacle. “I can run one,” she said. “I use a computer at home.”
Locke was notified of her selection in early July and underwent two days of training before taking over the operations when the Del Mar meet opened July 16.
Locke’s family had horses when she was growing up in the East San Francisco Bay town of Clayton.
She attended college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science. She then returned to the Bay Area and was hired by a San Francisco environmental engineering company to work as a analyst.
She spent two years working for the engineering firm. While waiting for the BART train one morning, she noticed commuters with suits and papers who seemed identical to each other and rarely engaged in conversation. “I thought, ‘This isn’t for me’,” she said.
Locke returned to working with horses. While in college she had been involved with sales companies. Much of her work involved riding and breezing horses for the sales, and she performed those functions after her return to the equine industry.
She traveled to various tracks for her sales work before she was hired to work full-time in the training barn for River Edge Farm in Santa Ynez. “I was tired of my luggage by then,” Locke said.
River Edge Farm is owned by Martin and Pam Wygod. The Wygods eventually moved their training operation to Rancho Paseana in Rancho Santa Fe, bringing Locke to San Diego County.
The Wygods lease stable space in the facility owned by Sid and Jenny Craig, as did trainer Neil French. Eventually French hired Locke as a rider.
Locke worked for French for nine years. When French moved his operation to San Luis Rey Downs, Locke commuted to Bonsall from her condominium in Encinitas. “At four in the morning there’s not much traffic,” she said.
Locke became an assistant trainer for French as well as an exercise rider. She passed her trainer’s test and obtained her trainer’s license, although her husband, Tony, now handles all of the horse training in the family.
“My focus right now is on our 2-year-old daughter,” Stacy Locke said. “She’s also the reason I quit galloping horses.”
Locke met her husband at San Luis Rey Downs. “He used to help out riding and breezing some of the horses when I worked for Neil,” she said.
The Lockes have been married for three years. Tony Locke had a house in Bonsall, so his wife moved there from Encinitas. “It made more sense to move there. San Luis Rey’s a mile down the road from our house,” she said.
Other than the fact that Clayton has no ocean and more oak trees, Locke considers her original town to be similar in character to Bonsall. “There are more [oaks] up north than there are here, but that’s okay. I like being closer to the ocean,” she said.
Locke stopped working for French when she was four months pregnant and has not worked as a rider since Loren was born. “It was just time to give up the riding at that level,” she said. “I would still be riding, but Loren needs me more than I need to ride.”
The emphasis on staying healthy for the sake of her daughter hasn’t diminished Locke’s enthusiasm for working directly with racehorses.
“I miss riding. It keeps you physically fit, and I miss the really nice horses I’ve ridden and the camaraderie on the track and the bond that you build with the horse as well,” she said.
Locke has also had a business hauling horses for the past 12 years; Tailwind Transport hauls mostly racehorses to local destinations. Loren can accompany her mother during the drives.
If her husband doesn’t have a horse racing that day, his training duties for the day are complete by the time she arrives at the track so Tony takes Loren for the afternoon. “It works out really good,” Stacy Locke said.
Loren accompanies her parents to the track if a horse her father has trained is running at Del Mar.
“It’s a good job,” Stacy Locke said. “The people are great to work for. The hours are great.”
Locke indicated that she would return to Trakus for the 2009 Del Mar meet if she is offered the opportunity.
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