Claire Novak’s Sexy Jockeys

According to Claire Novak, Mike Smith is the sexiest jockey riding in the Breeders’ Cup.

How do we know this? Because at, Novak, encouraged by’s Joe Kristufek and with input from other racing media (both male and female), posted her list of 10 sexiest jockeys riding in this weekend’s races at Santa Anita.

Included on the list are nine men and one woman, Rosemary Homeister, Jr. Reached in California, Novak pointed out, “There would have been more women, but Rosie’s the only woman with a Breeder’s Cup mount, and that’s the focus of the piece.”

The piece is one of many that Novak has contributed to ESPN’s on-line coverage of the Breeders’ Cup; she’s written about injured jockeys, Zenyatta, and Bob Baffert, among other topics, and she’s lined up Garrett Gomez (#7 on the Novak list, #3 on the Oak Tree at Santa Anita leading jockeys list) to contribute to her blog at ESPN with thoughts on this weekend’s races.

Novak acknowledged that the Top 10 list was “light and fluffy,” a departure from her usual reporting at the Albany Times-Union, ESPN, the Blood-Horse, and “It was meant to be funny, written and filed after all the serious work had been done.”

Still…did she have any reservations about writing and publishing a piece that could be seen as sexist and frivolous?

“I’ve developed a solid reputation for hard work and good reporting, through a variety of articles that are worthy of respect,” she said. “I think that I deserve a little slack for the occasional fluff piece. People who think that this is inappropriate should look at the author and her attitude.”

Early Thursday morning, Novak hadn’ t heard much about the piece, other than to have people weigh in with their own opinions (according to the men who spoke with her, Homeister, Jr. should have been #1; according to the women, Gomez deserved that spot). By noon, though, the criticism had begun to roll in.

“The article wasn’t meant to be offensive, and I don’t think that I deserve to have people say that I’ve lost my credibility as a journalist, as I’ve heard this morning,” responded Novak.

Novak is certainly not the first to take advantage of jockey sexiness; Chantal Sutherland appears to be nude astride a horse on the front page of her website, and as Novak pointed out, Alex Solis recently appeared naked in ESPN the Magazine (recently noted by Lisa Grimm at Superfecta).

Nonetheless, there appears to be some uneasiness about Novak’s decision. Via e-mail, one male turf writer commented on the condition of anonymity: “Now what would be said if a guy started rating the 10 hottest horsewomen in the Breeders’ Cup? There would be out F-IN OUTRAGE.”

So what, if anything, should exempt Novak from the scrutiny and, quite likely, charges of harassment and professional irresponsibility that would be directed at a male journalist if he were to rank the women in the sport? Does her creditable, significant body of serious race reporting entitle her to a little fun? Or does this article compromise her reputation as a journalist and her ability to cover the jockeys on the list?

“I knew that the jocks wouldn’t be offended,” Novak maintained. “I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from them. The fact that Garrett Gomez, one of the leading riders in the country, agreed to work with me on the website shows his respect for me [as a writer].”

There’s no denying Novak’s hustle, effort, diligence, and ability; in a world in which turf writers are finding fewer and fewer opportunities, her work appears regularly in a variety of publications. She’s smart and she’s funny, and she knows how to have a good time, attributes that have collided in this ESPN article. Whether the energy engendered by that collision is positive or negative remains to be seen.

18 thoughts on “Claire Novak’s Sexy Jockeys

  1. Why are we in a society where everyone is "offended". To me, that is the problem.Ms. Novak's columns are always a great read, and this one is no different.

  2. sigh. Everything is so serious these days. No one is allowed to have any fun. Apparently to be taken seriously as a writer you can't have a personality or a sense of humor. (And does any male at ESPN really want to open the "appropriate behavior" discussion???)

  3. I was hoping for solid contributions from those assigned to cover the Breeders Cup. Then this came along.If Mike Smith is #1 on that list, Glenn Craven and I can take comfort that Ms Novak is into "older men".We may lose our hair but hopefully not our charm. 😉

  4. Thanks for reading and for the comments, folks. Glenn: Thanks for answering, at least in part, one of my questions.TKS: Ah, but can you get on a horse?

  5. I have no problem with her sexiest jockey list. I DO have a problem with her three part activist journalism against the current owners of the racehorse Sam P. – or, at least, the decision of NTRA to publish her tabloid trash against his owner and trainer. Especially since their contract dispute was already in the court system. Novack excusable, NTRA should have stayed out of it.

  6. Teresa: I know this question wasn't directed at me, but I'll give my answer.I could get on a horse. But let's not discuss what the "overweight" figure would be in the program.I don't mind a "sexy jockeys" list. And since most of the jocks are men, it stands to reason that a woman would get that kind of assignment.I — to a degree — agree with the unidentified male turf writer who says that if a male journalist made up a list of sexy female jockeys, there would be some outrage. … Maybe not a ridiculous uproar, because let's face it, go to Chantal Sutherland's Web site and check out the opening photo by Annie Liebovitz and ask yourself if Chantal is concerned about being viewed as a sex symbol in addition to a rider.But there would be somebody who griped that the ladies' skills in the irons were being ignored in favor of a discussion about their purely cosmetic attributes.Now for a question of my own: Who gets the assignment for the story about sexiest turf writers?

  7. Let's call this column like it is – a meaningless and mindless piece of drivil from a writer who admits to having a jockey obsession. I could care less who she thinks is sexy. I am shocked that ESPN would allow this garbage to be posted on its web site. And I wish someone would please reveal what writing award Ms. Novak has won. Next to her description on, she is touted as an "award-winning journalist." What award? Did she win some high school journalism award? It's obvious from this piece, and others, that she is this profession to new lows. What's next, the 10 sexiest horse patoots? I think Ms. Novak made herself a horse's patoot by putting her byline on this crapola.

  8. The Chief wrote: I could get on a horse. But let's not discuss what the "overweight" figure would be in the program.____________________LOLThe laugh of the day. Now you know why Fugue for Tinhorns is an entertaining read.The last time I was on a horse was in high school gym class. The Pommel Horse dumped me and bolted that day. I remember it well.I vowed "never again" !

  9. Surprised that ESPN published this twaddle? Yes. Surprised that Claire Novak has composed this twaddle? No.Novak is a lousy journalist. If not for her stomach-turning ego she could be a decent writer (who needs to learn how to fact-check), but everything she writes is about "me, me, me." Not sure where she gets the idea that we want to read about her when we think we're going to about the person whose name is in the title or tagline.She would not make my top-ten list of Sexiest/Best/Favorite/You-Get-the-Message Turfwriters.

  10. Thanks to everyone for commenting, especially to those who offered thoughts on this particular article and its journalistic implications. To those who chose instead to post anonymous and personal attacks against Novak–I'm sorry that I provided the opportunity for you to take a shot.Anon 11:26: I haven't read the whole series, but what I did read seemed well-researched and well-founded. What's the objection?Glenn: count me among those who would gripe.

  11. I see. Posting as anonymous automatically degrades an honest comment. A disagreement automatically labeled as a personal attack. I apologize for posting at all.

  12. Anon 5:28. Not at all. I think that there's a place for anonymous comments: I have left them myself sometimes, and if you read comments here regularly, you will see that I regularly respond to anonymous comments.I had already been planning a follow up to this piece, which will be up in a couple of days and which will address the issue of anonymous comments. I don't know which comments are yours, but I do find it troublesome for people to write about Novak's alleged ego and to call her a "horse's patoot" while hiding behind anonymity. I'm not sure what "disagreement" you're referring to.Thanks for checking back in.

  13. This bald and not very sexy horse guy appreciates the random musings as well as serious journalism. One thing that impresses me very much in horse racing is the quality and quantity of female voices speaking about the sport. I read ms. Novak regularly, as I do this blog, because the writing is top shelf. If I don't like the topic, I exercise my right to not read it. Doesn't seem that complicated. Our sport needs as many passionate voices as we can muster, and those voices need to be serious as well as occasionally make the subject fun and frivolus. Bravo!

  14. There's some seriously offensive stuff going on in the news nowadays. A lighthearted beauty contest isn't one of them.Is no one allowed a chuckle anymore? No wonder the world's on Prozac!(Whoever wrote that condemning comment on Claire's blog should be forced to sit in a room and not come out until they've written a humorous article)

  15. "“Now what would be said if a guy started rating the 10 hottest horsewomen in the Breeders' Cup? There would be out F-IN OUTRAGE.”hahah that is simply a joke, we are bombarded every day with who men rate as sexy, all over the world — and there are countless magazines devoted to that particular subject on every newsstand. That is the norm, I can't even believe this writer can even think something so completely out of touch with reality.

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