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Racing Against Time : Kip Didericksen’s Career as Jockey May Be Short--Because He’s Not

Times Staff Writer

The name is Kip.

Disregard the multisyllabic addendum--Didericksen. There is no magic to Didericksen, no Huckleberry Finn innocence.

But Kip. That name is reserved for matinee cowboys and heroes of teen-age mystery novels. And, for a 20-year-old from the country who has taken the big city--OK, Cypress--by storm.

Kip Didericksen is a quarter horse jockey. As of Tuesday, he was the leading jockey in terms of victories (49) at Los Alamitos Race Course. He won the jockey’s title at San Franciso’s Bay Meadows Park earlier this year, and won the same title during Los Alamitos’ winter meet.

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Some say he’s the best they’ve ever seen. That remains to be gauged, because he has only been riding at the big tracks for a year. Much is expected of him, but for now it might be wise to stick to what Kip is.

Kip is loved.

Owners love him because he wins. Trainers love him because he’ll ride any horse he’s given. Veteran jockeys love him because they see in his long, young face the youth they’ve since passed.

They all claim they can’t say enough about Kip. But oh, how they do try.

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You see, Kip came from this small town in Idaho. And Kip saves all his money and he’s good to his parents. And Kip always says thank you to a trainer after a race.

And Kip is driven. Everyone knows that.

It seems Kip doesn’t smoke or drink or mess with women, because Kip only cares about racing. And Kip wants to be remembered as a great rider--one of the greatest--but Kip knows he only has a few years to accomplish that because that’s what his appetite and the psychic in Idaho told him.

But from all this must come some kind of form. A story, especially one seemingly lifted from a book, is best told from the beginning.

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Kip’s hometown is Preston, Idaho.

Preston has one traffic signal. Kip used to shoot pheasant from the back porch of his family’s home.

Though he has enjoyed the great things that have happened to him since coming to California a year ago, it surely pained him to miss deer hunting season for the first time in his life. You know, Kip once bagged a deer less than two miles from his home.

“I miss huntin’ and fishin’ terribly,” Kip said.

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In and around Preston there are horses. Lots of horses. Racing is done for the most part at fairs, for purses of $100 to $200.

Kip’s father, Dwayne, was the general manager of Idaho’s largest track, Les Bois. Dwayne had various jockeys over to the house to visit or stay, and it wasn’t long before Kip wanted to be one of them.

When he was 16 he went to Montana to hone his riding skills. By the time he was 19 he was preparing to leave for California as jockey John Ward’s assistant.

But before he left, Pat the Psychic paid a visit to the house. The Didericksens, especially Kip’s mother, Lee, believe in psychics.

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“First she read my aura,” Kip said. “Then she read me some cards. She told me a bunch of stuff. And it’s all come true.”

She told him he would make more money than he had ever imagined. Last year he made $72,000. He invests well, with the help of his family, and he has bought a condominium in La Palma.

She told him he’d meet a gray- haired man who would be his benefactor. Kip thought this man would be Blane Schvaneveldt, Los Alamitos’ all-time winning trainer.

But that never came to pass. Instead, he met Bob Baffert, a young trainer who made Kip his No. 1 jockey. By the way, Baffert is prematurely graying.

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And what about the gorgeous blonde woman Pat told Kip he’d meet? He just smiles.

One other thing Pat told him. That if he ever became a jockey, Kip wouldn’t remain one for very long.

Most everyone--psychic or not--has said that. His career seems doomed to be short because he’s not. Kip is 5-10 or 5-11, depending on whom you talk to. He is rail-thin at 117 pounds, but that’s with the metabolism of a 20-year-old. The thinking is that in four years, weight will not be so easily shed.

“He knows he’s not long for this business,” said Ward.

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Kip recites almost the same phrase with resignation.

“I know it’s just the way things are,” he said. “I used to get mad. I wanted to be smaller. But now I just figure I want to be someone they all remember. I want to be someone they all thought was good.”

So he rides and he rides and he rides.

When he won the Los Alamitos winter title with 61 wins, he did so on 384 mounts. Second-place Henry Garcia, with 46 wins, had 232 mounts.

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When he won the title at Bay Meadows with 55 wins, he did so on 254 mounts. Kenneth Hart and Danny Cardoza tied for second with 33 wins. Hart had 185 mounts and Cardoza 215.

He has his 49 wins this meeting on 272 mounts. Ward and Garcia are tied for second with 30. Garcia has 172 mounts, Ward 147.

He’s disappointed if he doesn’t ride every race of each evenings’s program. And his riding frenzy is not limited to the evening.

“He’s amazing,” Baffert said. “He’ll exercise a horse, jump off him, get another and be gone. Some guys may work out 20 horses, he does 50. He’ll work out a horse even before you ask him. That’s almost unheard of. Sometimes you have to beg these guys to work your horses.”

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But Kip figures the work is being rewarded.

“I think the more horses I work out on, the better chance I have of keeping my weight down,” he said.

His day consists of riding in the morning, sleeping, riding in the evening and sleeping.

“I tell him he’s got to get out and go meet some girls, have some fun,” Baffert said. “But all he wants to think about is racing. He’s consumed.”

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Kip said: “It might seem like not much of a life, just ridin’ and sleepin’. But I ain’t got that much time. I figure I have to do all I can now. Plus, I really do love it.”

And Kip is well aware of other young promising jockeys who one day disappeared.

“Drugs, alcohol and partying has killed more than a few young jockey careers,” Ward said. “But Kip is as straight as they come. He’ll never mess with that stuff. He doesn’t even go out. He just counts his money.”

Kip says he’ll know it is time to quit when all his hard work on horseback isn’t dropping the pounds anymore. He hates the sauna and figures if he can’t lose the weight on a horse, he’ll try another line of work.

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There are tales of woe of other tall jockeys. One got hooked on diet pills trying to keep the weight off.

“That’s not worth it,” Kip said. “I’m working hard now, and when this is over I’ll go into some other business. The fortune teller told me I would.”


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