5 questions with Donna Barton Brothers

Published: Apr. 28, 2016 at 8:19 PM EDT|Updated: May. 6, 2016 at 12:51 PM EDT
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Donna Barton Brothers with Zenyatta in 2010. (Source: Donna Barton Brothers)
Donna Barton Brothers with Zenyatta in 2010. (Source: Donna Barton Brothers)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Donna Barton Brothers has one of the coolest jobs on television. She's the former jockey you see on NBC and WAVE 3 News immediately after the Kentucky Derby interviewing the winning jockey while they are both on horseback. 

Oftentimes you see her galloping up on horseback to catch them for the interview.

Horses have been a huge part of Donna's life since she was born. Her mother was one of the first women to be licensed as a jockey. Her father was a rough-stock rider on the rodeo circuit and a horse shoer. Both of her siblings were also jockeys.

Donna started her career as a jockey in 1987 and rode for nearly 12 years. When she retired she was the second leading female jockey in the country, having won 1,171 races. 

She started working for NBC Sports in 2000  and is the author of a racing guide called Inside the Track. While she travels frequently, she calls Louisville home and is one of the nicest people you'll run into at Churchill Downs.

This is Donna's busiest time of year, but she agreed to answer my five questions.

1) What's the hardest part about conducting a live interview on horseback?
I suppose it is that I have no notes in front of me. I do have notes. They're in my saddle bag. And as soon as the horses cross the finish line I take one last look at them and then tuck them back into my bag. In all honesty, I've studied all of this so much by this time that remembering what is on my notes is not a problem. But riding the horse itself, while conducting the interview, is the easiest thing I do all day. I've ridden horses since before my earliest memory. All of that is second nature to my mind and my body.
2) In the past you have used trainer Bob Baffert's horse Smokey for these interviews. Which horse will you use this year?
I'm not sure yet! Smokey is in town, but I talked with Jimmy Barnes (Baffert's assistant trainer) and we both agreed that it is a long two days for Smokey (Oaks and Derby - and some undercard races). It will either be Smokey or a pony horse that belongs to Monnie Goetz. Monnie is a pony rider at Churchill Downs with a big business and she has several lead horses and a few people who ride for her. It is her grey (nearly white) horse I used for the Goodwill Kentucky commercial and I used her appaloosa for Breeders' Cup at Keeneland last fall.
3) Is there one interview that's stuck out for you?
I suppose it is still the Calvin Borel interview the first year he won the Kentucky Derby (2007, Street Sense). He was just so emotionally raw and that is one of the beautiful things about Calvin - he is what he is and will not try to be anything else for any reason. His tears were real and made America fall in love with him. 
4) Do you still exercise horses?
I don't exercise horses anymore. My husband (Frank Brothers) retired from training horses in 2009 and I retired from morning exercising of the horses right along with him.
5) You always look perfectly put together. Do you wear a hat on Oaks and Derby?
Thank you for the generous compliment! I wear a helmet on Oaks and Derby day, does that count? I would not be opposed to wearing a hat for the coverage - before getting on my horse. However, I have to choose an outfit that will look good while doing an interview from the jock's room with the one of the jockeys, work well for the walkover, look appropriate in the paddock for a hit or interview from there and then, seamlessly, also look suitable for riding a horse. Because of these quick transitions from one position to another, I do not have time to change clothes and I am always wearing boots (for the riding portion). I cannot think of an outfit that can do all of those jobs and work well with a festive Oaks or Derby hat so I have declined the donning of a hat. And I'm totally fine with that. It would be just one more thing to which to devote my time and energy and I'm spread as thinly as I care to be Derby week!

Previous installments
+ April 22: Wayne Hettinger
+ April 15: Milliner Kenzie Kapp
April 8: The owner of MexA Steak Tacos
March 31: The owners of Louisville's Drybar
+ March 25: Local entrepreneur Junior Bridgeman
+ March 18: Author Emily Bingham
March 11: PurseKeyper co-rounder Dana Robinson
March 4: Chef, restaurateur John Varanese
Feb. 26: Wicked Sheets Founder Alli Truttmann
Feb. 19: Lilly's Chef Kathy Cary
Feb. 12: Speed Museum Director Ghislain d'Humieres
Feb. 5: Miss Kentucky USA Kyle Hornback

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