Racing horses has been in Connor Balthazar’s family for as long as he can remember. His great grandfather JB Balthazar and his grandfather Andrew Balthazar bred, trained, and raced quarter horses and some of his uncles were jockeys.
Connor first started riding about 8 years ago when his father Darryl Balthazar bought their first horse. After turning 18 Connor worked toward earning his jockey license, which he received in January 2018.
To earn his license, Connor had to prove himself. He had to work different horses in front of the officials (stewards) of the race track, who approved and signed off on his license. Other jockeys had to vouch for Connor that they’d seen his experience grow and that he was ready to be a jockey himself.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” he said. It’s really hard to describe the feeling you get from it, but there’s nothing to compare it to.”
His very first race was scary and Connor admitted he was really nervous. His confidence grew by his second race and he ran third, which he felt was a big accomplishment. He’s raced in 26 races since then, running in the circuit around Louisiana.
January-March: Louisiana Downs in Shreveport
April-June: Delta Downs in Vinton
August-September: Fair Grounds in New Orleans
October-December: Evangeline Downs in Opelousas
While it’s a competitive and dangerous sport, Connor said several jockeys have helped mentor him along the way. Fellow jockeys Donell Blake and Antonio Alberto have taught him a lot. He said the jockeys all want to do good, but they want to see everyone else do good as well. Connor is still young and there’s a lot for him to learn before he can make it big in the industry.
Some of the best advice he’s received was from his family, who told him to relax, not be nervous, and just let things fall into place. So far it’s worked out well for him. Conor’s been in the money (1st-4th places) in about half of his races.
He works part time in the mornings galloping and breeding horses for Natchitoches resident Ocie Charles. He also races some of Ocie’s horses at the tracks. In the afternoon he works with his family’s 23 horses.
Besides all this and the time he spends jockeying, Connor is a full-time student at Northwestern State University majoring in business. He is on the dean’s list and is a member of Kappa Sig. His dream is to one day open his own store selling tack, feed and other supplies and equipment for jockeys.