Sports

Mitchell’s mantra: Get it done

Venerable Emerald Downs jockey Gallyn Mitchell exercises Pete Afleet during a morning workout at the Auburn oval. Mitchell, the track’s all-time leading rider, is closing in on 1,000 career wins and $10 million in earnings.   - Gary Kissel/Reporter
Venerable Emerald Downs jockey Gallyn Mitchell exercises Pete Afleet during a morning workout at the Auburn oval. Mitchell, the track’s all-time leading rider, is closing in on 1,000 career wins and $10 million in earnings.
— image credit: Gary Kissel/Reporter

The diehard fan knows the name because it defines dependability.

The casual fan might know it because it has the feel of familiarity.

Either way is perfectly fine with Gallyn Mitchell.

“I don’t go out to impress anyone,” the veteran Emerald Downs jockey said. “I give it my 110, 120 percent every time.”

While other riders might have emitted brighter star-power wattage through the first dozen years of horse racing at the track – Ricky Frazier and Kevin Radke come immediately to mind – no one has been as steadily successful in the irons as the 45-year-old, just-get-it-done Mitchell.

Get it done?

Mitchell has done it with 966 victories at the Auburn oval – well ahead of the 561 posted by now-retired Frank Gonsalves, which ranks second on the all-time list. It includes 52 stakes wins, including a track-record 13 in 2000. His stakes victory total is eight better than No. 2-ranked Frazier.

He has done it with $9,625,875 in earnings here. Closest man to him? That’s Frazier, whose mounts have earned $6,013,635.

Magic marks in sight

Between Opening Night on Friday at 6 and Closing Day on Sept. 28, Mitchell figures to hit the 1,000-victory and $10 million-earnings milestones.

That’s dependable.

And what an appropriate pair of impending feats for a guy who has ridden at Emerald since Day One, way back in 1996.

That’s familiarity.

“You don’t think about that,” Mitchell said of setting the pace. “You just want to go out there and do the job and win what races you can. I look to win and set high goals. And I hope I can set them high.”

Whether it was his maiden victory at Santa Anita in 1981 – a day he out-rode the legendary Laffit Pincay to the wire – or his Longacres Mile triumph aboard Edneator in 2000 at Emerald Downs, Mitchell never has been one to set the bar low.

Even if the odds are high – such as the 41-to-1 for Edneator in that 2000 Mile.

“Them horses can’t read the (Racing) Form or the odds,” Mitchell said, adding that he doesn’t dwell too much on the Form either. “I’ve had (odds) a lot more than that. ... Coming out of the paddock, something told me we were going to win that race.”

If anyone would know that feeling, it would be Mitchell, who, according to his own recollection, “Before I could walk, I was on horseback.

“I just appreciate that I can do something I love doing. So many people don’t like their job.”

Right line of work

Mitchell certainly likes his job. And many others at the track like the way he does it, including trainers Jim Penney and Kay Cooper, longtime users of Mitchell’s highly capable riding services.

“He rides our horses hard and well,” Cooper said. “Gallyn has been there for us every spring, he has been very helpful in getting our horses fit – and he trusts us.”

Trusts his agent, too, in an arrangement that’s unique at Emerald. The agent?

It’s Denise, his wife of 21 years.

Seems that when Mitchell was riding at Yakima Meadows, he had an agent who “put me on anything and everything.”

But “anything and everything” weren’t always the best choices. At one point, Denise had seen enough.

“I said, ‘If you don’t fire him, I will,’ ” she recalled. “He said, ‘Who’s going to do it (be my agent)?’ I said, ‘I will’ ”

The results have spoken for themselves.

“It was one of the best moves of my career,” Mitchell said “She’ll come to me (when decisions need to be made) because I get on the horses, and we just try to talk about it.

But most of the time, only at the track.

“As competitive as he is, he doesn’t bring it home,” Denise said. “We try to leave work at work.”

No place like home

With a resume’ built on equal parts consistency and success, Mitchell probably could pack his tack for a higher-profile track.

But Emerald Downs gradually is elevating its own profile. Every stakes race this season, for the first time, will have a purse of at least $50,000. This year’s Longacres Mile winner will qualify automatically for the Breeders’ Cup.

And for Enumclaw resident Mitchell, this is just home.

“I like it up in this country,” he said. “I like to fish, I like to hunt. You can go for an hour in any direction and do anything.”

Mitchell has won four of the track’s biggest races. In addition to his Mile victory aboard Edneator in 2000, he hit the wire first in the Emerald Derby (Peteski’s Charm in 2000), the Gottstein Futurity (Condotierri in 2002) and the Belle Roberts (Top Bracket in 2002).

How much longer? Where to from here?

“At least another four years,” said Mitchell, whose family includes stepson Cody and daughters Samantha and Jaclyn. “I don’t see (retirement) in the near future. My body will tell me – and I’m still going to push it. When I retire, I want to go out on my own status.”

But he won’t go far. Renowned trainer Junior Coffey has urged Mitchell to consider that end of the business. Mitchell said he’d like to put on a riding school and teach up-and-comers the right way to do things.

“I want to give back whatever I can do,” he said.

For Gallyn Mitchell, it’s just another way of getting it done.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Jul 25 edition online now. Browse the archives.