Skye Chernetz and mom celebrate her 2013 Sovereign award for top apprentice at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)
For jockey Skye Chernetz, the racing offseason is a passport to adventure, with this particular chapter of her travels featuring a familiar sporting scene.
Over the past five or so years, the rider from Oakbank, Manitoba, has seen the world through a rather unique lens, a globetrotting explorer, eager to embrace new experiences in some very unique destinations.
On her latest trip, one that took her from the top to bottom of Thailand, Chernetz’s itinerary included a day of Thoroughbred racing.
“The highlight for me was probably the races in Bangkok. It was so cool. Horse racing is obviously so familiar, but being in a country where a lot is opposite of what we know and do, to go to the races was an amazing experience. They go around the paddock, break from the gate, people are betting on the races, and having fun. It was cool to see that. It was something I wanted to do, but it wasn’t set in stone that we could do that. They only race two times a month, so you have to time it, but it all worked out.”
Horses weren’t the only animals Chernetz encountered over her seven weeks in Thailand.
The daughter of Bonnie Eshelman, one of the first female jockeys in Canada, riding from 1972 to 2005 and the first woman to win a stakes race in Ontario, spent an eye-opening afternoon at an elephant reserve.
“There was a rescue farm and the lady that runs it has a lot of different animals, including three elephants. There is a mother and daughter, along with another one, who was a rescue. It was so incredible. We walked for five hours, through the forest and countryside. They stop and graze a lot, so that’s why it takes so long. They could actually sneak up on you. For as big as they are, they can be very quiet. There are a few times when you would turn around and they would be right behind you.”
Chernetz’s near two-month travels was jam-packed with adventures, which required plenty of miles packed into each day.
“Basically, I got to see as much of Thailand as I could over seven weeks, starting in Bangkok. We went south and did some island hopping, and then worked our way back up north. We covered a lot of different regions in the country. It’s a different world and lifestyle, but it was interesting to see how people live, what a typical day is like for them.”
Another highlight for Chernetz, who started show jumping when she was six, and was named the 2013 winner of the Sovereign Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey, was a popular tourist destination, an isolated spot that offers spectacular underwater visuals.
“There is a national park that was a lot of fun. There are these huge limestone cliffs that rise out of the water. It’s a popular place for tourists. There are a couple of resorts and one of them is floating, where you stay in a floating cabin. You can kayak around. There is amazing snorkelling, and I was able to look at sea turtles, beautiful coral, and really unique fish. It really is a completely different world with what you are able to see. It’s very remote. There is no cell service, no phone service and no internet, so you’re very disconnected. You are in the middle of nowhere. But that’s not a bad thing.”
Nor is it that the blonde-haired jockey managed to stand out in the crowd almost everywhere she visited.
Chernetz laughs at the recollections of those moments.
“They know right away that I’m not from there. The more remote places you go to, the more you get looked at. When you’re in big cities, there are a lot of tourists.”
Chernetz, who returned to Toronto in early February, has kept busy on her Instagram page, adding more photos and videos from her time in Thailand.
As to where she’ll jet off to at the end of the 2023 Woodbine Thoroughbred meet in December isn’t certain at this point.
Whatever country she lands on, it likely won’t be a traditional destination.
“I always try to do a trip, at least once a year, somewhere different. I really like to see how other cultures live, their daily lives, and how different it is from us. I like history and nature, so I try to find places that have all that.”
And if they happen to have horse racing, all the better.