Dakota Wood was just meant to be a jockey.
The Oklahoma native went from riding bulls and saddle broncs at rodeos to riding thoroughbreds at horse tracks.
“It’s where my heart is,” Wood said of horse racing. “It’s home for me. You tell me I can’t do something, I’ll prove that I can. Horse racing is in my blood, and I’ll be here until the day I die.”
Wood didn’t grow up in a horse racing family, but his uncle took him to the track when he was just 5 years old, and he was hooked.
“I fell in love with it then,” Wood said. “Since then I wanted to be a jockey.”
But first was a stint as a cowboy. He rode his first bull when he was just 12.
“I didn’t do the practice bulls and I didn’t do the calves,” Wood said. “I went straight to the 2,000-pound bulls. I got stomped on my first one, popped right back up and said, ‘Let’s do that again.’”
Wood, now 27, began his career as a jockey in 2009. He rode until 2015, then took three years off to work in the oil fields as a crane operator and a welder.
That was OK, but Wood still had that horse racing itch to scratch. He had some friends who have ridden at Fonner Park, so he headed north in February to give racing another shot at the Grand Island track.
“I’m enjoying it so far,” Wood said. “The people are pretty friendly and the horses are nice. The fans are awesome. They truly love their horse racing, don’t they?”
They love camel and ostrich racing too. Those races packed fans into Fonner Park a week ago, and Wood was on one of the ostriches.
He rode the No. 2, but he didn’t last long.
“It’s just getting out of the gates with them,” Wood said. “I had one one time tried to turn around and peck me through my goggles. But once they get out of the gates, usually we fall off because we’re laughing so hard.”
It obviously wasn’t Wood’s first try at riding an ostrich.
“I’ve ridden quite a few of them ... or I’ve fallen off quite a few of them,” Wood said.
Wood had a big weekend April 5-7 with seven wins. He added two more this past weekend and now has 17 for the meet to go along with 20 seconds and 19 thirds.
Wood plans to move on to Lone Star Track in Grand Prairie, Texas, after the Fonner meet concludes on May 4, but he said he’ll be back.
“This is my first year up here and I do like it,” Wood said. “I like bullrings and fair meets like this. It’s a lot of fun. You don’t have to hold your head up high or anything. You just go out there and ride.
“The crowds are really friendly. It’s not about the wager, it’s about the excitement. I really truly appreciate that from the crowds.”
Innocent Storm wins Fonner feature
A Bunch for Lunch was first to the wire in the Fonner Park feature race Sunday.
But after contact down the stretch, A Bunch for Lunch was moved down to second and Innocent Storm was declared the winner.
A Bunch for Lunch, with Wood on board, veered out from the rail and bumped Innocent Storm. Wood also made contact with Innocent Storm with his whip when he switched to his right hand.
That moved Innocent Storm, a 7-year-old Arkansas-bred daughter of Storm and a Half and Innocence Lost, into the winner’s circle with a winning time of 1:15.4 for the six-furlong $5,000 claiming race for fillies and mares.
It was the 10th win in 51 career starts for Innocent Storm. The win was worth $3,180 for owner Ramsye Mitchell and brought Innocent Storm’s career earnings to $79,668,
Innocent Storm, ridden by Freddy Manrrique and trained by Stetson Mitchell, paid $13.40, $6.40 and $5.40 to win. A Bunch for Lunch paid $6.00 and $5.20 to place and Iwannatalkaboutme $4.20 to show.
% Jake Olesiak has vaulted into the lead in the jockey standings with 32 wins. Chris Fackler has 30 and Armando Martinez 27.
% Olesiak had two wins Sunday. He won on Point and Fire in the first and on Danica To in the fifth, both for trainer David Anderson.
% Fackler also had two wins, first on Mayzee for trainer Jim Cranwell in the second and on Dujac in the fourth for trainer Marvin Johnson. It was the 1,999th career win for Johnson.
% Jockey Alberto Pusac also had two wins. In addition to the win in the feature race, he also won on Idont Know His Name for trainer Joe David in the third.
% With seven days of racing left, the trainer’s title looks like it will go to either Isai Gonzalez or Anderson. Gonzalez leads with way with 21 wins while Anderson is two behind with 19. Kelli Martinez is third with 14.
% The Dinsdale Pick 5 Jackpot keeps growing. Four of five Sunday paid $458. The carryover for Friday will be $60,185.85.
Three stake races will take place Saturday at Fonner Park.
In addition to the 44th running of the $12,500 Runza Stakes, a race for fillies and mares, the Fonner Park Special Stakes will also take place with a division for fillies and another for colts and geldings. It will be the 64th running for both those races.
Atoka Girl, Joe David; Blessed Song, Mark Lemburg; Chub’s Charmer, David Anderson; Country Club Pool, Dalton Dieter; Dixie Flyer, David Anderson; Grand Abbie, Stacey Rusthton; Green Lakes, Isai Gonzalez; Hannah Bo Baby, Joe Hawley; Intoxicating Kiss, Brian Roberts;
Irish Contessa, Mark Hibdon; Jamacian Me Money, Les Rhodes; Korn Flake Girl,, Joe David; Love at Night, Terrell Hemmer; Lucky Outcome, Steve Dickinson; Maybea Grand, Stacey Rushton; Mizzanna, Michael Bolinger; Natchez Pass, Milt Gaede; Remarkable Charm, Brian Roberts; Ryrysweetie, David Anderson; Sebebra, Isai Gonzalez; Smoken Danni, Mike Kirby; Stalker, Brian Roberts; Super One, Isai Gonzelez; Te Elle Cree, Jennifer Luark; Ubetchaimabumper, Brian Roberts; Wire Wire Wire, Joe David; You’re the Reason, Manual Chavez.
Fonner Park Special Stakes
Baker Township, Elisabeth Emerson; Chaber Doors, Marissa Black; Decats A Cougar, Dan Coughlin; Fancy Me Marie, Schuyler Condon; Get The Glue, Troy Bethke; Joy Forever, Marissa Black; Miss Justice, Gregorio Rivera; P R Sittin Pretty, Jason Wise; PR Somethin Better, Jason Wise; Princess B, Gregorio Rivera; Sweet Cowgirl, Bill Krause; Tripi’s Trpl Crown, Mark Lemburg; Wild Blue Kiss, Richard Bliss.
Fonner Park Special Stakes
3-year-old colts and geldings
Alex To, David Anderson; Bumpy Game, Marvin Johnson; Chared, Marvin Johnson; Creeds Revenge, Schuyler Condon; P R Streakin, Richard Bliss; Pete and Repete, Schuyler Condon; Phlash Drive, David Anderson; Ragtop Red, Schuyler Condon; Terrific, Schuyler Condon.