- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"The ones who are jealous of Denise are the other girls around the track," says Vickie McElhiney, a 20-year-old trainer. "That's the only place you'll hear any bad talk about her."
Mike Carrozzella, long a leading rider in New England, has helped teach Boudrot the ropes. He says with some chagrin, "It's all changed around. She's the first girl jockey ever to get mounts because she is a girl. Guys around here are saying, well, I can't win with a boy, so let's try 'the broad.' "
"The broad"—it is said blandly, in the neutral manner of "the boy" or "the six-horse"—has won 63 races at the meeting (five of them on a single day two weeks ago) and has been in the money 50% of the time. And now almost every horse she rides goes down several numbers off the morning line. Usually in a pattern. As soon as the mutuels open there is a quick drop in odds—the housewife money coming in—then a leveling off till the very end, and another drop, the smart money. But if the fans are creating false favorites for her, and if the four-letter gutter word for woman ricochets about the grandstand when she loses, Denise remains a most popular rider. "Go home and have a baby" is about the most pointed remark she ever hears.
But then, Boudrot has caught everyone by surprise at Suffolk's fall meeting. She had not ridden since last May 26, when a rogue horse suddenly bolted for the outside and crashed full speed into the rail, his chest leaving an indentation still visible. Denise thudded to the ground, landing in a drainage ditch with a broken leg. She also was out several months late last year when a mount clipped heels and she wrenched her back in the resultant fall. Oh, she is a tough cookie, and brave. "Even when I was little I had no fear," she says.
She is strong, too—4'11", 104, a size 3, but more compact and full-breasted than most girl jocks. Her pale, placid face seems nearly always in repose, with narrow eyes that calmly receive the world around them, sometimes blue, other times green, sometimes hazel, given the right light and mood. She lives with a Chihuahua and two cats in an apartment near Suffolk, eats whatever she pleases, smokes quite a bit, bets not at all. She speaks well, if in the classic broad-A Boston accent. Disposition? It can only be said that Denise Marie Boudrot is sweet.
But she is nobody's fool, understand that. "The racetrack is a world all to itself," she says. "I've been very lucky. There's a lot of heartaches and heartbreaks here, and I'm not nearly as naive as when I first came. I used to believe everybody, but I've learned about people. I guess I've toughened up."
She came naturally to that initial attitude of trust, nurtured by a loving, secure family, and having lived a perfectly unremarkable life. She grew up a tomboy—"Sam, "friends called her—in Burlington, Mass., a few miles north of Boston, the second child and only daughter of a French-Irish marriage. At 12 she got her first pony. She graduated from Burlington High in 1970 and worked as a supermarket check-out girl, in a snack bar and on an assembly line before landing a stable job for $60 a week.
With her earnings from riding (her mounts have won nearly $400,000 in purses) she bought her parents a farm last spring in Elloree, S.C. They named it the Longshot Lady Farm. Nelson Boudrot, who had been a production foreman, retired, and he and his wife Julia settled there. Then a month ago, Julia Boudrot dropped dead.
"I'm sorry these sad things come up," someone says to Denise.
"No, don't be sorry," she replies. "All their lives my father and mother had to work and scrimp for money. And then for those five or six months they had together in South Carolina they could relax, and my father could buy her things he wanted to for the first time. Don't be sorry. Those were very happy times."