Thus was Super-Jock, the robot jockey, born. Kime and McVean hired a horse trainer who determined that the perfect mounts for Jock were hackney ponies. McVean poured $2 million into training, production and promotion, and last year Super-Jock debuted at Birmingham-Jefferson Coliseum in Alabama. The feisty little hackneys broke from the gate and sped around the dirt track as their flesh-and-blood handlers stood in the center of the ring, operating the Super-Jocks' metal arms, which were attached to the ponies' reins, by remote control. It was, well,...very different.
The rest is Barnumesque history. Super-Jock has gone through six generations, and in the latest incarnation the handler can actually whisper to his pony through the control box. McVean has booked Kemper Arena in Kansas City for a six-week summer season, pending approval by the Missouri Horse Racing Commission. McVean and Kime see a bright future for their sport. After all, it can be held indoors or out, and the strong little horses can run up to 80 races a year. Best of all, the 22-pound mechanical jockeys will never have any trouble making weight.