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updated: 6/25/2012 12:29 PM

Arlington jockey gives fans inside look with helmet cam

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  • Jockey Tim Thornton is the star of the "Behind the Silks" video series at arlingtonpark.com. Thornton provides an inside look at the life of a jockey, wear a helmet cam during races to share the experience with fans.

      Jockey Tim Thornton is the star of the "Behind the Silks" video series at arlingtonpark.com. Thornton provides an inside look at the life of a jockey, wear a helmet cam during races to share the experience with fans.
    Courtesy of Four Footed Fotos

  • Video: Behind the Silks Episode 3

 
By Caitlin Swieca
cswieca@dailyherald.com

In horse racing, jockeys know that most fans are more familiar with the animals than with the men and women who guide them through each race.

Tim Thornton and Jessica Pacheco are out to change that.

Pacheco, Arlington Park's TV racing analyst, is the producer of a series of web videos called "Behind the Silks" that highlight the races and personal life of 25-year-old jockey Thornton, who has been riding professionally for nine years.

The series started at the beginning of Arlington's season, when Pacheco had the idea to highlight one of the park's regular jockeys as a way to engage more fans in the sport.

"He was the only one that came to mind," Pacheco said. "He had the personality. He's well-spoken; he's very charismatic. I knew he'd be relatable to people who aren't immersed in the horse-racing culture."

Thornton has been an enthusiastic participant. He insists he has no qualms about sharing any part of his personal or professional life with the cameras.

"I like letting people know what it is from a jockey's perspective," he said. "Over time, hearing other people's perspectives on what they think it actually is is sometimes very, very far-fetched. When she asked me to do it, I was more than happy."

A new episode is released each Friday, and the content within the installments ranges from Thornton talking about his 2-year-old daughter on Father's Day to Thornton breaking down his winning races at the Prairie State Festival.

The goal is to engage those in the industry while drawing more casual fans to the series.

The portions of the show that focus on racing have been enhanced by the introduction of the helmet cam, which Thornton straps on before every race. Unlike most racing coverage, the videos show the race from a jockey's point of view.

Thornton has experimented with placing the camera at different angles -- for example, sometimes he will put it behind him to show how a horse explodes out of the gate, or put it on his side if his horse will be breaking from the outside of the pack.

"He's worn it every single race, so we have tons of incredible footage," Pacheco said. "He is the one who decided where to put it. He's been an active co-producer."

Thornton said placing the camera behind him has allowed him to see new things as well.

"There's been some stuff that you come back and you watch it and it turns out to be a spectacular," he said. "It's definitely something that's different that nobody has really seen before. Hopefully there'll be more of it in the future."

After winning four races in one day, Thornton joked that the helmet cam might be bringing him luck.

With the videos available on Arlington's website and the screens at the track, Thornton now often gets recognized as he walks through the grandstands.

"It's definitely getting out there to other fans," he said. "And any way that we can draw more fans to the game and make a bigger fan out of somebody who's just an average fan or somebody that just comes once a year, maybe they'll watch it a couple times."

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