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Behind the Scenes: Keeneland Clerk of Scales Javier Torres has Riding in his Blood

October 26, 2016

LEXINGTON, KY (Oct. 26) – Javier Torres, Keeneland’s Clerk of Scales, grew up in a racing family. His father was a jockey, and his older brother, Francisco, is a successful rider who has won more than 3,100 races. Torres also has a career centered on riding racehorses – except he never gets on a horse’s back.

At Keeneland, Torres’ responsibilities include overseeing the jockeys’ race-day preparations, including ensuring each rider carries the correct weight assignment in a race. Jockeys must step on the scales – called “weighing out” – before the race while holding their saddles. If their poundage is too low or too high, adjustments are made using larger or smaller saddles and pads to obtain the correct weight.

After each race, Torres moves to the scale near the Winner’s Circle to reweigh the jockeys after they dismount, a procedure known as “weighing in.”
Between monitoring the scales, Torres makes sure jockeys are punctual in arriving in the Walking Ring by keeping his eye on the large timer that counts down the minutes to race time. He also organizes the schedule for jockeys’ valets, who are responsible for saddling the racehorses.

“It is pretty simple and repetitive throughout the day,” Torres said. “We are on a strict schedule.”

Unlike professional sports locker rooms that house only one team, the Jockeys Quarters is a community of competitors. Despite the rivalry among jockeys, there is strong camaraderie. The brotherhood appealed to Torres when he found his career.

While his family worked primarily at Chicago-area tracks, Torres naturally gravitated to working with horses, including a stretch as an exercise rider. One day around 1990, he stopped for his usual lunch in the jockeys’ dining room to find the cook was shorthanded. He volunteered to assist the cook with dishwashing for the day.

Torres became the cook the following year and later obtained a job in the saddling paddock distributing numbered bibs to horse handlers. The networking resulted in a promotion to assistant paddock judge and eventually to clerk of scales. He estimates he has been Keeneland’s Clerk of Scales for seven years after being the assistant.

When the Keeneland meet ends Saturday, Torres – whose Chicago ties mean he is a huge Chicago Cubs fan – will continue his position at Churchill Downs. After that, he will enjoy some leisure time in the Chicago area where his fiancé, Debbie Gray, lives.