Person of Interest: Restless Rider

Cheryl Charlton

She has been one of the top three riders at Los Alamitos Race Course for the past four years, and is considered one of the best female jockeys in Southern California—though the 26-year-old Cypress woman says she doesn’t keep track of her stats. Still, the 5-foot-4 Charlton is competitive by nature, and says her most vivid memory of her first victory was of galloping past the finish line. “I was so excited. I kept saying, ‘I win! I win!’ It was the greatest day.”

Why’d you want to be a jockey?
Growing up, my mom and sister and I rode horses. I saw the Kentucky Derby on TV one year, and even though I’d never been to a live race, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Ever get injured?
Broke my collarbone. My horse went down during a race. But it’s all a part of it. I love the adrenaline.

Are people surprised to find out you’re a jockey? I normally don’t tell people what I do. My whole life is about work; I talk about horses all day at the track.

What’s it feel like to win?
To be honest, I’m money hungry. Every time I win, that’s the first thing on my mind. You don’t get as much of a cut for second or third, so I want first place.

Future plans?
Eventually, I want to get married and have a family, and I don’t think I’d return to the track after having kids. But I’ll always keep up with racing. It’s in my blood now.

Catch Charlton racing thoroughbreds and quarter horses at Los Alamitos. 714-820-2800,

Photographs by Priscilla Iezzi
This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue.