When the producers behind the Animal Planet show Jockeys began work on the series' initial season, they quickly realized there was a problem with the program's material.
They had, in their opinion, just too much of a good thing.
"When we started getting into the project ... we just didn't know how much depth there would be to those stories," producer Jason Carey said. "We realized we had a lot of footage on the cutting-room floor because we couldn't fit it into the time format."
The second season of Jockeys, which begins Friday night, will try to rectify that issue as its sheds its former half-hour format and expands to seven 60-minute episodes to track the lives of the men and women who have chosen one of the world's most dangerous occupations.
Never miss a local story.
In addition to trying to expand on the stories it has, Jockeys has added to its list of cast members. Veteran riders Garrett Gomez and Corey Nakatani will be featured along with first-season regulars Chantal Sutherland, Mike Smith, Aaron Gryder, Alex Solis, Jon Court, Joe Talamo and Kayla Stra.
"I think when all seven of us first agreed to do it, it was because we trusted the producers," said Gryder, whose triumph in the $6 million Dubai World Cup aboard Well Armed in March will be among the story lines spotlighted this season. "There is a sad side to our sport that often gets overexposed, but there is a side that is exciting that hardly ever gets exposed. The producers said, 'We want to show people what this is all about.'"
Whereas the show's first season focused on the run-up to the 2008 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park, the second season zeros in on the journey to the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
Along with the inherent drama of the race itself, producers found themselves with even more of a story arch on their hands on the day of the race. Talamo learned that his mount, Derby favorite I Want Revenge, had to be scratched that morning because of an injury, while Sutherland — the previous rider of eventual Derby winner Mine That Bird — watched her former mount pull off the stunning upset.
"Honestly, I was so shocked. I think I might have frozen for a bit," Sutherland said of her reaction to the Derby outcome. "My friend Emma and I just stared at each other and she was like, 'You could have been the first girl ever to win the Derby.'"