Ideally, a man provides for his family while living with his family. But sometimes it’s not an ideal world. What if a man can’t do both? What if home is here and work is there?
What’s better for the family? For Dad to kick a soccer ball and carve the turkey every night or for Dad to pack his overnight bag and follow opportunity, make more money, provide security and future for the kids. The racetrack lifestyle forces this question.
Kick a soccer ball, go to a state school. Hit the road, the sky’s the limit.
Steve Rushing plays with this quandary every day, especially on the long drives after the draw on Sunday and before the works on Tuesday. New York to Maryland. Maryland to New York. He’s put 40,000 miles on a car he bought last May. Rushing books mounts for Saratoga’s leading jockey, Ramon Dominguez. Fifteen wins in eight days of racing puts him two ahead of Alan Garcia. Rushing’s family – wife, Tonya, son Brett and daughter Kylie – live in Maryland. Dominguez’s family – wife, Sharon, two sons, Matthew and Alex – are in Saratoga and will move to New York this fall. It was a long and drawn-out decision for Dominguez. Rushing’s family hasn’t committed to moving yet.
Dominguez and Rushing have been together nearly a decade, winning wherever they go and trying to balance their family and their lifestyle away from the New York buzz.
Dominguez and Rushing danced so long with New York they turned off the lights in the gym. They dabbled. Flirted. Teased. Ride at Aqueduct in the winter. Ride at Saratoga in the summer. Back to Delaware Park or the Maryland circuit – for the lifestyle, for the family – in between.
Someday they’d ride full-time in New York.
Someday is here.
Dominguez dominated the Belmont Spring Meet, winning 98 races from 388 mounts at a 25 percent clip. The momentum has carried over to Saratoga. He won three races Thursday, a typical variety pack for Dominguez. He picked up a Monmouth shipper for James Ryerson, a New York-bred 2-year-old for Rick Dutrow and a maiden claimer for Barclay Tagg. The day before, he won the stakes for Godolphin and a turf sprint for Mike Hushion.
Saturday, Dominguez travels to Arlington Park to ride Laureate Conductor for Christophe Clement in the Secretariat, Points Of Grace for Malcolm Pierce in the Beverly D. and Gio Ponti for Clement in the Arlington Million. He could win all three.
Business is good for Dominguez and Rushing.
“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while; we committed to be here for better or for worse,” Dominguez said. “The only thing that kept us from coming here any sooner was our lifestyles and family, what we can provide them in Maryland and Delaware. We were always putting business aside but now we’re focusing on business. It was hard not to come. Steve and I agree with so many things, it’s not like we had a major talk to make a decision like this. It’s kind of second nature, we didn’t sit down and really talk about it, we take it day to day and this was just the right time.”
For business. Is there ever a right time for family?
“It’s just hard being away from the family, that’s all. If the family was here full-time, then it would be great,” Rushing said. “I’m getting used to it. Winning helps. It’s just a family thing. To send them to good schools, put away money for their educations, it’s a catch-22, some days you feel like you’re doing the right thing, other days you feel like you’re not doing the right thing. I still don’t know if it’s the right thing. My daughter’s 6, my son’s 9 and I see them three days a week. That’s the hard thing.”
Rushing’s family will come to Saratoga for nine days, as soon as Brett is finished soccer camp and before first day of school Aug. 24 (what happened to summer vacation?). Of those nine days, Rushing will be at the races every racing day. If Dominguez is vying for his first championship, Rushing might be at the track, book under his arm, on Tuesday as well. Again, business over family.
“I don’t know what the right thing is. You won’t know for years if you made the right choice. You hope you do,” Rushing said. “You don’t want to put money in front of your family, but the bottom line is you need the money to provide them with a good life. I could stay there and take two riders and make a living, but the house we’re living in, the schools they’re going to, the education we’ll provide for them, the way of life will change. My son’s 9 years old, those years have gone past so fast. In another eight years, he’ll be going to college. Is it worth it? Some days, yeah. Other days, you’re like, ‘What am I doing?’ “