Jessica Oldham Stith, the first graduate of Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy, failed to emulate her parents but got a lot of experience in her first ride as a jockey June 17 at River Downs in Ohio.
Stith’s father, John Oldham, won his first race at River Downs, while her mother, Suzie Picou, won her only start at River Downs. Stith, aboard owner/trainer William Wofford’s Greenwood Lady, finished fifth in a field of seven in a maiden test for $15,000 claimers at 18-1.
“I didn't win, but I learned so much out there,” the 30-year-old Stith said after the race. “We try our best to simulate a race during training hours at the school, but there is nothing like the real thing. I never knew you would get hit with so much dirt.”
Greenwood Lady trailed the field for the first quarter mile of the six-furlong race and passed two rivals turning for home to finish fifth. McCarron, the Hall of Fame jockey, ponied Greenwood Lady and Stith to the starting gate.
“I thought it would help ease her butterflies, but instead I got them,” McCarron said with a laugh. “She was totally relaxed and professional, something we encourage at the Academy. It makes me proud to see that she has learned her lessons well, and I have no doubt she'll go on to be a credit to the school.”
As it turned out, the race was won by Juan Chabarria’s Explicit Chic, who was ridden by another female jockey, Bonnie Castaneda. Explicit Chic is trained by Adolfo Macias.
McCarron spent the better part of the afternoon meeting fans and signing autographs while giving out information on the North American Racing Academy he founded two years ago in Lexington. The program is a fully accredited, two-year program for aspiring jockeys and those who wish to get involved in any aspect of the Thoroughbred industry.