From Turfway Park
Four graduates and five second-year students from the North American Racing Academy lined up for an exhibition race at Turfway Park in Kentucky Sept. 27, with Matthew Straight, a member of the academy’s 2008 inaugural graduating class, getting the win aboard Pointing Home.
The field of nine 2- and 3-year-old colts and fillies raced five furlongs over Turfway’s Polytrack. Five of the horses had not raced before, while four had at least one official lifetime start to their credit.
“I was very confident in all the students’ ability to get around the track safely,” said Hall of Fame jockey and academy executive director Chris McCarron. “I talked with them before the race to remind them that this was just a training race to give some of the students who hadn’t been out there some experience and to give these 2-year-old colts and fillies some experience.”
“These second-year students are further along at this stage than the graduates were at this time last year,” McCarron continued. “We tweaked some things the second time around, so that they learn a little bit faster and get fit quicker too. It helped a lot to have the ones from the first group come over and talk to the new students about how difficult it is and how fit you need to be. So the second group has been very diligent about getting to the gym and eating right. It’s fun to watch the first graduates help the students.”
Straight has been riding at Turfway throughout the fall meet and through Friday had six wins from 44 mounts. He kept Pointing Home on or near the lead throughout and finished a length ahead of second-year student Ben Creed aboard Yore, a 2-year-old colt with two career starts. The remainder of the field was strung out behind, with graduate Anna Roberts third aboard the officially unraced 2-year-colt Rico Ri Atoa and current student Mike Straight fourth aboard Persian, also an unraced 2-year-old colt.
The opening quarters went in :23 flat and :46 1/5, with the final time clocked at :58 4/5.
Pointing Home, Yore, and Persian are owned by Oxbow Racing Stable and trained by Frank Betancourt. Rico Ri Atoa is owned by Stud TNT and trained by Eduardo Caramori.
Also competing were graduates Michael James (Act Now) and Jessica Oldham-Stith (Artic Run) and second-year students Kristina McManigell (More Kisses), Ryan Pacheco (Paid Preview), and Katie Peddicord (Greenwood Lady).
Students wore silks of varying colors bearing the logo of the North American Racing Academy and noting the academy’s affiliation with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Turfway’s track announcer, Mike Battaglia, called the race using the students’ names rather than the horses’.
McCarron ponied Greenwood Lady to the track wearing the silks of the man who taught him to ride, Odie Clelland.
While students from the academy had had one previous schooling race at the Kentucky Horse Park on May 18, Saturday’s event was the first academy race to be sanctioned by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and held at a racetrack. Results of the race will not appear in official records and no wagers were taken.
Established in 2006 and located at the Kentucky Horse Park and the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, the North American Racing Academy is the only school of its kind in the United States. The school is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, with its students enrolled in and graduating from Bluegrass Community and Technical College.