2012-03-29 / Sports

Lexington Jockey School Expanding Scope

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) –The North American Racing Academy, which was founded in 2006 to train jockeys, is expanding its scope and will become a workforce development school for horse farms.

The academy's new director, Remi Bellocq, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the change is aimed at meeting “a high demand for trained, skilled workers, especially with immigration issues being what they are.”

NARA will offer a oneyear certificate program in exercise riding and racehorse care and training in addition to its current two-year program for jockeys and horsemen. It will prepare students at the school to work in jobs ranging from exercise riders to grooms and will emphasize horsemanship skills, racehorse care and barn management.

“For some kids, a fouryear degree may not be practical or possible,” Bellocq said. “This is a wonderful program here, but we’re still kind of a best-kept secret.”

A pre-admission orientation for the program will be held for interested applicants on April 16 at Keeneland in Lexington.

Bellocq said he is working on ways to offer the program to more students. The academy plans offer courses this summer and fall at Locust Trace Agriscience Farm to recent high school graduates who are interested in racing and breeding. The agriscience farm is operated by the Fayette County Public Schools. In addition, Bellocq said a partnership is in the works with Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and he hopes to set up a “master class” for students at Keeneland this fall.

The school, which was started and is still led by Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, has seen success since opening. Jockeys who completed the program have ridden in more than 11,000 races and earned more than $16 million.

Former student Jessica Edstrom became a jockey, but decided after taking some classes that it wasn’t the right course for her. Her teacher persuaded her that she should pursue the path of a professional horsewoman – a career that entails dealing with owners and employees, juggling finances, and getting to know horses through daily hands- on work.

She said attending the school was a great opportunity that helped her find her calling.

“It is such a really unique program,” Edstrom said about the academy. “Chris (McCarron) knows everybody who is anybody, and you get such a head start even before you get a job.''

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