I Am Horse Racing was started to create a platform to share the stories that exist in and around horse racing, with the main focus being is the extensive care for Thoroughbred racehorses, the passion for the sport from those involved, and the many jobs that make up this industry.
Jockey agent Matt Nakatani was born with racing already coursing through his veins as the son of Southern California jockey Corey Nakatani and trainer Michele Dollase. He also counts an uncle, aunt, and grandfather, the late Wallace Dollase, as trainers within the industry. After graduating from the University of Louisville, Matt returned home to California to be near family and took a more active role in his father's distinguished riding career, becoming his agent. The pairing was a success and the young Nakatani helped his father return off an extended layoff, solidifying himself as a well-respected member of the industry.
Though not an easy one, Nakatani says his job and passion are one and the same and that he goes after each early morning, disappointing defeat, and exhilarating win all for the love of the horse and the life they have given him and his family. Meet Matt Nakatani. He is Horse Racing.
Jess Hogan is co-owner of Blackwood Stables in Versailles, Ky., alongside her husband Matt and good friend's Guinness and Lisa McFadden. The idea of Blackwood is all about developing horses from the ground up, providing the best possible atmosphere to introduce the basics while also providing individual attention. Hogan grew up in St. Louis and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a soccer scholarship while earning a degree in Animal Science with an equine emphasis. She then moved to Lexington to participate in the Kentucky Equine Management Internship Program. Hogan and her husband met through a mutual friend who had interned with him during their time at the Irish National Stud and the two now share three children, all equally as horse crazy. Meet Jess Hogan. She is Horse Racing.
Stonestreet Farms groom Christina Zurick fell in love with racing while watching Smarty Jones win the 2004 Kentucky Derby alongside her father, the pair watching on TV from afar. She learned all she could and knew she wanted to pursue a career in racing after falling for two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. She began in her own backyard by working at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, a track she deeply respects and credits with giving her a head start in life. After six years, she took a leap of faith moving south to Lexington, Ky. and has been a member of the Stonestreet crew for two years now. She says working there is a dream and that she still pinches herself each day as she drives through the gates of the farm. Meet Christina Zurick. She is Horse Racing.
Renowned racing photographer Alex Evers' earliest memories involve watching Alysheba win the 1987 Kentucky Derby and falling in love with jockey Chris McCarron soon after, wanting to be just like him. When he grew a bit too tall for the gig, he still returned to the track after schooling to follow his newest passion, photography. The decision allowed him to combine his two loves and has proven wise as he is continually sought after, pushing the envelope for what racing photography can look like in a modern world. He travels far and wide to photograph the many personalities of racing, both human and equine and revels every second of it as a true fan himself. Meet Alex Evers, He is Horse Racing.
Born and raised in Arcadia, Calif,, horseplayer "Seminar Skip," has been around racing his entire life. He began by attending with his father and his mother, affectionately called "Turf Club Patty," worked at Santa Anita Park for 30 years before retiring. As a professional handicapper, he contributes to the industry by wagering on tracks throughout the country, but always spends the bulk of his time at his homebase of Santa Anita and can be seen most race days. Dubbed "Seminar Skip" by his many friends due to his prowess in tournaments and as a member of a weekly radio show centered around his picks, he's a true lover of the horse. Also appointed the resident "Mayor of the Dungeon" for laughs, due to the fact that he'll bet in the Paddock Room late into the evening on other tracks, Skip loves the camaraderie of it all. Champion racemare "Queen" Zenyatta has always been his favorite, so much so, that he named his beloved husky the same, bequeathing the honor upon yet another four-legged friend. His love for the racetrack knows no bounds and even chose it as the location for his recent 50th Birthday celebration, inviting everyone to his favorite spot. Always giving of his time and ready with a smile, meet Seminar Skip. This is his story.
Dan Cox works as a security adviser at Stonestreet Farm in Lexington, Ky. He's been a part of the team for more than a decade and considers it a blessing to be a part of the horse industry. A veteran, Cox was deployed to Iraq in 2004 then worked on relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina when he returned to the states. Stonestreet is the only job he's had since his contract ended and he's grateful. Though he didn't have any prior horse experience, he's grown to love it. Meet Dan Cox, he is horse racing.
Eli Hernandez serves as the Track Chaplain at Santa Anita Park. His role is a multi-faceted one that mostly involves listening, affirmation, and constant benevolence in and around the stable area with the many workers and horsemen. His perpetual presence puts everyone at ease knowing he will provide a smile, prayer, or even lending an ear, no matter the issue at hand. Hernandez stands with the jockeys and gate crew before each race day begins, saying a small prayer and reminding everyone to be grateful of all they have and the beauty that surrounds them. Meet Eli Hernandez, this is his story. #IAmHorseRacing
Sheri Miller works in Lexington, Ky. as a Licensed Veterinary Technician at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. Miller's main goal was to find a way to contribute to the racing industry and thus worked hard to obtain the skills necessary to do so. She works alongside renowned vet and surgeon, Dr. Larry Bramlage, to evaluate horses and help them continue to perform at their highest level. With everything from advanced therapies, to the latest diagnostic equipment, to even plush and sunny paddocks, Miller and the entire Rood & Riddle team keep the health and happiness of their horses a constant priority. Additionally, Miller also served as past-president of the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians, an organization devoted to promoting the health and welfare of the horse through education and professional enrichment of the equine veterinary technicians and assistants. Meet Sheri Miller, she is Horse Racing.
Charles Hynes is an Assistant Broodmare Manager at Coolmore America located in Versailles, Kentucky. Born in Ireland, Hynes was always around horses and later attended The University of Limerick to study Equine Sciences. Hynes was selected to come to the States thanks to a work-study program and now helps ready the future stars of racing, living out his passion. Hynes says it's a special feeling knowing he's a small part of any success they experience. Meet Charles Hynes. He is Horse Racing.
Nick Bush makes his living as an exercise rider in Kentucky. His father was a groom on a farm and Bush was allowed to tag along on the weekends, getting to experience the foals and yearlings firsthand from a young age. He loved it and began to think they could be a big part of his future after noticing how well he got on with them. When Bush was told by a blacksmith he had the right build to be a rider, he gave it a try and the rest as they say, is history. Meet Nick Bush, he is Horse Racing.
Steve Norman makes his living as a horse-shoer, blacksmith, or farrier as they're called, in Kentucky. To say he posses some expertise in equines might be an understatement. Norman's father allowed him to ride the family's Shetland pony to school as early as kindergarten. A pen was even built at the country school so the pony would have a place all his own to wait until being ridden home each day. Norman made his way to the racetrack and has worked for some of the best names in racing. Shoeing for the late Hall-of-Fame trainer Jack Van Berg is what he says was his biggest break. He possesses a love and passion that he says is necessary to work around horses your entire life. Meet Steve Norman, he is Horse Racing.
Sharla Rae Sanders is the Operations Manager for the Doug O'Neill Racing Stable in Southern California. She's loved horses since she was 3-years-old but never attended a race until later in life after seeing War Emblem win the 2002 Kentucky Derby, and something clicked. When the housing crisis forced her out of a high ranking job in the mortgage industry, she immediately turned to volunteering with the California Equine Retirement Foundation which eventually led her to her new home at the O'Neill Stable. Besides taking care of social media, scheduling, bills, and travel, she also takes care of her team members, including the ultimate fan-favorite former racehorse and now ever-present "Coach," Lava Man. Meet Sharla Rae Sanders.
John Shear is a paddock guard at Santa Anita Park. He stepped onto the grounds in 1954 and has been a mainstay ever since. Once described by the Publicity Director as the human version of fine wine, Shear turned 98 this past January and has no set plans for retirement. Shear credits his work ethic and love of the outdoors as a reason for his longevity. Each day he wakes and goes through a morning routine of calisthenics and pushups before going into work where he keeps everyone safe by guiding human and equine traffic. He is perfectly content to spend his days watching horses and chatting with his favorite people. Meet John Shear. As he says, he is nothing but Horse Racing.
Kevin Mudd works at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. as a pony rider, accompanying racehorses to the starting gate throughout the day. He comes from a long line of horsemen, multiple generations in fact, and loves his job. His trusty steed, "Red," is his main man and has been for the last five years. Like many racetrack ponies, Red loves receiving peppermints from adoring fans in between shifts. Meet Kevin Mudd and Red.
Jenn Laidlaw is the broodmare manager at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, KY. Laidlaw grew up in Northern California, near the coastal town of Eureka. She remembers always having loved horses and racing since she was little, even though she wasn't born into it. Her mother had always been a fan and it was a passion they shared as she grew. After high school she headed east to attend the University of Kentucky in Louisville and never left. Now at Lane's End for over nine years, Laidlaw began as the foaling barn foreman, then was the assistant to the broodmare manager, a job she now holds. Laidlaw doesn't consider it a job though, it's her life and like her entire team, she's dedicated to taking care of the horses. Meet Jenn Laidlaw. She is Horse Racing.
Jay Cohen has been playing the trumpet for over 50 years, 30 of them as a racetracker. Known for playing the "Call to Post" before each race over the years at HollywoodPark and now Santa Anita Park he was recently stricken with Bell's Palsy and has had to battle back to his calling. "This 30 years has turned into who I am," he says. A truly beloved character to his fans, he's asked to play birthdays, weddings and even funerals because. Always ready with a smile, a joke, and even a magic trick, this is Jay Cohen.
Rosie Ybarra has worked at Santa Anita Park for 40 years and loves taking care of people. The 'Queen' of Clockers' Corner lovingly provides coffee, breakfast, doggie treats and all the latest news & gossip to the many horsemen, employees, fans, and even local firefighters that visit during morning workouts. Ybarra says her favorite memories have to be of the late Hall-of-Fame trainer, Charlie Whittingham. She recalls that she'd play Sinatra while serving him milk and cookies. And, if he ever caught her outside the kitchen? He'd, of course, invite her to sit with him awhile. Meet Rosie Ybarra. She is Horse Racing.
Penelope Miller manages the digital component of America's Best Racing, an organization specifically created to introduce the next generation to the world of racing and all that it offers. She's a fan herself, a passionate one - always has been. Miller grew up on a Thoroughbred farm in Ocala, Fla. and says her parents are her biggest inspiration. "They taught me to work hard, always try my best, and never lose my sense of humor." Perfect advice as her own words of wisdom to beginners is to have a bit of fun. "There is something in this world for everyone, no matter your age or background." Miller says she can't imagine a life outside of racing and that once these horses get into your blood, you love them for life. Meet Penelope Miller. She is horse racing.
Meet groom Marisol Donis. Though rare, it's not unheard of to find a woman groom on the backside of a racetrack. It's a physically demanding job though, so it's not commonplace. Donis has worked for trainer Carla Gaines for the past four years. She started out as a hotwalker but is 'ambitious.' She requested the chance to groom and was given a pony, then a racehorse, then two, and is now in charge of a full set to love and care for as her own. When asked why she was given the opportunity, her employer made it sound like a no-brainer. "She's good with horses and she has the touch," said Gaines. "She's efficient, she's smart and she's strong."
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, trainer Carla Gaines started out by riding and showing hunters and jumpers in competition as a teenager. After attending the University of Alabama, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in sociology and psychology, she worked as a youth counselor just outside of her hometown. She traveled west in the mid-90’s training for the sales and working as an exercise rider, and later as an assistant in Northern California before taking out her own license in 1988.
Liam Benson is a member of the team at Taylor Made Stallions in Kentucky. At 16 years of age, he went to work at the racetrack and had his own string of horses by the time he was attending college at the University of Louisville. As he puts it, he needed a job and that just happened to be as a racehorse trainer. He also believes that getting up each day to work with horses doesn't ever feel like a job at all.
Dr. Vince Baker was destined to be surrounded by horses his entire life. Raised on a horse farm in Garden Grove, Calif., and the son of a well-respected veterinarian, he aspired to be a vet himself from a young age. An unwavering work ethic and calm demeanor confirm the decision. Always ready with a smile and witty remark, the beloved "doc" has a philosophy of treating everyone he encounters the same. "No matter what you work at, if you work hard, you deserve my respect."
Trainer Tim Yakteen, born in Nuremberg, Germany, spent his first 18 years there. His mother was German, his father Lebanese, who became a U.S. citizen and then a member of the army. Yakteen didn't come stateside himself until later following his sister all the way to Cypress, Calif. Los Alamitos racetrack was nearby and though he didn't yet know anything about horses, he needed a job and thus began mucking stalls. Now married to a horsewoman and the head of his own stable, his hard work has paid off.
Most widely known as Bridleless Wyatt's mom, Donna Keen spends most of her time at Santa Anita Park in her barn shared with trainer husband, Dallas. The formerly Texas-based husband-and-wife duo also operate Remember Me Rescue, a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance charitable organization specializing in the rehabilitation, retraining, and rehoming of off the track Thoroughbreds.
A trainer since 1988, Keith Desormeaux was born into a racing family and began as an exercise rider in his home state of Louisiana. His foray into training also began in “The Big Easy,” eventually expanded to Texas, and then on to California in 2013. Ever humble, Desormeaux state’s he’s “just an old country boy working in the trenches for these past 30 years.”
French-born exercise rider Manon Prat is featured in the new episode. Prat started out eventing but later attended the renowned program AFASEC, near Paris, that combines schoolwork alongside horses and racing. There she worked with and met her husband, jockey Flavien Prat. The two moved to the U.S. in late 2014 and are the proud new parents of a baby girl. This is her story.
Stable guard Manny Diaz greets people with a mega-watt smile every day, since 1984. A former jockey, Diaz delivered newspapers to owners at Caliente which turned into riding for them when one saw his potential. After arriving in the U.S. in 1970, Diaz spent time in the Bay Area, Seattle, and Los Angeles before retiring from riding. His greatest gift was having that special something, allowing him to create a bond with each of his horses.
Meet David Hofmans: A Southern California trainer since 1974, Hofmans won his first race at Santa Anita Park with Nu Kali the same year. He was introduced to racing at an early age by his father, an avid fan, and Santa Anita became so ingrained in his upbringing that he learned to drive in the parking lot. Hofmans’ son Grant took out a trainer’s license himself in 1995, and his nephew, Brent, serves as his longtime assistant.
Assistant trainer Carlos Santamaria has been with Simon Callaghan since 2015, but he’s been around horses his entire life. Born and raised near Mexico City, he moved to the U.S. at the age of 16 and began as a groom in San Diego before moving to Santa Anita Park. Santamaria has worked for top trainers such as the great Charlie Whittingham, David Hofmans, and eventually as assistant to Jack Carava. Though incredibly sick recently and fighting through pills, fluids, and daily dialysis, Santamaria says he must come to the barn each day because his horses are his life.
Billy Koch Grew up in a racing family that included a grandfather who sat on the Board of Directors for Hollywood Park. Billy Koch attended the races before he could walk and has been involved in horse ownership since 1991. Billy Koch founded Little Red Feather Racing Club in 2002. He acts as managing partner of LRF, representing 500 partners and owners of horses based in Southern California.
Trainer Anna Meah, 26, may be young but her simple motto of staying humble and positive has let her continue to enjoy her favorite part of the industry, her horses. She was introduced to the sport at the age of seven and knew immediately it was for her. In 2012, she packed her car and drove to California from the state of Washington with nothing but a goal in mind. Hard work led her to good barns, onto the back of California Chrome for Sherman Racing, and eventually to her own stable late last year.
Meet Kelsey Faucon, an exercise rider for trainer Phil D’Amato. Kelsey also works as an equine therapist assisting a local practice doing therapeutic treatments on horses based in Southern California. This is her story. #IAMHORSERACING
I Am Horse Racing was created with a simple goal in mind. A group of industry employees came together to share the stories of those who dedicate their lives to racing. These are their stories #IAMHorseRacing