JC / Railbird

Exercise Riders

Royal Mo Settles In at Pimlico

It’s quiet at Pimlico, and that’s why Always Dreaming shipped in early for the Preakness. Royal Mo did too, getting his first tour of the place on Wednesday morning, as captured in the very peaceful short video below that acted (for me) as a delightful antidote to all the recent non-racing news:

His exercise rider is 17-year-old Taylor Leatherman, who would like to be a jockey. “He’s a super cool horse,” she said of her new ride:

5/14/17 Update: An unfortunate development — Royal Mo suffered a right front sesamoid fracture while working at Pimlico early on Sunday morning. Jockey Gary Stevens heard a pop; he pulled the colt up and held the leg. Royal Mo has been transported to the New Bolton veterinary hospital.

5/15/17 Update via Jeremy Balan on Twitter: “John Shirreffs just got an update on Royal Mo. Surgery @ New Bolton successful. A long way to go to recover. Racing career officially over.”

5/18/17 Addendum: She didn’t ride him for long, but Leatherman’s time with Royal Mo has had its rewards. The aspiring jockey credited trainer John Shirreffs with some of her newfound skills; he praised her work as “perfect.”

Ride of a Lifetime, In the Morning

Spare a few moments in praise of the exercise riders who gallop Kentucky Derby contenders, often from the start of their racing careers:

As is the case with grooms and hot walkers, these individuals are not listed on the official race chart, or in the program, or in most of the media coverage leading up to or following the big event. There will be no trophy or postrace TV interview on a national network for the one whose horse wins the Derby. Ask how they feel as they gallop their charges beneath the Twin Spires, however, and every one of them will tell you — in the days leading up to the big event, there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.