Louisville Magazine

APR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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students from the Japan Racing Association. "Teir full-blown racing program impressed me," McCarron says. Two years later, a grisly crash at Hollywood Park ruptured his left thigh and shattered his right leg and right fore- arm. "In the hospital, I thought about what I'd want to do after my racing career ended," he says. "We were the only major racing country that didn't have a school." Not anymore. O n this March Wednes- day, before the rising sun streaks the sky in a pastel palette, McCarron is inside barn 30's laundry room (it says "NARA" on the detergent bottles) cleaning saddle cloths and girth covers. "I do what- ever it takes," he says. He'll be 57 by the time you read this, his once-fiery locks — years ago, the hairdo could have been described as a perm — reduced to white stubble on the sides of his otherwise bald head. He stores a tin of Grizzly chewing tobacco in the back right pocket of his Gap jeans. He still has the horseman's handshake, hardened from decades of gripping the reins. His office's wood-paneled ceiling matches the walls, on which hang several framed photographs and newspaper clippings. McCarron on '87 Derby winner Alysheba and on Go for Gin, who won the roses in '94. John Henry. Tiznow. Sunday Silence. Tere's a Hollywood Park winner's-circle photograph from the day he retired, June 23, 2002, that captures him celebrating victory — the 7,141st of his career — with a horse called Came Home. McCarron finished his career with 34,230 races and a purse total of $264,351,579. "Tis school certainly lets me stay intimately involved with horse racing," McCarron says. He grew up in the Dorches- ter neighborhood of Boston. "I learned everything at the track," he says, mentioning how jockey Eddie Arcaro was a mentor. "All Eddie Arcaro ever did was win five Kentucky Derbys," he says. If he didn't need a school, why do these kids? (Tuition for out-of-state students can cost in the ballpark of $30,000.) "Anybody can pilot a horse," McCarron says. "We make smart riders." Te barn, renovated in the mid-1980s, contains 56 stalls. One of the two men who share the space is Don Combs, who trained 1970 Derby champion Dust Commander. NARA has 18 horses, a used-car lot of geld- [76] LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4.12 ings, mares and fillies — all of them leased or donated. One won an allowance race at Belmont Park; another hit the wire first a couple of times at Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville, Ill. In the future, the goal is to start stabling young horses on a commercial basis, to help cover barn costs — about $40 as, say, trainers or grooms. Right now, each person is cleaning a stall's overnight mess. Remi Bellocq, NARA's executive director since October, says to me, "Te first thing you've gotta do is learn to muck out a stall." I sign a waiver in case a horse kills me and follow him toward Montana's prison-cell-sized quar- ters. Barn manager Francois Parisel, who trained Breed- ers' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Nownownow, asks in a thick French accent, "You want to muck a stall? Why do you want to muck a stall?" Bellocq spent 10 years as CEO of the National Horse- men's Benevolent and Protec- tive Association. His father, Peb, was the Daily Racing Form's cartoonist for decades. Right now, Bellocq's teaching me to shovel horse manure. Te key, he says, is to save all of the good straw. (Hay, I learn, is what the horses snack on.) His rake and pitchfork scrape the concrete floor again and again, and he dumps unsalvageable mounds into a wheelbarrow. I'm uneasy in the stall's entrance because, frankly, horses terrify me. You know, hooves crushing faces. What compounds this fear is, every time I'm around horses while working on a story, every- body is constantly encouraging me to relax, explaining that horses can sense my anxiety. "Come on. He won't kick you," says Bellocq, handing me the rake. "But he might bite you if a day per horse. Horses would stay for 90-day stints, and students would work the develop- ing Toroughbreds, preparing those horses for their future racing careers. Te eight jockey students come from all over. Chad Lindsay, 18, is a former bull rider from Weatherford, Texas. Vanessa Ryall is from Norway, where her father breeds horses. She'll celebrate her 21st birthday on Saturday. Dylan Davis, also 18, is the youngest of six siblings and the son of retired jockey Robbie Davis. His sister, Jacqueline Davis, was in NARA's inaugural graduating class and is riding profes- sionally (2,180 mounts, 230 wins) on New York racetracks such as Aqueduct. Te students (five of whom are females) are supposed to be here by 7 a.m. five days a week, and all but one — a woman is absent because she needs to fix her car's brakes — show up at least 30 minutes early. (Tey do barn work on weekends, too.) Tere are also three women here from the school's "horseman's path," aspiring to work in the horse-racing industry you get too close." I'm taking forever, interrupting the routine and wasting lots of good straw, and Bellocq keeps snatching the tools out of my hands. Clumps of horse excrement cling to my boots. I've already bumped into one of Montana's water buckets, and my jeans are soaked. Bellocq, who teaches a racing-industry course, ends up doing most of the work — he says he's rusty, but it takes him no time at all — and lets me empty the wheelbarrow outside the barn. Back inside, I drive the pitchfork into a leaf of straw and shake my arms. Te brick of straw explodes, new bedding raining down onto the ground. Bellocq mentions how horses breathe through their noses and some have allergies. My polluted airways are convinced, and I sneak two puffs from my asthma inhaler. Te plastic tack caddie carries soft and hard brushes, a mane comb, hoof grease. Tere's a spot, a dark circle that looks like a birthmark, on Montana's back left leg that Bellocq asks me to scrub. "Wait, where do you want me to

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