Straight takes second annual NARA exhibition race
Jockey Matthew Straight won the North American Racing Academy (NARA) exhibition race at Turfway Park for the second consecutive year Friday when he guided Brentsville Road to a half-length victory over Embalo, ridden by Kristina McManigell. Claire Scholly, aboard Celtic Princess, was third.
All the jockeys in the exhibition are graduates of the Lexington, Kentucky, racing academy, the only school of its kind in the United States. Straight was a member of the academy's inaugural graduating class of 2008. The other five riders in this year's exhibition are 2009 graduates. This is the second exhibition the academy has presented at Turfway.
"It's very exciting," said Chris McCarron, founder and executive director of the academy and a former jockey who was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 1989. "I'm so proud of these students."
McManigell booted Embalo immediately to the lead on the inside, with Brentsville Road just off his flank and Ben Creed aboard Penitant Prayers on the outside in third. Celtic Princess, with Scholly up, was slow out of the gate but quickly made up ground while Straight took Brentsville Road back. Approaching the turn, Celtic Princess moved up to challenge Embalo and the two battled for the lead, but Brentsville Road closed quickly on the outside to get by both in the final strides. After a quarter in :23 flat and the half-mile in :46 4/5, the final time for the 5 1/2-furlong exhibition was 1:04 4/5.
Completing the order of finish were Penitant Princess; Nossa Vez, with Ryan Pacheco aboard; and We Gaijin, ridden by Katherine Peddicord. No wagers were taken on the race.
The race was an unofficial first start for Brentsville Road, a two-year-old colt trained by Matt Frazier.
"He broke good but then I took him back a little," Straight said. "The trainer asked me to keep him back to let him get used to the Polytrack coming back at him, and then he came on when I asked him."
Three more of the six horses in the field are also officially unraced, but McCarron said he was confident both in the horses and in his students.
"(Trainer) Eduardo Caramori has been kind enough to let the students get on these (unraced) horses in the mornings at the Training Center, so we knew they were well behaved," McCarron said.
Established by McCarron in 2006, the North American Racing Academy is one of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System's Centers of Excellence, with its students enrolled in and graduating from Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Currently 27 students are enrolled in the jockey pathway, 11 in their first year and 16 in their second year. An additional six students are following the horsemen's pathway, which prepares students for careers in training, farm management, and other aspects of the industry.
NARA has graduated 16 students to date. Eight have gone on to riding careers, with two more set to begin soon.
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