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Turfway to host International Catch a Riding Star challenge

Turfway Park will host the first ever International Catch a Riding Star challenge race for apprentice jockeys on March 23 as part of the Florence, Kentucky, track's premier afternoon of racing, Spiral Stakes Day.

A team of licensed apprentice jockeys who have trained at racing schools overseas will be invited to compete in the race against riders from the Americas, including several from the North American Racing Academy (NARA), based at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) in Lexington, Kentucky. Awards will be given to both the winning rider and the team that earns the most points based on finishing positions.

"We have partnered with NARA before to showcase their graduates in exhibition races and have been impressed with the professionalism of the students and the comprehensive nature of the program," Turfway Park general manager Chip Bach remarked.

"The Academy is an asset to Kentucky and the Commonwealth's world-renowned horse industry, and we're proud to be part of a unique event that not only brings the school to the attention of the international racing community but also supports racehorses in new careers."

Each year, NARA maintains a string of 15 to 20 off-the-track racehorses who serve as "equine mentors" for students enrolled in the school's equine industry workforce programs. Unlike previous races involving NARA at Turfway, the International Catch a Riding Star challenge race will be a wagering event, and both Turfway Park and the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (KYHBPA) have agreed to donate their shares of the pari-mutuel commissions on the race, known as takeout, to support NARA's horses in their second careers.

In 2006 NARA became the first accredited professional jockey school in the United States. Since then, NARA has expanded its role and now serves as an overall workforce provider to the racing and breeding industries. NARA provides classroom and online courses that result in either a two-year associate degree or one-year certificates that focus on the riding, care and training of the racehorse.

NARA was the vision of Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, the program's lead instructor with a focus on the Jockey Pathway.

"The college is excited to be working with Turfway Park and Kentucky HBPA to showcase apprentice riders and benefit the horses that are an integral part of the program's instructional resources," BCTC president and CEO Augusta A. Julian said. "Our students will continue to be successful due to the great partnerships that have been created."

"This will be a fun event that racing fans will enjoy while also supporting two good causes: education and equine aftercare," BCTC-NARA executive director Remi Bellocq added. "Chris and I greatly rely on these wonderful horses to help us teach our students how to properly groom, ride, feed, bed and care for racehorses in a training barn or breeding farm environment."

The International Catch a Riding Star challenge race will be part of a 12-race card that includes the Grade 3 Spiral and Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks -- respectively designated points races on the road to the Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks -- as well as the Rushaway.

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