The six winners of the NYTBDF thoroughbred scholarships were presented with their awards at Saratoga Race Course on Friday, July 27th. Track announcer Tom Durkin announced their names following the second race, during a presentation ceremony in the winner’s circle. At least one of the scholarship students hopes Durkin will be saying her name again at some future date: Erin Pollot, a second-year student at Morrisville State College majoring in Equine Studies, plans on becoming a professional jockey. Pollot grew up ten minutes from Finger Lakes Race Track and would love to ride close to home, as well as at the famed Saratoga Race Course. Kate Jones, also a Morrisville student, expects to help New York breeders upon graduation by assisting with the broodmare band or stallion shed at one of the state’s thoroughbred farms.
Both Cornell University students hail from Long Island. Juan Guerra (Far Rockaway) and Alexa Ravit (Bellmore) both aspire to improve the safety of horses on New York tracks, and both were inspired to pursue equine careers by 2003 NY Horse of the Year and Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide.
Guerra, who came to Long Island from El Salvador when he was 9 years old, says he connected with the gutsy gelding because “we were both from New York and he was such a good racehorse.”
Ravit hopes to find a slot in New York’s racing industry, where she can “make a difference in the public’s perception of our sport.” Already familiar with the challenges faced by the racing industry, Ravit said she supports having one horse-racing governing body to provide industry leadership and enforce uniform medication rules at every racing venue in the U.S.
SUNY Cobleskill students Paige Montayne and Brooke Burke say their education has definitely given them a leg up in the industry. Burke says she hopes to “continue giving horses the care they need to grow and go on to the next step in their lives, whether it’s for racing, performance or reproduction.”
Montayne, from Ballston Spa in Saratoga County, is the shed-row foreman for outstanding trainer Chad Brown, who hails from Mechanicville.
Brown, who also attended Cobleskill before completing his studies at Cornell University, knows the school turns out graduates that have the ability to meet his high standards. Montayne hopes to become good enough to one day have her own string of horses at Saratoga, but she believes she will have to hone her skills out of state or even in Europe before owners will entrust her with bloodstock good enough to race at her home county’s race track.
The NYTBDF will pay the state colleges $2,500 to help defray the tuition costs for each of the scholarship winners, and believes they have all demonstrated the desire to pursue a career in the state’s thoroughbred breeding or racing industries.
By Tracy Egan