LEXINGTON, Ky. (February 16, 2012) – The Bluegrass Community & Technical College North American Racing Academy (NARA) in Lexington, Ky. is preparing for a new year and a new phase of operations.
BCTC-NARA began in 2006 and is based in the Thoroughbred Training Center on Paris Pike. The team of instructors and staff provides students with an unparalleled body of expertise with over 90 combined years of experience in the areas of race riding, training, farm and track management and education. Jockeys who have completed the program have ridden in over 11,000 races combined, earning over $16 million, and the program isn’t slowing down.
Newly named Executive Director Remi Bellocq – former National Horsemen's Benevolence & Protective Association (HBPA) CEO – is at the reins, and NARA has recently announced several initiatives designed to further solidify its presence in the horse racing industry.
“Since its inception, with the wonderful support of KCTCS and Bluegrass Community & Technical College (BCTC), NARA has achieved a remarkable set of accomplishments,” Bellocq said. “We want to build on this success by initiating what I’m calling ‘NARA 2.0,’ and cement our role as the horseracing and breeding industries’ workforce provider.”
BCTC-NARA will focus on many new ventures, including placement of second-year, ready-to-graduate students with top trainers and breeders for short mentorships during Keeneland’s renowned spring and fall meets and sales. This will allow students to easily network with potential employers and give professional horsemen and horsewomen a chance to vet new prospects for their racing stable or breeding farm teams.
“Horsemen have said loudly that they are in constant need of well-trained and willing workers,” Bellocq said. “There currently exists, industry-wide, a heavy reliance on foreign labor, which has become unreliable given the lack of immigration reform in recent years. As such, they come to us for the locally sourced equine industry workforce we can help provide.”
Over 80 percent of BCTC-NARA students are successfully placed in internships or full-time employment as jockeys, exercise riders or racing stable and breeding farm employees. In the past, graduates have been placed with industry-leading trainers such as Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Jonathan Sheppard, Ken McPeek, Richard Mandella and Graham Motion to name a few. In addition to the placement of graduates with top racing stables, some have been placed with leading sales agencies and farms, including WinStar and Eaton Sales.
NARA is also in the process of re-building its website and is working with major North American horsemen’s groups and associations to create an interactive online job bank which will match graduating students with horsemen who are hiring. The site will feature bios and videos of soon-to-graduate NARA students who will be looking for employment.
Curriculum changes have been initiated to bring more emphasis to racehorse care and training and barn management training. BCTC-NARA will offer a one-year (26 credit) Exercise Rider and Racehorse Care and Training certificate program in addition to the two-year Associate degree curricula (65-68 credits) already offered through a Jockey or Horseman pathway.
Regardless of which path is chosen, all students must complete core technical courses on basic equine science, racehorse care, equine physiology and lameness, introduction to the racing industry, racing regulation and stable operations. This assures all students will receive a broad background.
Initiatives have been started to establish more direct ties locally and internationally. This summer and fall, BCTC-NARA is partnering with Locust Trace Agriscience Farm to offer courses to recent high school graduates who are interested in horse racing and breeding. The program is also trying to expand overseas membership by working with the European Association of Racing Schools (EARS). NARA hopes to start a student internship exchange program with EARS by late 2012 or early 2013 with the assistance of the Lexington Sister Cities Council.
NARA is offering two pre-admission orientation meetings this spring for local high school graduates and their parents, as well as other interested applicants. Information on the admissions process can be found by clicking here or by calling (859) 293-0209. The first meeting is March 9 at 2:00 p.m. on the grounds of the Thoroughbred Training Center. The second is April 16 at 1:00 p.m. at the Keeneland Track Kitchen followed by a brief barn area tour. The admission deadline is May 7.