Friday, May 05, 2006
Kentucky launches North American Racing Academy

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) has launched the first training facility for jockeys. According to the press announcement, the racing academy will initially focus on providing training for jockeys with the long-term goal of establishing career pathways for individuals interested in working in all aspects of the horse racing industry. Former star jockey Chris McCarron will serve as the racing academy's first director.

"This is truly a historic opportunity for all facets of the horse racing industry," McCarron said. "Never before has there been a program of this kind in the United States. This academy will allow jockeys -- and eventually all those interested in the horse-racing industry -- to develop career pathways that will allow them to reach training and educational goals they never knew were possible. It's truly an honor to be a part of this revolutionary program."

During the news conferences, organizers indicated that NARA's first mission is to develop and operate a world-class horse-racing school that will provide students with the education, training and experience needed to become skilled in the art of race riding. Additionally, the academy will teach students to be proficient in the care and management of racehorses.

"Our role at KCTCS will be to facilitate the development of NARA and serve as the academic arm of the organization by providing courses, programs and industry-recognized certifications for the horse racing industry in Kentucky and North America," President McCall said. "We are thankful that Chris McCarron and the Kentucky Horse Park will be serving as our partners in this opportunity to create a new avenue to higher education and training in the Commonwealth."

The recent state budget signed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher included $300,000 to KCTCS in 2006-07 for the operation of NARA. Private funds raised for NARA will be received by the KCTCS Foundation, Inc., the tax-exempt, charitable fund-raising arm for the organization.

While the North American Racing Academy will be based at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KCTCS community and technical colleges will share the curriculum developed by KCTCS and NARA officials as needed on other campuses. The first NARA program to begin training jockeys is tentatively scheduled to begin in the fall, 2006.

"We are honored that Chris McCarron and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System have chosen the Kentucky Horse Park as a partner, and we look forward to working with NARA to mould future celebrity jockeys and other high-quality horsemen and women in the horse industry," said John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park. "We also appreciate the fact that the health and welfare of racehorses will be aided by an improved understanding of the behavior of the horse on the part of the riders who attend NARA."

NARA's long-term goals include the creation of a top-notch campus at the Kentucky Horse Park to include a horse barn, indoor arena, training track, classrooms, a dormitory, a fitness center, a kitchen and dining room, and administrative offices and meeting rooms.

KCTCS will initially administer courses of instruction through the Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) in Lexington. Courses of instruction, certification and degree programs are expected to be developed for jockeys, apprentice jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, breeding farm staff, barn foreman, assistant trainers, trainers, track maintenance, racing officials, racing commissioners, chaplains, racetrack management and student internships. BCTC currently offers equine management courses that are being delivered for academic credit at the college.

McCarron said NARA has already garnered great support within the horse-racing industry, with many of the industry's most influential representatives currently serving on the board of directors.

"We have gathered a dedicated group of leaders that are intent on fulfilling the great potential that this academy has to offer," McCarron said. "By serving on our board, they have signaled their intent to create something truly special not only for the Commonwealth, but for all those interested in the horse racing industry across this country."

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