Thursday, December 31, 2009 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . December 31, 2009 . . . Apprentice jockey Ben Creed, 26, became the first graduate of the North American Racing Academy (NARA) to win a riding title when he finished the Turfway Park holiday meet with 25 wins, seven ahead of Tom Pompell with 18 and eight better than John McKee, third with 17. Four of Creed's wins came on Thursday, the meet's closing day.
"I'm incredibly proud of him," said Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, NARA's founder and executive director. "When he first came to NARA I wasn't too sure. All he wanted to do was work in the barn and ride; he wasn't much interested in the academics. But the more he worked around the horses, the harder he worked, and when he started getting into things like anatomy and causes of lameness, he turned into a really good student. The lessons he learned are showing up now.
"He works hard, he's personable—he's got the whole package," McCarron continued. "If he continues to work as he has been, he has a bright future."
"Winning the title is like a dream you don't want to wake up from," said Creed. "I didn't expect it to come this soon."
Creed credits NARA with the edge he brings to the track. "It's definitely the school," he said. "It's not one big thing. It's a bunch of little things that add up: how to get horses to relax; knowing what you’ve got under you; understanding past performances; picking up on how the track is playing out. I have a good work ethic. I'm a hard worker, very hands-on."
Creed is a member of NARA's second graduating class, having completed the two-year program in May 2009. A native of Taylorsville, Kentucky, he had no background in racing before coming to the academy, and his only experience with horses was riding Quarter Horses around his grandparents’ Spencer County cattle farm. Before enrolling at NARA, he was working for UPS at the airport in Louisville and taking classes at Jefferson County Community College through the company's Earn and Learn program.
"I knew I wanted to go to college for something, but I wasn't sure what," Creed said. "People I worked with kept saying I looked like I could be a jockey, so that put the idea in my head. I knew nothing about the racing industry. I'd been to the races maybe four times in my life. I never sat on a racehorse until I went to the school. I got online and googled jockey schools, and once I talked to Chris [McCarron] about all that's involved, then I knew this is what I wanted to do."
Creed earned his first career win at Indiana Downs in June aboard Iron ID. He plans to ride at Turfway through the winter/spring meet that begins New Year’s Day.