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Brasser loves working with Havre de Grace

There’s a touch of geographic irony in the fact that Jen Brasser, who was born in The Netherlands, ended up as the exercise rider this winter for Fox Hill Farms’ 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, the champion mare who is named for Maryland’s picturesque town as well as its historic Thoroughbred race course that flourished there from 1912 to 1950.

 

Although she was born in Amsterdam, Brasser grew up in Belgium, and while there she lived next door to a horse trainer, started riding at 14 and began galloping her neighbor’s horses at the tender age of 15.

 

“I fell in love with racehorses right away,” said Brasser, “but with an American mother and a father whose job brought him to this country, we moved to Maryland while I was still a teenager. I still loved horses after we moved to this country so I began my career as a gallop girl here and actually rode about five races as a jockey at Pimlico and Charlestown.

 

“That career didn’t work out very well because I was quite tall to be a jockey and I knew weight would quickly become a problem,” said the 28-year-old Brasser, speaking during training hours this week from the tack room of the Larry and Cindy Jones Stable on the Fair Grounds backstretch. “I exercised horses for Larry (in the Mid-Atlantic region) and also worked for him down here when he was here a few years ago, but when he retired from training I decided to go back to school at the University of Maryland (located about 60 miles from the town of Havre de Grace).

 

“I thought I needed a career to fall back on if being an exercise girl didn’t work out for me,” said Brasser, “but I missed being around horses, so I  as soon as I got my degree I went back to being an exercise rider for Larry as soon as he got back into training. I’ve been back working for Larry since last fall at Keeneland. Cindy and Larry are like a second mother and father to me.

 

“It was when Havre de Grace arrived down here at Fair Grounds this winter that Larry told me I was going to be her exercise rider,” said Brasser. “I was very flattered, of course, but also, I admit, a little bit intimidated. However, I try not to let that get in the way. I just concentrate on the horse and doing what I’m supposed to do. The great thing is that she is so classy and so well behaved that she makes riding her a great pleasure. I’d like to think she knows who I am. I visit with her in her stall and feed her (peppermints) whenever I can.”

 

The Joneses make it seem like something of a mutual admiration society when asked how Brasser has fit in around the barn and as Havre de Grace’s exercise rider.

 

“She’s been back with me ever since I returned to training,” said Larry Jones. “It’s good to have her back with me. She’s a good hand on a horse and she’s also a good human being.”

 

 

 

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