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
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.
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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
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
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.”