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NARA Student Interns with Maker

College students are always looking for internships to gain real-world experience that will impress potential employers. Take 20-year-old Chelsea Heery, who is about to graduate from the North American Racing Academy (NARA), part of the Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Lexington. She has spent April working in trainer Mike Maker’s barn at Keeneland.

Founded by Racing Hall of Famer Chris McCarron, NARA is based at The Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike and prepares students for careers as jockeys, horsemen or racing officials. NARA has a new initiative called Keeneland Boot Camp, in which second-year graduating students are placed with Keeneland trainers. Heery is the first student to participate in the program.

“This saves the student the cost of travel and housing out of state and saves the trainer the cost of temporary housing and travel to bring an employee to Lexington for four to five weeks for the meet,” said Remi Bellocq, executive director of equine programming for BCTC.

Heery, who was born in New Jersey and grew up in West Virginia, said she always loved horses. While in high school, she began riding a few horses at a local equine rescue and later started galloping horses on a farm. She went to Keeneland to attend the races and worked several sales for consignors Nardelli Sales and Timber Town Stable.

Heery learned about NARA when she was searching for YouTube videos about galloping racehorses and other aspects of Thoroughbred racing.

While with the Maker operation, she has done everything, including galloping horses in the morning and taking horses to the Paddock for afternoon races. She said the experience has been “amazing. It’s been so awesome. It just makes me realize how much I love this sport and how much I want to be in this. I wake up every day happy and excited to come to work.”

Maker’s Keeneland assistant, Joe Sharp, has high praise for the NARA internship opportunity.

“You can teach it as much as you want in the classroom – and they’ve done a great job – but until you get out there and actually do it and live it and work with the people and work with the horses … that’s irreplaceable,” Sharp said. “I think it’s great to give kids an opportunity who wouldn’t have an ‘in’ or weren’t raised in (racing) to get out there and feel a part of it just as much and hopefully go on and be successful.”

“Chelsea is one of our hardest-working students, always in the barn first and last to leave, and it’s nice to see her getting a chance with a big barn,” Bellocq said.

 

 

 

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