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Hagerstown man hoping for fast future, riding horses

February 08, 2007|by LARRY YANOS

Hagerstown native Cory Mongan is "jockeying" for a better position in life.

The 22-year-old North Hagerstown High School and Hagerstown Community College graduate is attending the North American Riding Academy at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., and hopes that one day he will be competing as a jockey at a thoroughbred racetrack near you.

It's the first jockey school in America.

"I'm in my second semester now. I have four more semesters and hope to graduate in April of 2008," the 115-pound Mongan said.

The school is under the direction of Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron and has 11 students in the inaugural session - seven men and four women.

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"Overall things are going well and Corey is a fantastic student," McCarron said. "He's very focused and dedicated. Like most of the students, he doesn't have a great background in horse racing - but they're learning."

Once a student graduates, he or she is assigned to a six-month internship with a trainer. The next step: riding assignments at a recognized thoroughbred racetrack.

"I would like to start in Maryland," Mongan said. "The state has a good reputation that apprentice jockeys get plenty of chances. And, if the state ever gets slots, the money should be good."

McCarron says it's his responsibility to place students following graduation but he most likely would place Corey with a trainer at a nearby racetrack.

According to the Web site, the mission of the academy is to develop and operate a world-class racing school that will provide students with the education, training and experience needed to become skilled in the art of race riding, proficient in the care and management of race horses, and knowledgeable about the workings of the racing industry as a whole.

Mongan said he "found out about the school last year from my friend (Emily Baughman) who worked with me in Hagerstown and lived in Kentucky. I decided to apply to the school and was accepted last September. There were 95 applicants."

And the future is definitely now.

"I attended North, HCC and Towson State but I still wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do for a living. I was considering being a teacher but my friends kept telling me I was the perfect size for a jockey. So I decided to give it a try. I like the school very much."

Mongan says the schedule is steady, yet not demanding.

"It starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m.," Mongan said. "We do everything from cleaning stalls to classroom instruction. It's a full day and I like everything about it."

Although a sports follower, Mongan said he wasn't particularly interested in thoroughbred horse racing.

"I followed the big races but I wasn't what you would call a real follower," Mongan said. "That has changed. I'm really interested in the sport, now."

And you couldn't ask for a more knowledgeable instructor than the Hall of Famer McCarron.

The credentials of the former jockey include:

· He led the nation in races won in 1974, 1975 and 1980.

· He led nation in money won in 1980, 1981 and 1984.

· First jockey in history to reach the $200 million earnings plateau.

· He has six Triple Crown victories: Kentucky Derby (1987 on Alysheba and 1994 on Go For Gin); Preakness Stakes (1987 on Alysheba and 1992 on Pine Bluff); Belmont Stakes (1986 on Danzig Connection and 1997 on Touch Gold.)

· He has nine Breeders' Cup victories: Classic: (1998 on Alysheba, 1989 on Sunday Silence, 1996 on Alphabet Soup, 2001 and 2002 on Tiznow); Sprint (1985 on Precisionist); Distaff (1992 on Paseana); Juvenile (1992 on Gilded Time) and Turf (1995 on Northern Spur).

· In 1987, he co-founded the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, which assists disabled jockeys and their families financially and emotionally. With his wife Judy and comedian Tim Conway assisting, the fund has raised more than $2 million and assisted more than 1,600 jockeys and their families.

McCarron retired from race-riding on June 23, 2002, as all-time leader in earnings category (more than $260 million in purse earnings) and moved to seventh in the win category with 7,141 winners.

His most memorable mounts? Alysheba, John Henry, Paseana, Precisionist, Lady's Secret, Sunday Silence, Flawlessly, Glorious Song, Turkoman, Bayakoa, Northern Spur and Tiznow.

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