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Local jockey to make first start today in Ky.

May 18, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Aspiring jockey Corey Mongan of Hagerstown will officially enter the starting gate for the first time today at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky.

The 24-year-old city native, who attended North Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown Community College and Towson State University, will compete in a 6-furlong race during High Hope Steeplechase Day.

The graduate of the North American Riding Academy (led by Hall-of-Fame jockey Chris McCarron) will go against seven former classmates in the non-betting race on the grass.

The test is officially called The Ashford-Coolmore America KCTCS-NARA "Catch a Riding Star" race, a part of the Apprentice Jockey Series.

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"I'm really excited," Mongan said. "I've worked hard to get to this level and I can't wait for Sunday to get here. In addition to the Kentucky Derby, this is one event which really draws the state racing fans. It is second to the Derby. There will be thousands of folks in attendance."

The steeplechase card will include six races and two grass events. Mongan's race has an approximate post time of 3:45 p.m.

"I'll be the favorite, according to my classmates," Mongan laughed. "We drew for horses and my selection was Desert Air. He's 8 years old."

Mongan surprised family and friends by abruptly leaving an academic background and attending the first jockey school in America.

"They were shocked, but it's something I wanted to do," Mongan said. "I attended three schools, 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 love it and have no regrets. I have hopes of riding horses for many, many years."

Mongan attended the North American Riding Academy from September 2006, until December 2007, then went to Florida and served an internship for trainer Jim Dodgen.

"Jim and I became friends when I was at the Academy and he asked me to work for him over the winter months," Mongan said. "I learned a lot down there. He's a great trainer and has treated me as one of his own."

The North American Riding Academy used the Kentucky Horse Park and the Lexington Thoroughbred Training Center for instructional purposes and Mongan said the lessons learned at the two locations made life easier in Florida.

And what about the future?

"I'm anxious to get my jockey's license and get started, but I'm leaving the final decision in Jim's hands. He will tell me when I'm ready," Mongan said. "I'm hoping to start race-riding by the end of the year. I know the "bug" year is most important. I know I need to get in the starting gate more. As Jim says, I need to be a rider before becoming a jockey."

While the Washington County native would enjoy a race-riding career in Maryland, Mongan says he likely will start his career with Dodgen, who races his thoroughbreds up and down the East Coast.

"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.

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."

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