Exercise rider and former professional jockey Amelia Green, 29, is from Nottingham, England. Her grandfather trained National Hunt horses and she rode showjumping horses there, but decided she wanted to up her game. And a nine-week stint at the British Racing School did just that.
“Then I learned that I like to go fast, so it seemed like a good choice,” she said recently.
She remained in England for her apprentice and journeyman days before going to California.
After a stint there, she landed a job with Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. Naturally, she’s ridden many good horses while working for him, but she’s been the practice rider for Life Is Good – winner of Whitney, Pegasus World Cup Invitational and 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – since the horse has transferred from Bob Baffert to Pletcher just over a year ago.
She recently opened up about her life and career with The Daily Gazette.
Question: Did you know as soon as you went to racing school that jockey would be your call?
Answer: I knew I liked to go fast, so it was a big plus that the jockeys could go fast. I grew up on show horses and did show jumping, so I had all the horse experience, but not necessarily the speed one. So when I went to racing school, I was hooked right away.
Q: After flight school, where did you go?
A: I worked for [trainer] Henry Cecil at Newmarket. I worked for him for four years. He gave me a few tricks. I think I did nine rides for him before I moved here, started racing here, and worked in California for George Papaprodromou. And then he put me in races. And then, finally, I got too heavy for it. I love food too much. So I was an assistant coach for him. Then I was looking for a change. That’s when I called Todd, and he said, ‘Come on.
Q: What inspired the move to America?
A: My boss there, Henry Cecil, he sent me to California for a winter. Then when I got there, I raced and won the first time, in Hollywood Park. So I got addicted. As soon as I won here, I said to myself: ‘I have to come back here.’ So George got my visa for me, and it was a five-year visa. I think a few months later I came here.
Q: When you came to Todd, since he has strings in several places, did you want New York specifically?
A: I really had no preference. I arrived in Florida in September, so it was still quite warm. And then I’ve been wherever he needs me to go since.
Q: How long have you been with Todd?
A: September will be five years.
Q: Have you always ridden Life Is Good here?
A: Since he came to see Todd, yes, every day.
Q: What is this experience like? Is he one of those horses whose riders say they can feel a difference between him and the others?
A: Yeah, on a daily gallop, he’s really trying to do too much. He’s better now that he’s older. At the age of 3, he tried to do too much. Now he is 4 years old. He is very intelligent ; he knows the difference between a galloping day and a breezy day. On a gallop day, day to day, he’s pretty good. The last quarter mile he will try me, but when I say it’s time to stop he gives in and he stops.
Q: He wouldn’t do that at 3 years old?
A: At 3 years old, he was stronger. Pretty much the whole round he would test you. Certainly since the Breeders’ Cup, where he won [the Dirt Mile], he went home for a little break, came back, and he’s definitely better. On a breezy day, everything looks like a machine; everything is so easy. He’s so into him all the time.
Q: What does your typical day look like at Todd?
A: I do more [than typical exercise riders]. I’m the traveling assistant, and he has his main assistants here, so I’m just filling in where needed here. I return at 4:30 p.m. [a.m.] and helping to give medicine in the morning, taking the temperature of the horses. Normal riders arrive at 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., fix your tack and get your horses ready.
Q: Do the additional tasks come from your training or from your racing school?
A: I like to think I had horse sense before I got into racing. It just comes with work.
Q: What other horses have you ridden for Todd?
A: Malathaat, Corniche, Mind Control, he’s coming. It’s a very long list.
Q: Do you ever go home and take notes on the horses, or is it all in your head?
A: That’s pretty much all in my head. People asked me, ‘Why don’t you write down the traits of the horses when you rode them, for the future?’ Which I think is a good idea, but I don’t really have time to go home and write notes in the first place. So there is the answer to that one.
Q: Do you have a favorite book or something to do to get away from the racetrack?
A: I’m almost asleep. Working, eating and sleeping is my life. I wish I had time to read a book in between, but I love what I do, so I don’t mind not having a lot of free time. It’s okay with me.
Q: What’s going on in your car?
A: I just listen to the radio. I’m pretty straightforward. The drive from the track to my house isn’t that far, so that’s not enough time to put together a whole playlist.
Q: About sleep. It is obviously not always the same time on the racecourse. Have you always been able to set your biological clock?
A: Oh yeah, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m gone. I am a very good sleeper, everyone always says that. I have an empty social life because I prefer to sleep.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish later?
A: I would like to train one day. I would, of course, like to continue to learn as much as possible from Todd and everyone around. I can’t complain when you ride beautiful horses all the time, but later I think I’d like to practice. [I] Dreaming about having a horse like Life Is Good one day. It would be the absolute dream.
Q: Do you have a timeline for this?
A: I think I just keep learning. Obviously, I idolize Todd, so wherever he sends me and whatever advice he gives me. Yeah, I think I’ll just know when it’s time to go. You’ll never be ready, but…
Q: What are some of the things you learned from Todd?
A: He’s just very professional. I never heard him get mad at anyone, yell at anyone. He treats everyone the same. It’s a big thing in racing, treat helpers the same as owners. No matter what you do in the industry, everyone is so important that you just have to treat everyone the same. And his way of being with the horses. He checks the legs of every horse in the stable every day. Just by feeling their legs, he can tell you which horse he’s looking at. He’s spot on with stuff like that.
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