Thursday, 07 June 2018 18:06

Kaylea Hepburn representing Canada in Longines Fegentri Lady Rider Series in USA

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Fegentri stands for the International Federation of Gentlemen and Lady Riders. In the early years of Thoroughbred racing, many riders were Amateurs, and amateur racing associations are still thriving in Europe. Amateur riders do not get paid a fee for riding, and many do not work in the industry but ride on weekends. Among Fegentri riders there are students, bankers, policemen and even a vicar – they ride for the love of the sport.

Fegentri started in 1955, and today 25 countries are members of the federation. There are about 60 races a year, and riders represent their countries over jumps as well as flat racing. The riders score points for how they finish in the races, and the best attend the World Championships at the end of the year.

The Longines World Fegentri Lady Rider 2018 Series has 26 races around the world including Qatar, Italy, France, Turkey, Germany, and Mauritius, to name a few. Canada has recently been invited to participate in the Fegentri races, largely in part because of efforts by former jockey Stephan Heiler. Stephan has been helpful in establishing ties with the Sheikh Mansoor Festival in Abu Dhabi and is the President of the Canadian Amateur Jockey Association, which was formed in March. “Amateur racing is very popular in Europe, and I would like to see a series of Amateur races in Alberta. It will really help promote the sport to a different group of people, and maybe we can encourage people from other disciplines to come train in the mornings and get involved. Amateur riders can bring a lot of passion and fun to the sport of racing,” says Stephan, “it’s also going to be a great bridge for some exercise riders who want to start race riding, but need to get some experience before they make the leap.”

Canadian Amateur Jockey Association has tested and approved their first amateur riders. Riders had to be tested on their abilities in the paddock, in the gate and working around the turn. Four riders were approved, including Kaylea Richardson-Hepburn, who graduated from the Olds College Exercise Rider program in 2009. Kaylea worked at the track for a few years and she rode as an Apprentice jockey in 2010 and 2011. Kaylea is officially retired from her professional jockey days, but she still loves to ride and loves to race. She’s participated in the past two Racing Under Saddle events on retired Standardbreds and the C Cup Classic against other amateur riders at Century Downs last fall. She was one of the first members of the Canadian Amateur Jockey Association and jumped at the opportunity to represent Canada in the Fegentri races. “I love racing. I love the speed and the adrenaline rush. When you load in the gate, and it’s just you and the horse the world stops. For a moment, time stands still and everything comes down to that moment. When you hear the bell and the gates open and the wind rushes by, your heart starts again. It’s the most amazing feeling!”

Kaylea will be flying to Pennsylvania and riding in her first Fegentri race on Saturday at Parx Racetrack in Bensalem. It’s Race 1, and 1 1/16 on the turf, which will be a totally new experience for Kaylea. She drew post 2 on A Princess She Is, and is 15-1 on the morning line. You can watch the Kaylea in Race 1 from Parx at 10:55 am (MST) on their live stream at https://www.parxracing.com.

The riders then get a day off before they move to Delaware Park outside of Wilmington, Delaware. The Fegentri riders take over the field in Race 5, 1 mile and 70 yards on the turf. Kayley drew post 9 with Classical Art in the 14 horse field. You can watch Kaylea at Delaware Park on Monday, June 11 in Race 5 at 1:15 pm (MST) on their live stream at www.delawarepark.com/racing/race-info.

Stephan Heiler has been working to get CAJA established, and he sees a lot of value for amateur riders to represent Canada in other racing jurisdictions. “Sending riders to other countries to race will expose them to different courses and surfaces, and will open some horizons for young riders.” The CAJA board is also starting to plan for a Canadian stop on the Fegentri line-up at Century Mile Racetrack & Casino and initial discussions have been promising.

We’ll be watching and cheering Kaylea on at Parx on Saturday morning and Delaware Park on Monday!

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