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International invite: Apprentice jockey Adams excited to ride at Deauville

June 28, 2024

TORONTO, June 28, 2024 – Apprentice jockey Austin Adams would love nothing more than to graduate at the top of his racing class early next month at Deauville-La Touques Racecourse.

The honour is not lost on the young Canadian rider, who will join contemporaries from around the world on July 6th to compete in a special, invitation-only race at the famous French Thoroughbred racetrack found in the northwest region of the country.

“Any time you get to travel and then do something you love – that makes it that much more exciting,” said Adams, of the Prix Together for Racing International (TfRI) – Finale European Association of Racing School event. “And to be able to represent North America and Woodbine makes it even more special.”

The annual race – this year it is for horses 4 years old and up, contested over 2500m – has attracted riders from across the globe, including the United States, Germany, England, Italy, Qatar, Venezuela and South Korea, just to name a few.

It is held in concert with TfRI, an umbrella organization established in 2019, that coordinates and aligns three identified social opportunities; education, community engagement, and workforce and careers to support the future health of the sport.

The connection between Adams and the TfRI event in Deauville traces back to his days at the North American Racing Academy (N.A.R.A), a program offered by the Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) in Lexington.

Established by Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron in 2006, the BCTC Equine program, home of N.A.R.A, is the first and only community college-based racehorse riding certificate program in the U.S.

“I did the two-year Riding Skills program and graduated,” said Adams.

“A couple of years later, the instructor asked me if I would like to participate in this event in France and represent the jockey school. When I first went to the school to take part in the program, they told me that one day I might be lucky enough to ride in this race. And here I am.”

Austin Adams at Woodbine Racetrack (Michael Burns Photo)
Austin Adams at Woodbine Racetrack (Michael Burns Photo)

Born in Waterdown, Ontario, about an hour’s drive west of Woodbine Racetrack, Adams would eventually find his way into the irons through his father, Andre.

“My dad was an exercise rider at Woodbine for 30-something years. He’s retired now. He worked for several trainers – he was freelance – but never rode as a jockey.”

When the elder Adams wasn’t on horseback, he was around a different type of horsepower in the afternoons at the Toronto racetrack, working in valet parking.

Although Austin had an interest in horses, the idea of becoming a jockey wasn’t on his radar in his earlier teenage years.

“My dad was so busy with his two racetrack careers, so he didn’t have time to bring me to be around the horses.

“When I was around 17, he asked me if I wanted to hotwalk, but I didn’t feel ready for that at the time. I wanted to focus on education and that’s when I found the jockey school in Kentucky.”

Students are paired with retired racehorses to learn the craft at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington.

Once the course requirements are met, students receive an exercise riding license with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and are then paired with Thoroughbred trainers for more hands-on experience.

Those who attend the school can also apply for a riding course, with acceptance based on an assessment of their abilities and passing a physical fitness test.

With each class he took at BCTC, Austin’s hope of becoming a rider grew exponentially.

“BCTC is where I learned how to ride, but I also got an education out of it, which was important to me and my family. It was a win-win.”

As was the day of November 12, 2023, at a familiar place.

With five races under his saddle, Adams, aboard 7-year-old dark bay gelding Big Time Louie for trainer Roy D’Agostino, made his way into the gate for the second race on the afternoon card at Woodbine.

Sent off at 18-1, Big Time Louie got away quickly in a 5 ½-furlong sprint over the Woodbine all-weather track and settled into second in the nine-horse field.

The pair seized command at the three-eighths and kicked clear in upper stretch.

Austin and Big Time Louie crossed the wire a half-length in front of their closest pursuer.

Big Time Louie and jockey Austin Adams winning Race 2 on November 12, 2023 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)
Big Time Louie and jockey Austin Adams winning Race 2 on November 12, 2023 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)

“It was my sixth-lifetime start and my first race with a riding crop,” he recalled of his milestone first win. “I remember at the quarter-pole that there was only one horse behind me, and my horse kept running hard.

“My mind kind of froze before the wire – I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

But he could certainly hear what was transpiring.

“I could hear my family screaming when I crossed the wire.”

After galloping out, Austin had a question for pony rider Rob Mackay.

“When Rob came to get me on the pony, I asked if the race was official. He laughed and said, ‘Don’t worry, Austin. Everything is good. Go enjoy it.’”

And that’s what he did.

“My family was waiting for me back in the winner’s circle… it was a special moment. It was a dream of mine to win a race at Woodbine and it happened.”

As is tradition, Austin received a lively congratulatory reception of sorts from his fellow riders upon his return to the room.

“They got me good. They put me in the silks bin, and they ran me around the entire room and poured buckets of water, ice and baby powder on me – it was good fun.”

Austin, less than 75 mounts into his career, is eager for more success.

Competing in one of the most competitive jockey colonies in North America presents its fair share of challenges, something that Austin has eagerly embraced.

Onandonandon and jockey Austin Adams winning Race 5 on May 23, 2024 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)
Onandonandon and jockey Austin Adams winning Race 5 on May 23, 2024 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)

“I am still a 10-pound bug, but I want to make a name for myself. I’d like to win apprentice of the year and be a top rider one day. I don’t know if being the leading apprentice will be this year or next year – I will still have my bug in 2025 – but I want to keep improving at what I do and I want to work hard to get where I want to be.”

One source of inspiration comes in the form of a hockey great, a future Hall of Famer who Austin has long admired.

“I have always looked up to [Pittsburgh Penguins captain] Sidney Crosby,” said Austin, who played the sport at a high level as a teenager. “I have never met him, but he has always been like a mentor to me. Even now, I take a lot of his leadership and dedication qualities and put them into my riding every day”

Just like Austin Adams will when he loads into the gate at Deauville.

“I can’t even imagine how it will feel to be in that race. I’m going to go there, soak everything up, and hopefully get the win.”

Chris Lomon, Woodbine

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