Skip to main content

June Horse Person of the Month: Nastia Zemtsova

July 6, 2023

TORONTO, July 6, 2023– Nastia Zemtsova doesn’t let a day go by without acknowledging the impact equine athletes have had on her life.

Since the day she arrived on the Woodbine backstretch, Zemtsova, who grew up in Keswick, Ontario, about a 50-minute drive north of the racetrack, felt a deep connection with the Thoroughbreds.

Whether it was her early days working as a groom, or as she’s gone further along in her career, one constant throughout that journey is the gratitude she has for time spent with the horses.

“I wouldn’t be where I am or be as happy as I am without the horses in my life. I feel very fortunate that I am able to do what I do.”

Nastia Zemtsova, Groom at Woodbine
Nastia Zemtsova, Assistant Trainer at Woodbine

Having worked for several highly regarded horse people over the years, a list that includes trainer Katerina Vassilieva and dual hall of fame conditioner Roger Attfield, Zemtsova, now an assistant trainer for Saffie Joseph Jr., has been along for the ride with several talented stars who have made their mark on the racetrack.

“I galloped for Roger in my first year working with him and when we came back from Florida, I groomed for him and got super lucky and incredibly blessed to work with the horses I had in my stall, those horses being [multiple graded stakes winners] Lady Speightspeare and Shirl’s Speight. It was an amazing journey with those two.”

All the more amazing considering Zemtsova, at one point, knew very little about horse racing.

“I didn’t really know horses were even a thing until we moved to Keswick, where at the time, there was a whole bunch of farmland. When we were moving to our new house, I remember jokingly saying, ‘I’m going to get a job on a farm.’ We had church friends who did horseback riding, so one day we did that with them. I was hooked the first time.”

Nastia Zemtsova, Groom at Woodbine
Nastia Zemtsova, Assistant Trainer at Woodbine

Zemstova’s interest in horses was further piqued when she happened to be, of all places, in line at a grocery store.

“There was a magazine on the rack and there was a picture of Zenyatta on the cover,” she recalled of the hall of fame superstar daughter of Street Cry, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Breeders’ Cup Distaff and 19 of her 20 starts. “The story was about when she lost her final start to Blame, and I thought when I read about her, ‘This is pretty cool.’ So, I went home and got on YouTube, and watched all of her replays.”

Soon after, Zemstova began another search, this time looking to land a job in racing.

Eventually, she found work in the stable of Catherine McEwin, before moving on to Preston Ferris, Vassilieva, Attfield, and now, Joseph.

“I’ve been lucky to learn a lot along the way from both people and the horses. I’m so incredibly grateful to the people who took the time to mould me, to be patient with me when I made mistakes, and helped me become the horse person I am.”

And then there are the horses.

“The days can be tiring and there can be challenging times, but the horses always keep you coming back. But when I walk down the line just before I leave and the horses are happy, it’s a sense of accomplishment.

Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms

Share This: