Exercise rider and former professional jockey Amelia Green, 29, is from Nottingham, England. Her grandfather trained National Hunt horses, and she rode show jumpers 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 I like to go fast, so it seemed like a good fit,” she said recently.
She stayed in England for her apprenticeship and journeywoman days before going to California.
After a stint there, she landed a job with Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. Naturally, she has ridden many good horses while working for him, but she has been the exercise rider for Life Is Good – winner of this year’s Whitney, Pegasus World Cup Invitational and 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – since the horse was transferred from Bob Baffert to Pletcher shortly over a year ago.
She talked about her life and career with The Daily Gazette recently.
Question: Did you know as soon as you went to the racing school that jockeying would be your call?
Answer: I knew I liked to go fast, so it was a big plus that jockeys get to go fast. I grew up riding show horses and did show jumping, so I had the whole horse background, but not necessarily the speed background. So, when I went to racing school, I was hooked straight away.
Q: After racing school, where did you go?
A: I worked for [trainer] Henry Cecil at Newmarket. I worked for him for four years. He put me on a few rides. I think I rode nine rides for him before I moved over here, started riding races here and working in California for George Papaprodromou. And then he put me in races. And then, ultimately, I got too heavy for that. I like food too much. So then I was an assistant trainer for him. Then I was looking for a change. That was when I gave Todd a call, and he said, ‘come on over.’
Q: What inspired the move to America?
A: My boss over there, Henry Cecil, he sent me over for one winter to California. Then when I got over there, I actually rode a race and it won first time, at Hollywood Park. So then I was hooked. As soon as I won over here, I was, like, ‘I need to get back here.’ So George got my visa for me, and it was a five-year visa. I think a few months later I came over here.
Q: When you came to Todd’s, 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 pretty hot. And then I’ve gone 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’s come to Todd, yes, every day.
Q: What is that experience like? Is he one of those horses that riders say they can feel a difference between him and the rest?
A: Yeah, on a day-to-day gallop, he really tries to do too much. He’s got better now that he’s older. As a 3-year-old he tried to do too much. Now he’s turned 4. He’s very smart; he knows the difference between a gallop day and a breeze day. On a gallop day, day-to-day, he’s pretty good. The last quarter-mile he’ll try me, but then when I say it’s time to pull up, he gives in and he pulls up.
Q: He wouldn’t do that at 3?
A: At 3, he was more tough. Pretty much the whole way around he’d be testing you. Definitely since the Breeders’ Cup, when he won [the Dirt Mile], he went home for a little break, came back, and he’s definitely been better. On a breeze day, everything feels like a machine; everything is just so easy. He’s so within himself the whole time.
Q: What is your typical day like at Todd’s?
A: I do more [than typical exercise riders]. I’m the traveling assistant, and he has his main assistants here, so I just fill in wherever needed here. I come in at 4:30 [a.m.] and help give meds in the morning, take temperatures of the horses. The normal riders come in at 5, 5:30, set your tack and get your horses ready.
Q: Are the extra duties from your background or racing school?
A: I like to think I had horse sense before I came into racing. It just comes with the job.
Q: Who are some of the other horses you’ve ridden for Todd?
A: Malathaat, Corniche, Mind Control, he’s coming on. It’s a very long list.
Q: Do you ever go home and make notes on horses, or is it all in your head?
A: It’s pretty much all in my head. People have asked me, ‘Why don’t you write down horses’ traits when you’ve ridden 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’s the answer to that one.
Q: Do you have a favorite book, or something to do to get away from the racetrack?
A: I pretty much sleep. Work, eat and sleep, that’s 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 whole lot of spare time. It’s fine by me.
Q: What’s playing in your car?
A: I just listen to the radio. I’m pretty simple. The journey from the track to my house isn’t that far, so it’s not enough time to set up a whole playlist.
Q: About sleep. It’s obviously not always the same schedule on the racetrack. Have you always been able to adjust your body clock?
A: Oh yeah, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m gone. I’m a very good sleeper, everyone always says that. I have a hollow social life because I’d rather be sleeping.
Q: What do you hope to achieve later on?
A: I’d like to train one day. I’d like to, obviously, keep learning as much as I can from Todd and everyone around. Can’t complain when you’re riding nice horses all the time, but down the road I think I’d like to train. [I] Dream that I get a horse like Life Is Good one day. That’d be the absolute dream.
Q: Do you have a timetable for that?
A: I think 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’ve learned from Todd?
A: He’s just very professional. I’ve never heard him get mad at anybody, shout at anybody. He treats everybody the same. That’s a big thing in racing, treat the help the same as the owners. It doesn’t matter what you do in the industry, everyone is so important that you’ve just got to treat everyone the same. And the way he is around the horses. He checks every single horse’s legs in the barn every single day. Just by feeling their legs, he can tell you which horse he’s looking at. He’s spot-on with stuff like that.