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NARA grads team up for historic win

Saturday, April 2, 2011 12:00 AM
  • General
FLORENCE, Ky., April 2, 2011 – When jockey Cory Orm crossed the finish line first aboard Looking Dubai in Turfway's eighth race Friday, the win marked the first time a graduate of the North American Racing Academy rode a winner also saddled by a graduate of the academy.

Looking Dubai was saddled by Taylor Johnson, a 2010 academy graduate who followed the school's Horsemen's Pathway course of study. Taylor is the assistant trainer to his father, Marshall Johnson, and oversees half-a-dozen horses stabled at Turfway for the winter/spring meet.

Orm and the younger Johnson were roommates at the North American Racing Academy (NARA), established in Lexington in 2006 by Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron.

"My buddy Taylor, he does all the work with these horses," said Orm. "The mare had been running really well and we figured it was about time she got the job done. Taylor's mom had already bought champagne and made cookies. We would have been really disappointed if she hadn't won."

"I was just thrilled to death, just super excited," said Taylor Johnson. "It took me about a year to get my first win. This mare ran second four times, so she's always been right there. Cory rode her last time for the first time, and he's worked her, and I think what he knows about her was just the extra she needed to break her maiden."

Behind Looking Dubai came Mytuition and Reina Sofia, the former ridden by Matthew Straight and the latter by Ben Creed, both also NARA graduates, making the result the first all-NARA Trifecta.

Taylor, 24, grew up around horses on the family farm near Elizabethtown, Ky. Since 1990, the Johnsons have advised clients on the purchase of Quarter and Walking horse yearlings, boarding and breaking the youngsters. In 2000, the family added Thoroughbreds to its roster, and in 2009 Marshall Johnson decided to take out his own license to train. The small operation has started just 39 horses. Looking Dubai's win was the first for the elder Johnson, who co-owns the horse with Pamela Smith and is the trainer of record. Six other starters have finished in the money. Taylor will move the string to River Downs at the close of the Turfway meet.

Asked when he might go out on his own, Taylor said, "Right now I train horses my dad owns in partnerships. Until I can make it on my own, with clients of my own, I'll stay on as his assistant."

Orm, 22, who earned his first career win on December 9 last year, comes from a long line of horsemen. His grandfather Jerry Orm and father, Mike Orm, both rode races before turning to training. His uncle Scott Orm also is a jockey. At age 13 he began galloping horses for his father at the family's Orm Stables in Taylorsville, Ky., and at 16 he began galloping at area training centers, first for trainer Richard Kohnhorst. A 2009 graduate of the North American Racing Academy, Orm worked for trainer Steve Asmussen for eight months before taking out his jockey's license in the fall of 2010.

The North American Racing Academy is the first school of its kind in North America. The school is an accredited member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and graduated its first class in 2008.

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