Kaylee Crotchett, an exercise rider at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, said Sunday morning that she plans to make her riding debut early in the 2021 meeting that is scheduled to begin Jan. 22.
Crotchett, 22, was raised in Henryville, Ind., about 25 miles north of Churchill Downs, and has been galloping horses for approximately 5 ½ years.
“I’m really excited right now,” Crotchett said. “I’m sure the day of the race, my adrenaline will get to me, my nerves, but this is something I’ve worked so hard for.”
Crotchett said her first scheduled mount is Mr. Peterkin, a 3-year-old Ghostzapper colt who is winless in six career starts for Lukas. Mr. Peterkin, under Crotchett, worked a half-mile in :53.20 over a fast track Sunday morning in advance of his 2021 debut.
Crotchett said she grew up trail riding and began galloping horses at 16, initially working at a small training center in Indiana before moving to Churchill Downs to work as an exercise rider for trainer Buff Bradley. She spent approximately a year as an exercise rider for Lukas before going to work as an exercise rider for trainer Wayne Catalano early in the 2020 Oaklawn meeting. Crotchett said she reunited with Lukas in September at Churchill Downs.
“Kaylee’s ready to ride,” Lukas said Sunday morning. “For two years now, I’ve been working on the gate with her and she’s getting away real well. She’s (100) pounds. That helps. She sits a horse beautifully. Again, it will get down to those girls that are light like that, finishing. I told her to get on that mechanical exerciser and get that finish, get strong. I’m going to put her on a couple and I expect her to do well.”
Crotchett said she had hoped to make her riding debut last year, specifically in early May at the end of Oaklawn meeting, but racing’s uncertain landscape because of COVID-19 contributed to delaying her debut.
“Things have just been tough with the pandemic and everything, so I just took a step back,” Crotchett said. “I came back and worked for Wayne, and he said he was going to help me. I just kind of sat still and came back here. Hopefully, things will get going and I’ll have a good meet.”
Crotchett said she will not have an agent to begin her riding career.