Horse Racing

‘I See Both Sides’: Trainer Keri Brion Talks Realities Of Steeplechase Racing

Trainer Keri Brion was a guest on Steve Byk’s “At The Races” radio show last week, following her rollercoaster of an opening day at Belmont Park on Sept. 16.

In the first race, the William Entenmann Memorial Hurdle Stakes, the Brion-trained Grade 1 winner Baltimore Bucko fell at fence three and suffered a fatal injury. In the second race, she saddled The Mean Queen to win her second Grade 1 of the year in the Lonesome Glory.

Baltimore Bucko’s fatality sparked significant social media discussion about jumps racing, and Brion took the opportunity on Byk’s show to speak out.

“Whenever a horse falls in jump racing, our sport gets absolutely crucified,” Brion said. “I understand it looks horrible, and it was, it was heartbreaking for all of us to watch. Not just us close to the horse, but obviously everyone else. The one thing I just want to say about that is, you know, our sport is dangerous, but so is flat racing. You see these horses that suffer catastrophic injuries on the flat, and it happens more on the flat than it even does over jumps, to be honest with you. It’s very, very rare that we have a fall like that where they don’t actually get back up.

“I don’t want to cast this off as ‘just one of those things,’ because we do need to do better, and the NSA is currently and always trying to find better options. I think we’re gonna switch to a different type of a fence. I think by the time we are up there again next year, there’s gonna be a safer model of hurdle up there that we’ll be running over, which is something to look forward to.”

Brion carries a strong social media presence, and extended an offer to talk about the realities of her sport with anyone willing to listen.

“I see both sides and I understand how uneducated people right away are like, ‘I hate watching these races and I hate seeing them,’ but do you really think we’re going to force a 1200-lb animal to go jump over fences if they don’t want to?” she asked. “I mean, honest to God, do you think we’re capable of doing that? No, we’re not. I’d love to take a group of people that wanna say they’re being forced and they don’t like it, I’d love to take them to watch these horses school in the mornings. When they realize they’re going to the schooling field, their whole demeanor changes. They get so excited that they get to go jumping.”

Baltimore Bucko is Brion’s first Grade 1 winner, capturing the G1 A. P. Smithwick Memorial on July 22, 2021. She talked about what the horse meant to her personally.

“He was very, very special to me,” the trainer said. “Obviously I talked to you at some stage, maybe after his Smithwick win, and he was just kind of the gift that just kept on giving for his owners and for me. What he might have lacked a little bit in ability, he made up in heart. I can assure everyone he was 100 percent going out there, and it was unfortunately just, it was one of those things. We’ll never have him back, and it’s hard to see his stall here in the barn in the morning – we haven’t filled it yet. It was tough, but he did go out doing what he loved to do. There was nothing more in the world that that horse loved to do than to run and jump.”

Listen to the entire interview with Byk here.


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