NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— When apprentice jockey Madison Olver watched her first thoroughbred in motion over a racetrack, it was from atop of one as an exercise rider for trainer Gina Rarick in France. Though Olver had never seen a horse race before getting a leg up on one, she knew her calling was to compete in the sport that captured her heart.
“I had never seen a live horse race before I started riding racehorses,” Olver said. “It wasn’t watching horse racing that hooked me, but the sensation of being able to ride these animals when they’re at their absolute peak and can do things that should be impossible.”
After four years of refining her skills and exercising horses in the mornings, Olver, 23, is ready to make her first outing in the afternoon aboard the Orlando Noda-trained Flattering Gal in Saturday’s ninth race, a six-furlong maiden claiming sprint, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“I’m really excited. I definitely had a roller coaster go of it with some entries and some scratches,” said Olver. “I’m just really grateful there are people who are willing to give a young woman who was not born into this sport an opportunity. It’s something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I started this.”
Olver’s relationship with horses stems from her childhood in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she grew up riding and breaking mustangs and honing her horsemanship skills. When she turned 18, she reached out to Rarick to begin her racing ventures in France and was offered the opportunity to learn how to handle and ride racehorses. She stayed there for two years before moving back to the United States and continuing her journey with multiple Grade 1-winning trainer Christophe Clement.
Olver said Clement’s trust in her has allowed her to continue her upward trajectory.
“I’ve gotten to ride a variety of different horses – dirt, turf, fillies, colts, young, old, difficult, and easy,” said Olver. “[The team] knows what they want done and how they want it done, and it’s up to you to produce that. That has been really instrumental in me improving and keeping that discipline.
“They’ve been my racing family,” Olver added. “The amount of support I’ve had – every groom who has put a saddle on safely for me and hotwalker who has walked a horse after I’ve ridden them, every person and the help they’ve given me is something I will carry with me forever.”
Among the horses Olver has piloted in the mornings during her tenure with Clement is stakes-winner Derrynane, who finished a close fourth in the 2021 Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Olver said she and the daughter of Quality Road have helped each other learn and grow.
“I rode her as a 2-year-old and she was my first breeze out of the gate here in America,” said Olver. “She was a lot of my firsts, and I was a lot of her firsts. She went to the Breeders’ Cup that year and was always my best girl.”
Olver’s agent, Joesph Migliore, expressed confidence in the young rider’s capabilities, noting her skilled and precise hands.
“She’s very thoughtful. She has a very good seat on a horse and has good hands,” said Migliore. “She’s in tune with the horses she gets on and she’s a very sharp horsewoman. We’re hoping to get a few rides in at the fall meet before being more active at the winter meet.”
Clement shared in Migliore’s sentiments, noting Olver’s determination and eagerness to learn.
“She has worked for us for two years. She has an amazing work ethic,” said Clement. “She’s a very good rider and very good with horses. She’s a good horsewoman. I wish her all the best because, on top of all that, she’s a good person as well.”
Olver said that as she prepares for the first race of her career, she keeps in mind the lessons from mentors like Clement and horses like Derrynane.
“I’ve always told myself that I do this because I love it and I love the horses. I’m here to showcase what these horses can do,” Olver said. “Remembering that and reminding myself to enjoy it will be the most helpful to ride my first mount.
“Riding a horse is a feeling that I can’t even put into words,” Olver continued. “The sensation you get is a pure and awesome presentation of their power and their abilities. They let us do it, and experiencing the raw power of the horse is what got me hooked.”
Along with her mount on Saturday, Olver is also slated to ride Basis Risk in Sunday’s fifth race at the Big A for conditioner Marialice Coffey.