Young 22-Year-Old Hopes To Start Riding Career At Monmouth Park As Apprentice In 2020; Now Working Under Gregg Sacco In New Jersey After Two Seasons At Red Oak Farm In Ocala
Ocala, FL / September 29, 2019 – Opening day of the 2020 Thoroughbred racing season at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ is still some eight months in the future, but the date is already marked on the calendar of an aspiring young jockey by the name of Autumn Lavertu.
The 22-year-old native of Ashland, ME has been at Monmouth Park for several months now, breezing horses for Red Oak Stable trainer Gregg Sacco. Autumn accepted the invitation from Red Oak Farm General Manager and Racing Manager Rick Sacco to work for Gregg as an exercise rider during the 2019 meet. “I watched her ride countless times at Red Oak Farm and I knew she would be an asset to our program over the summer months at Monmouth,” said Rick Sacco.
“I was five years old when I saw the movie Seabiscuit,” Lavertu recalled. “I told my mother that, someday, I wanted to be a jockey!”
The young apprentice-to-be, who will ride under contract to Red Oak Stable when she makes her debut next year, caught the attention of Barry Dolan while working in Red Oak’s training barn division at the Ocala Farm. “Autumn spent two breaking and training seasons with us at the farm and she is a quick learner,” said Dolan. “She is a professional, hard-working, and talented rider who graduated from the farm after putting in time there.”
In Ocala, Lavertu exercised Red Oak Stable stars such as Grade 1 winner Unbridled Mo, multiple Grade 1 winner Mind Control, multiple stakes winner and 2019 Grade 1 Woodward Stakes runner-up Bal Harbour, and multiple 2019 stakes winner King For A Day.
At Monmouth Park this season, Gregg Sacco has been confident enough in her abilities to give Lavertu regular opportunities to work with the top Red Oak horses in his barn.
“Autumn has a bright future,” Gregg Sacco opined. “She’s a natural! In just 2 ½ years, she’s already shown that she has good hands, a great seat on a horse, and that she’s a good judge of pace.”
Lavertu plans to spend the next eight months preparing for her race riding debut, which will come –if all goes according to schedule– early in the 2020 season at Monmouth Park.
It was Rick Sacco who advised Autumn to wait until next year at Monmouth Park to begin her riding career. “Autumn needs to gain valuable experience over the fall, winter, and spring months breezing horses from the gate, working horses on the turf, and putting together a professional fitness and nutrition plan,” Sacco said. “She reminds me of Julie Krone! She has great hands and is a natural on a horse.”
“I will finish out the season in New Jersey and then go to Palm Beach Downs in Florida to work for trainer Todd Pletcher,” she said. “From November to May, I will get on as many horses as possible, get more invaluable experience, and be stronger and fitter by the time Monmouth Park opens.”
“Todd also trains horses for Red Oak Stable and Rick Sacco got me the job,” Lavertu said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity and I want to thank Todd, Rick, and Red Oak farm owner Stephen Brunetti for their support. I believe I’m receiving excellent advice and I’ve enjoyed the learning experience at Red Oak Farm and my time at Monmouth Park. It’s a beautiful race track and I look forward to starting my riding career here next summer.
Lavertu considers her time working under Gregg Sacco as invaluable. She noted that the veteran conditioner provided not only the opportunities to work with his best horses, but that he has been extremely helpful with feedback, constructive criticism, and advice.
She also added that two accomplished riders have contributed to her rapid improvement. “Jose Ferrer and Nik Juarez have been very helpful,” she said. “They have so much knowledge from so many rides that I can’t help but to learn something new from them every time we have a chance to talk.”
“Autumn is a real hard worker,” said Juarez, currently the leading rider at Monmouth Park. “She’s impressed me with the way she handles herself on a horse and in the barn. She’ll do real well in this business if she keeps learning and surrounds herself with people like Rick and Gregg Sacco.”
Her improvement in just the few months since she left Ocala to join Gregg Sacco in New Jersey did not slip past the observant eyes of Red Oak Farm trainer Barry Dolan.
“I watched her gallop for Gregg during Haskell week in July and I was impressed with what I saw,” said Dolan. “I could tell that she had improved quite a bit even in just a short period of time!”
The next eight months will give Lavertu a good amount of time to improve her skills even more. If the last 2 ½ years are a good indication of her ability and work ethic, she will be more than ready to heed the call of “Riders up!” when she comes out to the paddock for her first official mount next year.