Ashley Broussard walked out of the jocks’ room before the ninth race Friday evening at Churchill Downs and the enormity of what was about to happen hit her.
No, the ninth wasn’t a big stakes races. No big stakes horses in the field. What made this race-a claimer for older fillies and mares-interesting was Broussard was making her professional debut. She didn’t feel nervous before that moment, but definitely did as she made her way onto the paddocks’ rubber bricks.
“Once I walked out of the jocks’ room, that’s what I figured out that this was actually happening,” she said. “I wasn’t so much nervous, but I was very excited to be here.”
Broussard, a 20-year-old native of Youngstown, Louisiana, rode It’snotmeit’syou to a fifth-place finish for trainer Randy Morse. They beat only one rival, but Broussard was all smiles walking back.
“Overall, it went pretty well for a first race,” she said.
Broussard’s riding history goes all the way back to when she would ride barrel races as a child. She sometimes used an exercise saddle on her horses to get more speed. When she found out how that speed felt, she knew it was time to give riding Thoroughbreds a try.
Broussard didn’t rush her debut and got some helpful guidance along the way from one of the country’s leading riders.
“Rosie has helped me out a bunch coming out here,” Broussard said of Rosie Napravnik, second in the Churchill riding standings heading into the final two days of the meeting. “She’s helped me learn how to handicap, worked with me on the exerciser and showed me everything about racing.”
Broussard said being able to debut at Churchill was “amazing,” and was thankful for the opportunity many aspiring jockeys dream about.
“A lot of people don’t get opportunities like this one, and I’m very happy that I did,” she said.
The Ellis Park meet, which runs 29 dates from July 4 to Sept. 2, is next for Broussard. From there she’d like to venture to Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Exactly when her next mount will be is unknown, but she’ll ready when the time comes.
“I am very anxious,” she said. “I am ready for my next race.”
Check out the Louisville Courier-Journal’s recap of Broussard’s debut, with video.