10/27/2014 12:55PM

Nevin makes quick ascent to the big leagues

Michael Amoruso
Michelle Nevin will have her first Breeders' Cup starter with By the Moon, who's entered in the Juvenile Fillies.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Michelle Nevin always thought that one day she would go out on her own and be a trainer. Just not the day, or in the way, that it happened.

On Jan. 24, 2013, after exhausting his legal appeals, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. – for whom Nevin worked for more than a decade – began serving a 10-year suspension handed him by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. It left Nevin in charge of more than 65 horses stabled between New York and south Florida.

With the first starter to run under her name, Teaks North, Nevin won the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park.

Twenty-one months later, Nevin won the Grade 1 Frizette with By the Moon, who will be her first starter in a Breeders’ Cup race when she runs in Saturday’s $2 million Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.

“The way I started off was probably not the norm,” Nevin said during a recent interview in her Belmont office. “It was a little hectic at first, but the horse part of it is the same because it’s the same thing I’ve always done. It was just a lot more phone calls, a lot more responsibilities; that might have come as a little bit of a challenge at first, but that worked itself out.”

Despite her instant success, Nevin watched the stable drop to 16 horses as some owners went elsewhere. A few owners like Jimmy Riccio Sr., Vincent Scuderi, and Samantha Siegel, the owner of By the Moon, stayed with her.

“I knew I wanted to give her some horses,” said Riccio, one of the sharper claiming owners in the sport. “Her time being with Rick, she knew what she was doing. Her opinion was on point a lot of the time.”

Nevin, 37, was born into racing. She grew up on a farm in Fethard, Ireland. Her grandfather, Richard, trained horses, and her father, Michael, rode horses in Ireland before ultimately training in America.

At age 16, Michelle Nevin came to the United States and worked for Leo O’Brien in New York. She then got a job with Kiaran McLaughlin, who would split his time in New York and Dubai. Nevin went with McLaughlin to Dubai.

“She was a very good exercise rider and worked a lot of our horses because she worked them well coming from America, where we go 36, 48, and 1:00 better than some of the Europeans,” McLaughlin said.

When she came back to the United States, Nevin worked for her dad, Michael, who was stabled at Aqueduct a barn away from Dutrow. Her father only had a handful of horses, and Nevin would go to Dutrow’s barn and get on some horses in the morning. When Nevin’s father retired, she became a full-time exercise rider for Dutrow.

“He was absolutely amazing to watch around a horse,” Nevin said of Dutrow. “Just his demeanor around horses; horses like him. I feel like he’s got a sixth sense.

“One of the biggest things I learned from Rick was the horse has to be happy, he has to look healthy, he has to be acting right,” Nevin said. “Even if it’s a $5,000 claimer or it’s a stakes horse, you have to really see what that horse is looking for, what does he need? It doesn’t matter how much the horse cost, you got to treat them the right way. You got to give them the best of everything to try to make their lives happy.”

Nevin got on many of Dutrow’s top horses, including Big Brown, who went on to win the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. But one of her favorites was Kip Deville, the winner of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Monmouth and a multiple Grade 1 winner in Southern California.

“I really, really loved Kip Deville,” Nevin said. “We were out in California together. I just really loved being around him, galloping him. I flew every place with him. Big Brown is obviously more on everybody’s lips, but watching him run on the grass, I just loved it.”

Another horse Nevin got on for Dutrow was By the Light, a New York-bred filly who won 10 of 20 races, including nine stakes. By the Moon is By the Light’s second foal.

“I used to gallop her mother, and I loved her,” Nevin said. “She was a New York-bred who was really talented. It’s so amazing that here we are a couple of years later, and I’m training her daughter, and she’s just been a pleasure from Day 1. Now her daughter’s taking me to the Breeders’ Cup. It’s a thrill.”

By the Moon is owned by Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable, which also owned By the Light. Though based in California, Siegel wanted a presence in New York and had horses with Dutrow. When Dutrow got suspended, she opted to stick with Nevin.

“I liked the idea of continuity. I liked the idea of being with somebody I already knew,” Siegel said. “I knew Michelle. She was a very hard worker. A lot of [Dutrow’s] help was going with her. It was a good team.”

By the Moon is somewhat of a wild card in the Juvenile Fillies. She won her debut sprinting on a fast track, but her last two races – a well-beaten second in the Grade 1 Spinaway and a win in a slowly run Frizette – were run over wet tracks.

“You can’t make a black-and-white decision with her because she’s unknown,” Nevin said. “It’s unfortunate that every time she ran, she caught a wet track, but she’s trained on a good, fresh track every day that she’s been here. From the very beginning, I liked her. She showed she was something more, so we’re just going to have to wait and see, watch her run, and hope she handles it.”