Kirkpatrick & Co Presents In Their Care: Years After Sitting In The Wrong One, Ettedgui Has Found His Seat - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Kirkpatrick & Co Presents In Their Care: Years After Sitting In The Wrong One, Ettedgui Has Found His Seat

Luis Ettedgui leads a horse at Keeneland

Luis Ettedgui began following Hofburg, bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms, in the spring of 2018. The teenager's interest intensified when the chestnut son of Tapit placed second in the Florida Derby, leading him to persuade his father, Alberto, to purchase general admission tickets to the Kentucky Derby.

Heavy rain forced them to seek shelter on the afternoon of the Derby at Churchill Downs. Luis, decked out in a shirt that read Hofburg and bore Juddmonte's famous pink, green and white colors, spotted a vacant box. He and his father retreated there.

Minutes before the Derby, Garrett O'Rourke, Juddmonte's general manager, arrived and gently informed father and son that they were occupying his seats. At the same time, O'Rourke's eye was drawn to Luis' shirt and a conversation ensued. The young man told O'Rourke of his ambition to eventually become a farm manager, leading O'Rourke to offer his help.

Ettedgui's family had relocated to South Florida from Venezuela when he was 11. When it was time to apply to college, he submitted one application. He was intent on being part of the University of Kentucky's equine management program while working part-time.

“You would be in the horse capital of the world. I figured it was the place for me to be if I was to work, which was my plan,” he said.

Once Ettedgui was accepted by Kentucky, he contacted O'Rourke and arrangements were made for him to work with Juddmonte's regally-bred yearlings by doing basic chores on weekends. The position was not very profitable. Since the young man did not own a car as a freshman, round-trip transportation to the Lexington farm cost him $40. Money well spent.

“You learn more gaining actual experience,” he said. “I've always been taught to work with the best. They do things the right way and they do right by the horse.”

Ettedgui continued to work part-time at Juddmonte through his first three years at Kentucky before interning with Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox last spring at Keeneland as part of a three-credit course. He reported to assistant trainer Tessa Bisha, who specializes in developing Cox's 2-year-olds.

If Ettedgui expected her to bring him along slowly, he was mistaken.

“We generally threw him to the wolves, which is actually really scary for a lot of people because they are afraid of failure, afraid of making a mistake, afraid to ask a question. There is a lot of the fear of the unknown, right?” Bisha said. “Luis just took it all in stride.”

No task is too small for Ettedgui, 22, as he approaches his final year at Kentucky.

“He doesn't have any ego. He doesn't get in his own way,” Bisha said. “He has the best attitude to learn with.”

Ettedgui in the saddling stalls at Saratoga

When Cox asked Ettedgui if he wanted work for him at Saratoga this summer, the young man hesitated only because of the significant expenses he would incur for housing and other needs. He turned to O'Rourke for advice, as he had many times before. O'Rourke assured him it was an offer he could not refuse.

Ettedgui is glad he listened.

“I feel you should definitely experience this racetrack because this is the big leagues,” he said. “This is where everybody wants to win. This is where everybody wants to be.”

Ettedgui arrives at the barn before 4 a.m. each day knowing he might be asked to do anything and everything. Much of his time is spent grooming horses.

“It's a very exhausting job for grooms who do it every day. I have an appreciation for them because it is not easy,” he said.

He learned from the demanding Cox the importance of paying attention to every detail.

“Everything has to be perfect. Everything has to be how he says,” said Ettedgui. “He's a great guy to work with.”

Although Ettedgui has loftier goals, he understands the need to learn from the ground up.

“What I'm going through right now is definitely all the grunt work. But I feel there are certain stages you have to pass through to make it,” he said.

With an assist from O'Rourke, his next step will be to work beside bloodstock expert David Ingordo at Keeneland's September Yearling Sale. He already is a student of pedigrees. He also understands he   must develop an eye for a racing prospect.

Bisha praised Ettedgui for taking all the right steps.

“What I love is he stuck with the racetrack side this long already,” she said. “For people who want to do farm manager jobs, it is very important that they see and understand what the end goal is.”

Ettedgui will always be indebted to O'Rourke, knowing he landed in the right seat after all.

Tom Pedulla wrote for USA Today from 1995-2012 and has been a contributor to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Blood-Horse, America's Best Racing and other publications.

If you wish to suggest someone as a potential subject for In Their Care, please send an email to [email protected] that includes the person's name and contact information in addition to a brief description of the individual's background.

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