Click on the "play" icon to watch a collection of images of Big Brown's hardworking morning rider, Michelle Nevin, courtesy of Youtube.com.
Some of the most interesting people at the racetrack were done for the day by the time you and I were up this morning. A cadre of wiry armed men and women rise way before the sun is up and gallop, jog, breeze and otherwise exercise the millions of dollars worth of horseflesh boxed up US racetracks.
They don't have the luxury of lunging a horse for an hour before they put their foot in the stirrup. They get a leg up and they're off. Sometimes literally, as pent-up energy explodes once a young Thoroughbred realizes that the hotwalker just unclipped the leadline.
The morning riders have a face now, thanks to the crush of media surrounding Big Brown and his bid to win the Triple Crown on Saturday. The name is that of Michelle Nevin, the young Irishwoman who is assistant to trainer Rick Dutrow and keeps her eyes focused between Big Brown's ears as they prepare for Saturday's test.
Michelle spent time in Dubai this spring, where she saddled two winners in the Dubai World Cup. Kip DeVille and Diamond Stripes are both owned by IEAH, co-owners of Big Brown. And she wasn't wearing a veil. She has also helped train 1996 Grand National steeplechase winner Rough Quest back home in Ireland.
Born into a racing family in Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Michelle's star is rising. Should Big Brown win the Triple Crown, it will be Michelle's book we'll all want to read, not the jockey's. She's done all the hard work.
So just like last year, when Belmont winner Rags to Riches had a made-for-media female hotwalker named Isabel, there's a woman behind the celebrity horse. Let's hope we see Michelle in the winner's circle on Saturday. Look for her to be the one nearest the horse.
Michelle walks Big Brown around the shed row; they do the circuit a lot. Yahoo!Sports photo