Trainer to Keep an Eye On

Many people in the horse racing industry are either born into the life, or know from a young age that horse racing is the direction they want their lives to move in. For some, life begins on a very different path and it takes only one moment for them to realize that they belong in the horse racing industry. For Michelle Nihei, her life changing moment arrived in the year 2001 on the backstretch of Keeneland Racecourse in Kentucky. Today, she is slowly working her way up as a trainer, and is already being seen as a trainer to look out for.

With a Neuroscience Ph.D behind her, after graduating from the University of Kentucky, Michelle Nihei managed to get a junior faculty position at the legendary Johns Hopkins. It seemed that her future in science was secure. But Nihei began to get restless and all though she wasn’t sure what would keep her satisfied in her job, she began to realize it wasn’t science. Having ridden horses from a young age, she would always keep up to date with horse racing in the news and while visiting Keeneland, she convinced a trainer to allow her to gallop one of his horses. And in that moment, Nihei knew that it was time to trade in the world of science, for the horse racing industry.

After leaving Johns Hopkins, Michelle Nihei returned to Kentucky and found herself a job as an exercise rider for the well known trainer, Todd Pletcher. She started with the Pletcher stable in the year 2003, and with her determination to succeed, soon found herself in an assistant position. Working with Todd Pletcher gave Nihei access to some of the most brilliant horses in the industry and gained her an immense amount of exposure and knowledge. As time passed Nihei realized that she wanted even more, and with the vote of confidence from horse owner Elisabeth Alexander and the support of Todd Pletcher, Nihei made the decision to go on her own. In 2007, Nihei made her trainer debut at Tampa Bay Downs, with seven of Elisabeth Alexander’s horses under her guidance. Her first race was won in January 2008 and she has remained focused on her goals as a trainer. There is still a long road ahead of her, but Nihei is excited about the future and the challenges she will conquer along the way.