The racetrack presents many possibilities. Jerry Hill has explored a lot of them. He’s been an exercise rider, a groom, a hotwalker; he recently got his trainer license and may train one of his own at some point.
Jerry is being honored by the Minnesota HBPA as Groom of the Week. This is his first season at Canterbury Park and he is enjoying his stay, working for Larry Donlin who he knew from Fonner Park in Grand Island, Nebraska where he worked over the winter. One thing led to the next as it often does in this business and here he is in Shakopee.
Hill was born in San Antonio and grew up in Washington State. His high school wrestling coach knew a person that trained those interested how to ride. Jerry was intrigued and so it began. His first racetrack gig was galloping horses in 2009 at Emerald Downs outside of Seattle.
Becoming a jockey didn’t work out at the time so he also learned the skills of a groom and a hotwalker. Those skills have taken him to tracks around the country – Retama Park, Prairie Meadows, Portland Meadows, Parx, Remington Park. “I’ve been all over,” Jerry said.
Jerry has found the racetrack to be a good place for him. He grew up in foster care and at the age of 18 he was on his own. The racetrack gave him a home and responsibility. “I learned a lot from the horses,” he said. “[The racetrack] kept me out of trouble.”
He tried straight jobs, working at Amazon and as a CNA, but he always came back to the track. “It beats a regular job,” he said. “Get up on time and do your work.” There is a certain freedom about having skills that can be applied anywhere and Jerry enjoys that. He can do anything. “I haven’t been a jockey yet though,” he said. “I’m only 30. It’s not on my check list but…” Who knows? The racetrack is truly a place of opportunity.
There is also that recently acquired trainer credential Jerry received while in Grand Island. He is saving money to get a horse of his own. That’s a goal and a reachable one for a man who knows his way around a racehorse.
He also has the optimism that is almost inherent with those who work on the backside of a racetrack. “You never know where that next Secretariat is,” he said.