From the Paulick Report
teen_agentAlthough he’s only had a few weeks’ practice, Chris Creel is already well indoctrinated into the racetrack schedule. He’s up early in the morning and headed out to the track or training centers around Tampa Bay Downs, shaking hands and checking in with trainers on behalf of the two riders whose books he manages.

If the racetrack life had not grabbed hold of him at a young age, Creel would likely be sitting through classes every day — high school classes. Creel is just 17 years old.

“You never see them that young,” said Creel. “Everyone’s at least late twenties around here.”

Creel’s father Tom was the racing secretary at Suffolk Downs, and both his parents spent time as jockey’s agents. The younger Creel owned a piece of a racehorse last year and decided he wanted to get even closer to the track. So, this fall, he studied for his jockey’s agent test and passed on the first try.

Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Auction

Meanwhile, rider Alexis Batista was looking for someplace to move his tack after finishing up a strong season at Assiniboia Downs in Canada. Tired of winter at his usual base in West Virginia, Batista pulled up the condition book for Tampa Bay Downs and called the agents of the top riders, only to discover that everyone was booked. A friend told him about a kid who was looking to get started.

“I gave him a chance because his father was a good agent in Boston,” said Batista. “My friend told me he’s going to be a good kid. I thought I’d give it a chance. You never know.

“He’s got the style. He’s so young but he’s got the style. He acts like an old agent. I don’t have to tell him too much because he knows what to do. The kid’s got it.”

Batista, 22, picked up his license in 2011 and showed promise early, finishing seventh in the 2012 standings at Charles Town. His mounts earned over $1.6 million that year, but Batista suffered an injury at the end of the season that took the wind out of his sails. He knew the transition to Tampa’s competitive jockey colony would require a little ingenuity. So far, Creel is providing it. Batista picked up his first win with Creel in late November after Creel took the rider to a nearby farm to watch training hours and got chatty with a trainer.

“He’d been watching that horse for a long time,” said Batista. “When the trainer [Jackie Acksel] told him the name of the filly, the kid already knew the horse we were talking about. The guy said, ‘I can’t believe you’ve been watching my filly!’”

When Batista piloted the horse in his first victory with Creel, she paid $70.60 to win.
Creel compares notes with jockeys Batista and Bracho

Creel compares notes with jockeys Batista and Bracho

For a while, Creel also handled the book for rider Agustin Bracho and recently picked up apprentice Ever Argueta. Creel’s days are full. He takes high school courses online and spends every day at the track, covering his bases. He also spends a lot of time watching game film—getting to know individual horses’ preferences and looking for situations where his riders could make a match.

“I tell trainers, one thing about my guys, is they’ll give you 110 percent,” Creel said. “They’ll ride right to the wire, finish strong, and ride a smart race. They’re not like some jocks. They’ll ride the even money favorite all the way to 99-1 the same.”

How are trainers reacting to a teenage jockey’s agent?

“Certain trainers, they either like you or they don’t,” said Creel. “And they’re committed to certain jockeys, so you’ve got to hustle. Some trainers like baseball, so we’ll talk about baseball. If they like fishing, we’ll talk about fishing. And with some trainers, you just got to say hi, and you’ve got to leave.”

“There’s one trainer, Tom Proctor, if I’m wearing shorts he yells at me all the time. Even if they’re dress shorts. So one day Alexis was riding a stake, and I dressed up in a suit. I saw him and said, ‘I dressed just like this for you, Tom.’

“He laughed and said, ‘I’m proud of you. Maybe I’ll put you on something now.’”

Creel said he isn’t sure yet whether he’ll remain an agent for his whole life—he could see himself switching to the racing office or becoming a steward, but as a third generation racetracker, he’s very sure he wants to stay in the business. In the meantime, he’s doing well not just as Batista’s agent, but as his friend.

“We hang out [off the track],” said Batista.

“He can’t hang out with me too much though, because he’s under 21, you know.”