MURRAY— Not only is the Racers’ football team working toward a spring season, so is Murray State’s favorite thoroughbred, Racer 1 and jockey, Emily Helmick.
It’s not the scenario anyone wanted, but uncertain times of COVID-19 caused the Ohio Valley Conference to postpone the 2020 season to spring 2021. This means Racer 1 won’t be running around the Roy Stewart Stadium track this fall when the Racers score a touchdown.
However, the Racer spirit remains and as the team continues workouts, GoRacers.com found Helmick and Racer 1 going through a workout recently at the Murray State Equine Center near campus.
“The first day I came to Murray for a tour I was walking into the Curris Center and I saw a picture of a horse (with a jockey) at a football game and that made me curious,” said Helmick, a junior pre-vet major from St. Charles, Missouri. “When someone explained the tradition to me, I was floored, because I thought it was the coolest thing that I had ever seen. I looked at my mom and we both knew right then and there, becoming the jockey for Racer 1 was going to be one of my goals.”
“I cried when I got the news that I was the jockey for this school year, I was so happy,” Helmick said. “This was a goal of mine and to be able to represent my entire school, this is an incredible honor and I hope to do it well.”
Helmick is continuing a long line of Murray State students to be selected as jockey for Racer 1. Dr. Shea Porr’s leadership has increased visibility and sponsorship for the Racer 1 project.
“It is an event any time we take Racer 1 off the farm,” said Dr. Porr, the department head for MSU’s Animal/Equine Science program. “We have an entire team of students on the Racer 1 team (not just the jockey) and we teach them how to be safe and to do the things we have to do when we’re in public. I saw the Racer 1 program as an opportunity to work with students who want to take a step outside their comfort zone. To ride a horse and be around a horse and to do it around thousands of people at a football game, and to make it all look good and for it to all come together (is our goal).”
The 2020-21 school year is the second for the latest Racer 1. “Vegas”, is a former quarter horse competitor and an excellent competitive jumper. “Vegas” is the first Racer 1 bred and born at Murray State.
The Racer 1 tradition was started when a horse named “Violet Cactus” first ran the track after a Racer touchdown in 1976. A beautiful gray mare, she was buried just inside the northwest wall at Stewart Stadium after her death. A plaque on the stadium wall tells the story of the first Racer 1. Since 1985, each horse performing at Racer football games has held the name of Racer 1.
With the Murray State football season now moved to spring 2021, Racer fans everywhere are looking forward to seeing Emily Helmick and Racer 1 do their thing.