Double Firsts: Trainer Sherry Rhea, Apprentice Albert Lopez Break Their Maidens At Oaklawn

Trainer Sherry Rhea recorded her first career victory in Sunday’s seventh race at Oaklawn when My Little Tipsy ($15) broke his maiden under apprentice jockey Albert Lopez.

Rhea, who launched her career in 2020, had been 0 for 61 and was winless in 48 starts at this year’s Oaklawn meeting, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

“There’s no feeling like it in the world,” Rhea, 57, said Wednesday afternoon outside her Oaklawn barn. “I was so excited. They say there’s a tradition here, you get a duck on the last day if you don’t win a race. I’m like, ‘I think they’ve got me lined up for a duck this year,’ so I’m sure glad it happened.”

Rhea’s milestone victory was a family affair since My Little Tipsy, a 3-year-old gelding, is a homebred for her father, retired trainer Stanley Roberts of Forrest City, Ark. Roberts was Oaklawn’s second-leading trainer in 2002 and topped the owner’s standings three consecutive years in Hot Springs (2002, 2003 and 2004) with his former business partner Rick Turman (Highway 1 Racing Stable).

Roberts, 79, now assists his daughter and saddled My Little Tipsy Sunday. Rhea saddled the gelding’s older full-brother, My Little Tip, who, at 48-1, finished third in the same race for $20,000 Arkansas-bred maiden claimers. Roberts also bred My Little Tip, but the 4-year-old gelding is owned by his daughter.

A Forrest City native, Rhea has been around horses her entire life. She taught school for 34 years, including 28 in Forrest City, before retiring a couple of years ago to help her father. Rhea is a lifelong barrel racer and said she competed Tuesday in Bee Branch, Ark. Rhea also has a background in Quarter-Horses, adding she’s leaning heavily on her father in her transition to Thoroughbreds.

“I’m new to this, very, very new to this,” Rhea said. “I’ve got a background with horses, so I’ve got horse sense. I’m just learning about the track.”

Roberts trained Quarter-Horses before successfully switching to Thoroughbreds approximately 30 years ago, amassing 957 victories between 1990 and 2020, according to Equibase. Roberts had been scaling back his racing operation in recent years and started his last horse April 19, 2020, at Oaklawn. Roberts has 193 career victories, including five stakes, in Hot Springs.

“He was my assistant trainer, but you know what that means,” Rhea said. “He is still very much involved. He does the entering. He still calls most all the shots. My dad will be turning 80 this summer and he’s won over 900 races, so whatever he says goes. I can give a little input and I help and I do a lot. But, basically, he’s still very much involved.”

Roberts owns a 97-acre farm in Forrest City, about 140 miles east of Hot Springs. Rhea lives on the breeding/training facility, which stood the now-deceased Mykindacandy (sire of My Little Tipsy and My Little Tip) and houses overflow that are not stabled at Oaklawn. After retiring from teaching, Rhea said it was the perfect time to help her father (haul horses, pick up broodmares, etc.) since he had been talking retirement for several years.

“I started this endeavor a couple of years ago just to spend time with my dad before he quit,” Rhea said. “I wanted to step in and spend time with him, day-to-day, not just show up every now and again. I wanted to spend time with him before he retired.”

Rhea said after the Oaklawn meeting ends Saturday, her horses will ship from her father’s Forrest City farm to run at tracks like Prairie Meadows, Fairmount Park and Louisiana Downs.

“That’s the rodeo in me,” Rhea said. “I don’t mind the driving.”

My Little Tipsy represented the first United States victory for Lopez, according to Equibase. Lopez, who rides with a 10-pound allowance, had three victories last year in Puerto Rico.

The post Double Firsts: Trainer Sherry Rhea, Apprentice Albert Lopez Break Their Maidens At Oaklawn appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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