New Trainer Chichakly Has Simple Goal: ‘I Would Just Like To Race’

Amira Chichakly, a longtime assistant to recently retired trainer Gary Contessa, said she is looking forward to saddling her first starter when live racing is able to resume at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

The veteran horsewoman spent 10 years working on and off with Contessa in addition to a one-year stint as an assistant for trainer Wayne Catalano in Kentucky.

She is currently overseeing a bustling stable of 17 horses at Belmont Park, mostly inherited from Contessa’s stock, which employs up to 11 staff at any given time. Rather than dreaming of Triple Crown glory, Chichakly said she has set her sights on a more attainable goal.

“I would just like to race. Can we start there?” laughed Chichakly. “My first goal is to get in the paddock to saddle a horse.

“Beyond that, it’s hard to think too far ahead right now,” she added. “I’d like to always have a tight barn. I’m not looking to become a big trainer right away. I’d like to keep my stock around the number it is right now and know that I’m doing everything right with those horses and watch them grow to their potential. I’d like to see each horse I work with perform to the best of their ability.”

The New Hampshire native comes by her horsemanship naturally.

“I grew up around horses. My family had started out breeding Arabians as trail horses, but they stopped that very shortly after having children because Arabians are tough horses to work with,” said Chichakly. “When I was around 10, we started breeding Welsh ponies to retrain. We would travel around the country looking at horses and conformation of the horses and deciding what broodmares we would get for our breeding program. We bought a stallion and four broodmares and sold a bunch of those babies. Mostly, I was responsible for the training.

“I did a lot of dressage riding,” added Chichakly. “But I also did a lot of breaking younger horses, getting them started so they could be bomb-proof horses.”

A trip to Saratoga inspired Chichakly to consider trying her hand with thoroughbreds. She started out as a hot walker and eventually began to gallop horses, climbing the ladder up to assistant trainer.

“I grew up running barefoot in the fields next to Arabians and thoroughbred-crosses and quarter horses, so I never hesitated…thoroughbreds just seemed like the next step,” said Chichakly.

Chichakly enjoyed great success with the Contessa barn, including a special score with Sippican Harbor in the 2018 Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga Race Course. Chichakly said she learned a lot of important trainer traits from working with Contessa and Catalano.

“Being patient is a big one,” said Chichakly. “Every horse is different and there are some horses where you have to stop yourself and realize they’re not going to move at your pace on your schedule. And there are others that will make you realize you’re babying them too much and they’re ready to move on.

“Horses have good days and bad days, just like people do. They aren’t machines,” added Chichakly. “I remember watching Catalano on the rail in the mornings, watching sets of horses come out, and he would call the exercise riders over and change instructions, ‘back this one up…gallop around once and come back…’ It was all based on what he felt the horse needed that day, rather than just relying on what his notes had set out for the morning.”

Chichakly said she wants to bring this type of natural horsemanship to her stable.

“It ties into having patience with horses and it’s something I like to see with all my staff and how I handle my horses,” said Chichakly. “These horses are very strong and quick but they don’t necessarily act out without cause, so I like to be able to react calmly and pause and figure out what really is going on in each horse’s mind.

“It’s good to have a plan and to set everything up as a business, but you have to keep in mind that you’re working with living creatures,” she added. “You can’t remove that from the equation or you won’t get them to their full potential.”

One horse she’s looking forward to helping realize its full potential is Virginia-bred Liam’s Fire, a dark bay son of Bayern who graduated at third asking in December at Laurel Park for owners Shawn Thomas and Richard Levy.

“He broke his maiden on the dirt and Gary always wanted to try him on the turf,” said Chichakly. “I got on him a week or two ago and he’s one of the nicest horses I’ve ever ridden. They were laughing at me in the barn because once I got on him, I couldn’t stop talking about him.

“We’re going to try and get him in a turf race and hopefully he’ll perform the way we think he can,” added Chichakly. “Getting on him, he’s so powerful and there’s just so much horse there. He has a beautiful stride and you can feel something in him. It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you know it.”

Another promising individual ready to strut his stuff for Chichakly is Bustin Bieber. Bred in New York by Linda and Bruce McConnell, the 2-year-old son of Bustin Stones has breezed twice at Belmont.

“He’s a very typical 2-year-old colt. He has plenty of attitude and no idea where to put it, but when he gets into a work he’s like an older horse and knows what he’s doing,” said Chichakly. “I’ve enjoyed watching him train. Although he’s only worked a couple times thus far, I’m liking his potential.

“It’s a fun process to watch them grow and figure things out,” added Chichakly. “He’s a Bustin Stones colt and he looks every bit the part – stocky, big behind and strong muscles. He’s out of a mare I worked with for Gary named Classical Fashion.”

The hard-working trainer boasts a wide array of talents and has worked as a photographer during the past two Belmont Stakes while assisting NYRA’s Adam Coglianese. She also is handy with a paint brush having created a wonderful portrait for Lady Sheila Stable of their 2015 Eclipse Award-winning Champion Female Sprinter La Verdad with her 2018 Tapit foal.

“When I’m not at the barn, I don’t like to sit idle. I’ve done paintings on commission of horses we have in the barn and of famous horses too,” said Chichakly. “I’ll paint horses that are appealing to me because of their action or motion. I also do a lot of anatomical drawings. I think it helps me as a trainer to keep my mind on things, just thinking in the rhythm of the everyday, but from a different angle.”

The post New Trainer Chichakly Has Simple Goal: ‘I Would Just Like To Race’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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