Seven words. Seven of the most iconic words in horse racing history is all it took to set the course for the rest of one little girl’s life. As the infamous red horse streamed across the TV screen a love of Thoroughbreds was born in the heart of a nine year old. “He is moving like a tremendous machine!” pierced the air and Nicole Schiveley would never be the same.
Tucked safely away in her Grandmother’s bedroom from the noise and ruckus of the rest of the house, Nicole had been flipping through TV channels when Secretariat’s unforgettable Belmont Stake’s win came on TV. The grainy replay makes it difficult to realize it’s a horse race at first. Blinding white breeches, white helmet covers, and the rail pop against the monochromatic background. There’s something else there too – three white stockings that blur together on legs travelling to a beat faster than anyone can measure. Secretariat’s legs stand out against the all dark Sham on his outside as they match stride for stride. And then, as if he decides he’s had enough, something changes; Secretariat’s body lengthens from his nose to the tip of his tail and he starts to pull away. “He’s got it by about a length and a half,” Chic Anderson says “the lead is increasing – make that three, three and a half…” As Secretariat is easily 12 lengths ahead of Sham comes the sentence of a lifetime and in that same moment a little Nicole was struck by the tremendous machine that is a racing Thoroughbred.
“I remember zoning in on the television, dumbfounded by the heroism and athleticism in his performance,” she recalls. “While I had fallen in love with Phar Lap not long before this day, it was this day in particular, which captured my absolute imagination. I left my Grandma’s bedroom feeling like absolutely anything was possible.From that day on, I never lost that childlike view on life.”
From that moment on, Nicole has thrown herself, heart and soul, into racing. With parents more than happy to support her new found love, her mother planned her first trip to the Kentucky Derby when Nicole was just 12 years old. Her father, who is by her side in all her race related memories, still chuckles recalling a 12 year old Nicole analyzing fractions and stride lengths with fellow handicappers (a mere 58 years her senior on average) the night before the Derby.
Together, Nicole and her father also attended the Belmont Stakes and spent much time at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields – often from the backside and winners circle thanks to a friendship they struck up with the Director of Marketing at the time, Mike Ziegler. They visited Secretariat’s grave together and treated Cigar to a contraband peppermint — or two. Trips to tracks kept Nicole knowledgeable about up and coming horses, and time spent with racing historian Darryl Hove deepened her love and understanding of the legendary horses of times past.
Like most young girls obsessed with horses, Nicole spent her time immersed in them, but unlike most young girls, she was drawn to racing. In a childhood dream come true – a dream most little girls fantasize about each birthday and Christmas – Nicole’s parents bought her a horse. But, in true Nicole fashion, this was no riding pony delivered with pink ribbons in its mane and tail, this was a Michigan-bred weanling destined for the track. Although “Gettin’ Glory” never did find his glory, it was an experience that cemented Nicole’s obsession.
Those experiences inspired poems and eventually essays, leading to a piece that was picked up by Horse Racing Nation. Finally Nicole’s love of racing was turning toward a career, and one Brent Burns (Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Pick Insider) was struck by her talent.
“Brent had been following my work on Horse Racing Nation, and he approached me, asking me to write for PickInsider— about 17 times,” she laughs. ” After much thought and schedule arranging, I decided to give it a go. I am so thoroughly glad I did.”
Nicole has become a pivotal member of the Pick Insider team; her articles and vlog On the Verge inspire debate and conversations that fuel the love of racing shared between fans. A love that has also infected Nicole’s nine year old daughter, Peyton.
Peyton joins her mother and grandfather at all the biggest events, meeting the great racehorses of her time and watching historic moments in racehorse history unfold. “Being able to take her with me to the track is like falling in love with the sport all over again, this time through her eyes.” The apple has not fallen far from the tree; Peyton’s knowledge of current and past racehorses would blow away any racing aficionado. The two share an unrivaled love of the sport and many weekends rooting on their favorite horses and shedding tears. (Nicole spilled the beans about Peyton’s dissapointment at Mohaymen’s fourth place finish in the Florida Derby last year during this awesome vlog with a guest appearance by Peyton.)
Dont worry, Peyton, that runs in your blood – it’s something that comes with such a deep passion for racing.
“I cry watching $12.5 claimers battling down the stretch, as much as I cry on Derby Day, watching champions run their hearts out.” Nicole admits, “To me, there is nothing in the world so inspiring.” Except, maybe, the desire for a mother to lead by example for her daughter: “I want her to always know that if she loves something enough, if she is passionate enough, and if she works hard enough, there is always a place where dreams and reality intersect.”
Seven words was all it took, and Nicole Schiveley was forever changed by the “tremendous machine” that is a Thoroughbred at full tilt, their hearts pumping a love of running through their veins. Today, she is an integral part of Pick Insider as her ideas, opinions, vlogs and columns inspire our team and racing fans alike. She has the ability to instill the same feelings in us as Secretariat did in that nine year old girl, sitting in her Grandmother’s bedroom, watching a replay of the Belmont Stakes.
“Because of what I witness every day in the determination of Thoroughbreds, I still believe anything is possible.”
Because of you, Nicole Schiveley, we do too.