‘Such A Big Dream’: Swedish Apprentice Rider Emma Nordin Looking For First U.S. Win
The 20-year-old native of Sweden, an apprentice jockey in her home country, made her North American debut Jan. 20 at Gulfstream Park, finishing third by 1 ½ lengths at odds of 19-1. She has ridden once since, beaten a neck at 7-1 by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano despite a heady rail-skimming ride Feb. 5 at Gulfstream.
“It was very close. Of course I wanted to win,” Nordin said. “But, riding against these jockeys is such a great experience. Second is good, too, I guess. Not too bad.”
If the pattern continues, Nordin could be sitting on her first winner.
“I’m very excited. Both horses have a good chance to win,” Nordin said. “It would be very cool to actually get that first win here at Gulfstream.”
Nordin began her love affair with horses at the age of 7, when she and younger sister, Elin, competed on the pony race circuit. She started racing Thoroughbreds as an amateur in 2016, earning her biggest win in April 2019 on Soldier Blue in the Bronshandicap at Bro Park, located approximately 25 miles northwest of Stockholm. The horse was owned by Nordin and trained by her mother, Annica.
“I think it was always my dream [to be a jockey] since I started with pony racing,” Nordin said. “It’s very exciting. I love it.”
Nordin went from amateur to apprentice in 2020 during her senior year of high school and got off to a fast start with four wins, three seconds and a third in her first 12 mounts.
“I’ve been riding quite a few winners in Sweden,” she said. “In Sweden you can be an apprentice for up to 70 wins or four years if you don’t get that many wins.”
With Swedish racing off for the winter, Nordin reached out to a friend who exercises horses in South Florida about coming to the U.S. to keep her skills sharp during the hiatus. She landed with Sanchez, who has 30 stalls in Barn 21.
“I had like four months to do something else. I talked to my friend, who was riding here, if he could help me just come on vacation and ride a little bit, and that’s how I started.”
Sanchez has seven wins from 28 starters during the 2020-2021 Championship Meet, with three seconds, six thirds and $192,460 in purse earnings.
“I’m so happy and thankful that Amador actually gave me those rides and that he supports me so much,” Nordin said. “It means everything. I never thought. It’s such a big dream to do it, and come true.”
Nordin said she planned to spend another month at Gulfstream – with a jockey colony boasting the likes of Luis Saez, Irad Ortiz Jr., Tyler Gaffalione, Paco Lopez, Jose Ortiz, Junior Alvarado and Castellano – before resuming her apprenticeship in Sweden.
“The biggest difference I would say is the sport here is so much bigger. All the best jockeys in the world are here,” Nordin said. “I just feel like riding with these good jockeys always makes you better. If that’s all you see then, of course, you’re going to be more like them. I think it’s the best experience I can get, and I’m very thankful for it.
“Hopefully I can come back soon, because I love it here,” she added.
Nordin isn’t aware of being confused for one of the most decorated Swedish women’s ice hockey players, a two-time national player of the year currently representing their country in the Winter Olympics, who shares the same name but is 10 years older.
“I don’t follow hockey, so I wouldn’t know,” Nordin said. “Hockey is very big in Sweden, but I’m not a big hockey fan. I love the horses.”