Former jockey Shane Sellers' daily routine is far different than his previous lifestyle, yet he's only 15 miles from Keeneland where he had some of his most successful moments on the track.
In a career that closed in 2013 after 30 years, counting a five-year premature retirement, Sellers won 4,393 races. His mounts, including Hall of Famer Skip Away, earned more than $130 million. Since his final race, Sellers has found his stride in farm life. He is content in his role as a key crew member at Safari North, the former Pauls Mill that was purchased in 2018 by his girlfriend, Susan Moulton. The picturesque facility has mares, foals, yearlings and racetrack lay-ups for a total of about 50 horses. The property also houses a few retired racers that Sellers and Moulton ride.
“It's great that I can stay in the game,” he said. “I love the babies and the young horses. I like to see them mature and go on to their racing careers whether it is with us or someone else.”
Sellers' transition from boots in the saddle to boots on the ground had some unusual detours.
While sidelined in 2001 by a knee injury, Sellers dabbled in country music and had a local following especially with his song “Matthew, Mark, Luke and Earnhardt” written before the death of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.
“I had a friend in Nashville who said, 'Why don't you demo some songs?'”, Sellers said. “I had nothing to do, so I did. We came up with that song and it went to No. 58 on the (country music) charts. We had nine other songs to go with it, so we produced an album. I had fun with it and we did some shows. I counted it as a good time.”
Sellers returned to what he did best — riding races as he had been doing since his preteen days at informal tracks in the Lafayette region of his native Louisiana. Again he was productive with a steady stream of winners. Late in 2004, Sellers announced his retirement. He returned to his Louisiana roots and purchased a farm with the intention of preparing young horses for the track.
Back in the saddle
His plan was more challenging than anticipated and Sellers felt drawn back to what he knew best. He headed to Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino in Opelousas where he had earned his first official triumph at the original Evangeline Downs in 1983.
“I was off for four years and I had an itch to try to ride again,” he said. “I started getting on horses and I lost 35 pounds. My great friend Mark Guidry — he's like a brother to me and we rode a lot of years together — was training there. He told me he had a horse to put me on that would win. I was still a little heavy and not completely fit but I could not say no.”
Guidry, who rode more than 5,000 winners and is now a steward at Evangeline Downs, was correct. The horse Ide Ball made Sellers a winner in his 2009 comeback. After a four-year absence, Sellers was firmly back in business and soon back competing on his usual circuit of Fair Grounds in the winter and then Kentucky.
Sidelined by a shoulder injury in the summer of 2012 and nearing age 50, Sellers recognized his career was nearing an end. He became a partner in the operation of Parker View Farm near Lexington as it transformed from an American Saddlebred property to a Thoroughbred business. He stayed until he transferred to Safari North last year.
Sellers and Moulton, who met at a fundraiser, soon realized they had more than a passion for Thoroughbred racing in common.
Moulton had spent decades as an exercise rider and her father Naylor Morton campaigned his runners in Louisiana.
“We knew that I rode some of her dad's horses,” Sellers said. “I looked through some win pictures and we found one with her family in the winner's circle with me on the horse when I was just a kid. But we didn't know each other. Things have come a long way for us.”
A self-described racetracker, Sellers is more than satisfied at the farm while cherishing memories of a much faster pace. Those thoughts returned on a recent November morning when he and a co-worker were at Keeneland to pick up recent sales purchases.
“There were still horses on the track,” he said. “It made me miss riding on the track and the camaraderie in the morning and getting on good horses. Keeneland was always nothing but the best and I miss that part of it. It was my lifestyle.”
Visiting Keeneland, where he won 412 races, also gives him the opportunity to reconnect with those he knew at the track.
“I appreciate the people who ask about me and still remember Shane Sellers,” he said. “There was a time in my life when I had a big following. I probably took it for granted. Now that I am out of the limelight, I remember those days and it is nice to know there are still people who wonder where I am.”
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