Corey Lanerie rode at Ellis Park Friday for the first time this summer as the four-time meet titlist resumed riding regularly following the June 22 death of his wife, Shantel.
With his third mount of the day, Lanerie was back in the winner's circle for the fourth race, with track announcer Jimmy McNerney saying, “Hide the Honey with Corey Lanerie on her back, and an angel on his.”
“It feels great to be back riding, doing what I love,” Lanerie told the media before the first race. “Kind of get life moving forward again, because it's hard. I think when I get back to riding, it will kind of get my mind freed and back to normal life. It's going to be weird. I really don't know what I'll feel like out there. I actually rode last weekend, and it was pretty good. Once I get on the horse, I focus on the race and my job, whatever I have to do. I think I'll go out there and do my job and just let it go as it is, and I think I'll be fine.”
Lanerie rode in four stakes July 7 at Arlington Park near Chicago, coming away with a pair of fourth-place finishes. Those were his first mounts since June 17.
Shantel Lanerie was undergoing treatment for Stage 1 breast cancer when she underwent emergency surgery for an infected colon on June 21. She died the next day.
Lanerie wears an undershirt with “Fight with Shantel” on the collar embroidered in pink, as well as a bracelet.
“Before it happened, we'd ordered these shirts to 'Fight with Shantel,' so I'm going to just keep wearing them in honor of her,” he said. “The bracelet is the same thing. A bunch of us are wearing them, and we won't forget her.”
The Laneries have a 10-year-old daughter, Brittlyn. Shantel and Brittlyn were regular fixtures at the racetrack, known for their splendid attire when Lanerie received an award or reached a milestone victory.
“There will be an empty spot for sure,” Lanerie said. “Because she supported me through thick and thin. She was there when I wasn't doing any good and at my best moments.”
The jockey said his daughter is doing well. He said Brittlyn is with family in Louisiana and would be doing some traveling with close friends. But he acknowledged that facing life as a single parent is daunting.
“I think it's sunken in,” he said. “Now I'm just scared of whatever the future has in store and whatever I'm going to have to do. I was lucky. She did everything, so it's going to be a learning process for me. That's kind of where I'm at, and I'm just going to take it day by day.
“It will be hard. With my career, to be honest, I don't think I can do it as a single parent. I'm going to have to get some help. Shantel's parents are going to come for a couple of weeks, and after that, my parents are going to come, my mom for sure, for at least three weeks, maybe a month so we can get Brittlyn settled in. Then I'm probably going to have to end up hiring a nanny or somebody. Because she likes to dance and all that, and to get her to and from practice with the hours I work, it just wouldn't be possible.”
Lanerie said he greatly appreciates the outpouring from the racing community.
“The support and the family love has been great. Everybody has reached out to me and offered their help, anything they can do. We're a big family here, and it really showed. A lot of people have stepped up and just gone above and beyond, just with phone calls and stuff to do. It was amazing, so heart-warming.”
Lanerie, a 43-year-old native of Lafayette, La., who has made Louisville home since moving to the Kentucky circuit in 2005, has won the last two Ellis Park training titles, as well as in 2013 (a tie with Roberto Morales) and 2010. The winner of more than 4,400 races, Lanerie is a 15-time meet leader at Churchill Downs.
Lanerie and Brittlyn were part of the award presentation when the jockey's good friend Brian Hernandez Jr. was honored as leading rider for Churchill Downs' spring meet. Hernandez held a one-win margin over Lanerie when Shantel was hospitalized on June 21.
“That was pretty special because Brian worked really hard and is a really good jockey,” Lanerie said. “He deserved to be leading rider. He came down (to Louisiana) for the wake. He was going to stay if I wanted him to, but I said, 'If anybody is going to get it, Shantel would want you to have it. So go there and do what you do.'”
Lanerie said he made the decision to return to riding because “It's not going to get any better. Life has to go on, and I figure the sooner we go and start doing things and trying to get normalcy back in our life, things will be better.”
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