Their first wins together have come with horses named Always, Magical and Karma, which only seems fitting given trainer Brittany Trimble and jockey Sheldon Russell are rapidly approaching their wedding day.
The up-and-coming Trimble and Russell, one of Maryland's leading riders and owner of seven individual meet championships, are set to tie the knot Aug. 26 in Ellicott City, two days before Russell's 31st birthday.
“We're looking forward to it,” Trimble, 28, said. “We're trying to stay balanced and juggle everything. Planning the wedding has actually been a bit of a struggle with the business, but we're getting it done and it'll be great. It's exciting.”
The only thing that appears to be moving faster than the calendar is the success that Pennsylvania native Trimble and Russell, the son of a jockey who was born in Louisiana but raised in England, have enjoyed together.
In the first year of training on her own, Laurel Park-based Trimble owns seven wins, three seconds and three thirds from 24 starters since late February. Russell has been aboard 16 of those horses with five wins, one second and all three show finishes. Together, they are winning at a 31 percent clip, with a 56 percent in-the-money ratio.
At Laurel Park's current summer meet, Trimble has a record of 2-3-2 from her first nine starters, most recently finishing off the board with Karma July 13. Magical is among 42 nominees to the $75,000 Twixt Stakes July 27.
“I just think it works. She allows me to get on the horses in the mornings … and do some of their workouts and get used to them. It's just nice,” Russell said. “When she brings them over in the afternoon, whether they're first-time starters or they've run for other trainers, it's nice to know a little bit about the horse and their quirks, and I think you can see that by the way these horses run. I'm lucky enough to get a chance to ride them. So far, things have been good and we've had a lot of success.”
Russell and Trimble first met and started dating six years ago, Trimble said, when she was working on a farm that shipped horses to Laurel trainer Tim Keefe, who frequently used Russell for morning workouts. The same work that eventually took Trimble away from Maryland ultimately led her back.
“When I decided to make the move back here, as soon as we got back in the same area it just picked right up,” she said, “and we haven't looked back.”
Trimble won with her first career starter Feb. 25 at Laurel, Oh My, bred and owned by her primary client, Peter Blum. Feargal Lynch was up that day on the 4-year-old filly making just her second lifetime start and first in more than 13 months. Oh My took a short lead into the stretch, dueled through the lane with favored Sister Patricia, and dug in to turn back a late bid from Bash – ridden by Russell – and win by a half-length.
The second win for Trimble came March 17 with another second-time starter, Blum's 3-year-old filly Piece of Candy, with Julian Pimentel aboard. Though the margin – five lengths – was much greater, Russell finished second again.
“At the dinner table those two nights it wasn't fun, but we've moved on and things have gotten better,” Russell said. “I won't jump off a first-time starter for her ever again.”
“He's kidding,” Trimble said. “He's so kidding.”
Russell and Trimble teamed up to win with Karma May 10 at legendary Pimlico Race Course, while Trimble's other three victories have come with Blum's 4-year-old Tapit filly Magical, who has progressed from a maiden special weight triumph April 14 to allowance and optional claiming allowance victories June 15 and July 6, respectively.
“Brittany didn't have many horses back then when she first started. The plan was always to ride her first starter but, unfortunately, I had horses in the race that I had already ridden,” Russell said. “I had finished second on Bash the race before so it was very hard for me to jump off a horse that I had just finished second on because after a horse has his first run you always think next time out they're going to do even better.
“I had been on both of Brittany's first two [winners] in the morning and, honestly, I thought I had picked the right horse but it just didn't work out. It's funny how she beat me,” he added. “It's always the joke that people bring up, but it just shows you what a good job she does. Even getting on the horses in the morning I still preferred the other two fillies and there she was beating me.”
Trimble's rise has helped lead a resurgence for Russell, Maryland's overall champion rider in 2011 with 126 wins who, when healthy, has ranked among the state's best jockeys since his arrival in 2007. He has endured a multitude of injuries including a ruptured radial collateral ligament in his right hand that delayed his 2017 debut and a torn labrum and broken shoulder that cost him much of 2016.
Russell is tied for fifth in wins (15) and seventh in purse earnings ($438.000) at Laurel this summer, after finishing fourth in purses ($996,739) and fifth in wins (28) during the winter-spring meet that ran Jan. 1 to May 6.
“So far everything is good. In the past, it seems I've always been injured but I'm really happy with the way the year has started,” Russell said. “I've got some good business and I'm riding for some really nice trainers and I'm happy with the way things are going. I'm looking forward to getting married. Brittany is well on her way to a nice career and I'm happy to have been able to ride some winners for her.”
While Russell has been more established in the game – his father, Dean, was a jockey who rode in England, South Africa and Germany – Trimble did not come from a racing background. Her introduction to horses came as a teenager when she accompanied her father to work at farms near their Peach Bottom, Pa. home on the weekends.
Trimble had a brief turn as an amateur rider, winning two of 20 starts between 2006 and 2017. She went out on a successful note, guiding Dorothyfromdublin to a 4 ¼-length victory for trainer Jonathan Maldonado last Nov. 17 at Laurel.
“I went through a phase where I think everybody that rides horses wants to be a jockey at some point. I rode some amateur races and I said, 'It's fun, but it's not for me,'” she said. “I like being in the barn and I like trying to figure horses out. It's like you're always trying to fix something. It's like solving a puzzle. It's what I'm striving for.”
Trimble worked and learned under trainers Ron Moquett, Jimmy Jerkens and Brad Cox before returning to the Mid-Atlantic region and striking out on her own. Her stable has steadily grown from an initial shedrow of eight to a current roster of 25 horses.
“I have had some other people reach out,” Trimble said. “Peter is my main guy and I have a quite a few nice ones for him, quite a few young horses, that will take a little bit of time to come around but it's nice to get them now and be able to develop them. I am lucky. I have some really good support.”
In addition to her help at the barn, much of that support has come from Russell, a winner of more than 1,200 career races and $31.6 million in purses and a resource Trimble has been able to lean on for both his expertise and his experience.
“It's huge. I get on plenty of them in the morning and I work a lot of horses and he'll help me work them at all stages,” Trimble said. “When they're close he'll definitely sit on them the last couple works before a race and it's always an extra reassurance for him to work one and say, 'Yeah, we're good. The horse is ready.' It's very valuable.”
Russell is quick to point out that his contributions come as part of a strong group Trimble has put together in her first go-around as a head trainer.
“Brittany has a really good team behind her. I think she does a great job and we've had some success that's been helped by the entire crew,” Russell said. “She has a good foreman and exercise rider, and the grooms that take care of her horses I really truly believe [are] five of the best at Laurel Park. They do a great job with their horses.”
Having Russell and her team behind her has been the key to Trimble's early success, she said.
“They're good people to be around. They're always there and they're happy to be there. I've been really fortunate. I had one good guy when I started and he built up the crew and it's been awesome,” Trimble said. “And, they all love Sheldon, too. Everybody's on board. It's great.”
“They just like that I feed them breakfast when we win,” Russell quipped.
Their hectic schedule means Trimble and Russell will both be back at work not long after their nuptials. Russell frequently rides out of town on days when Laurel is dark, while Trimble – who has only had one starter away from Laurel to date – is busy maintaining the 24-7, 365 business of training horses.
“The wedding is at 5 o'clock on a Sunday and one thing about Brittany, she loves to go back every afternoon and feed the horses. That's one thing she likes to do,” Russell said. “We're just trying to make it work and later on, maybe around Christmastime, we can squeeze some time in and get away for a few days. It's a really busy time right now but so far everything has gone smoothly.”
“We're lucky, and I think we've gotten really good, too, at keeping our personal life and business separate. That's the balance that we figured out really quickly,” Trimble added. “You can't bring things home. It's a tough business. Every day with horses, there's something wrong. It's never just a good day. He's helped me along a lot with that, and I think we help each other along the right way.”
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