If it takes a village to raise a child, then getting a horse ready for the races certainly requires an equal measure of collaborative nurturing. No one has to teach a thoroughbred how to run, but teaching them how to race can be a long, tedious, potentially hazardous proposition.

Most of us will only see the finished products during the afternoons at the races, as the winning owners, trainers and jockeys bask in the spotlight job well done. But it’s on the backstretch where the real work gets done. Exercise rider Nick Bush is a backstretch veteran, traveling track-to-track as the go-to morning jock for trainer Todd Pletcher. As Bush explained during a rare break in the morning at Saratoga, exercise riders are equal parts jockey and trainer…and occasionally, lion tamer.