If you went to any racetrack in the eastern time zone and asked somebody if they knew John Breeden, they would likely look at you blankly. If, however, you asked if they knew “Kidd,’’ they would know absolutely.
John Breeden used to ride his bike to the 4 1/2-furlong chute in Charles Town, West Virginia, his hometown. Not just some of the time, but all of the time. He would hang out for hours. Until it became what are you doing kid? Who is that kid? And that eventually became “The Kidd.’’
Kidd has been a jockey agent for a quarter century now. He represents Joshua Navarro these days at Parx Racing, a track he really likes because “the money is awesome here”.
Kidd walked hots at Charles Town when he was just 14. He was an assistant trainer for Jeff Runco and then Tim Ritchie. One day, jockey Phil Grove, who was riding first call for Ritchie, pulled Kidd aside and explained the facts of racetrack life.
“Listen,” Grove told him, “I think you’re a nice kid. You have good people skills. You talk to people well. There’s going to be a fork in the road at some point in time.”
Trainer? Or some other position in a sport Grove recognized Kidd had an affinity for. Why not a jock’s agent?
So, in 1992, Kidd became the agent for Grove, who finished his career with 3,991 winners.
“And I love it,” Kidd said.
Unlike many agents, Kidd has kept riders for long periods of time. He had Joe Rocco, Sr. and Joe Rocco, Jr. He had a great 12-year run with Jeremy Rose, a time that included an Eclipse Award for leading apprentice and an amazing two-year run in 2004 and 2005 with Afleet Alex that culminated in Preakness and Belmont Stakes wins.
“That’s a long time,” Kidd said, “We did a lot of good together.”
Kidd had Kendrick Carmouche at the end of his dominant Parx run before they went to New York together.
“I don’t think New York was for me to be honest with you,” Kidd said. “The city moves too fast. I’m a country boy from West Virginia.”
Kidd came back to Parx in Pennsylvania, worked for Jorge Vargas for two years and now is the agent for Navarro, who was having great success at Finger Lakes. Kidd called him and reminded him how well he had done earlier in his career at Parx where the racing is stronger, the purses are bigger and the opportunity to make a good living is better. Navarro, who won the 2015 Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx on Trouble Kid, liked the pitch and returned to Parx. The jockey has won 39 races and his mounts have earned $1.2 million so far in 2018.
Like nearly all race trackers, Kidd is up every day before dawn. Once he heads for the track, he gets on the phone.
“Bluetooth is a great invention,” said Kidd, who stops by the four or five barns of trainers that Navarro rides regularly for when he arrives at the track.
“The draw here is very early,” Kidd said. “They get things done. They don’t drag their feet. It makes it a little bit easier.”
Kidd’s jockey rides a lot for trainers Steve Klesaris and John Servis so he is in regular communication with them about what races are coming up and what horses Navarro might ride in those races.
When he started, Kidd was managing his business from memory and on paper. Now, he uses a computer program called Thoromanager that enables him to see the history of horses his jockey might ride and how that horse might fit in a particular race in the condition book.
“I used to glue the charts into a book with the conditions until the technology changed,” Kidd said. “It’s a game changer. It’s a great tool to use.”
Jockeys get 10 percent of winning purses. Agents typically get 25 percent of what the jockey earns. So winning matters, but so does the scene, one that Kidd has loved since he first experienced it at Charles Town.
If you asked Kidd his dream position in the business, it would likely be as a Director of Racing. Certainly, he knows condition books cold. He knows trainers. He knows owners. He knows the game.
Kidd has worked in Kentucky, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York and now, of course, in Pennsylvania. Horse racing has been in his blood since he was that kid at the Charles Town chute. It remains there today – but now in the Keystone State.
-By Dick Jerardi