Cathrine Erichsen's apprentice rider the past two years, Nora Hagelund Holm (22) enjoyed an absolute breakthrough season in 2020. While the year soon behind us has been mostly frustrating and tough all round, Nora can look back on this season with fond memories. Clearly a very talented young rider, she secured the Apprentice Championship in Norway, and not just that, she even finished fourth on the jockeys' table – proving well up to the task against more experienced and accomplished riders. Her career is on an upward curve – and it all began with a nervous harness racing pony, who was happier with Nora on its back, than behind him in a sulky.
Nora is daughter of harness racing trainer Steinar Holm, and already at the age of seven the nimble girl was competing in harness pony races. “When I was about ten, I had a pony that was afraid of the sulky”, she recalls, “so I decided to enter him for a pony race at Øvrevoll instead – it went so well and I was immediately hooked on the riding game.” The Scandinavian racing scene has a lot to thank that pony for.
A few years later, Steinar Holm took over the training of two thoroughbreds, Oaksana and Possibly, and Nora did most of the work with these runners. She also won amateur races on both at Øvrevoll Galopp in 2014, when she partnered four winners. Her education, at Østersund Videregående's Harness course in Sweden, meant a short exchange stint at Palm Meadows in Florida and it would not be her last trip to the training centre.
“After my education, I joined trainer Wido Neuroth in 2018”, Nora explains, and the following winter I travelled across to Florida once more. Vanessa Ryall helped me, and I found a job with trainer Eddie Kenneally. I spent three months with Kenneally, riding eight to ten horses every morning, including two to three fast works. It was really interesting and I learnt a lot during that period.”
Her past two seasons have been excellent, and it has been noticeable how Nora has improved steadily through her apprenticeship, polishing off all aspects of race riding and partnering winner after winner. She may seem like a bit of an 'unknown' to many observers, a name that has risen fast in the riding ranks – and she has, but Nora has plenty of experience for her young age. She has also tasted international success, with five Fegerntri wins abroad during her time as an amateur. “I won two races at Parx and one at Penn National in the US”, she recalls, “and also rode winners in Milano and Istanbul”. Nora finished third in the Fegentri Ladies Series back in 2017. One step higher than her placing on the 2020 jockeys' table in Norway. Flying high is nothing new to this apprentice, who has partnered 55 winners and needs another 15 to become a fully fledged jockey. “I hope it happens next year”, she says with a smile. In the meantime, she rides Duca di Como on a daily basis, prepares classy juveniles like Purple Ace for the all important three-year-old season, and breaks in “a bunch of very nice new yearlings” that have been added to the Erichsen Racing team. Will the winter be a long and boring one for Nora? Probably not. Then again, the next racing season should be more fun – a lot more fun. GS