Newburyport native Tammi Piermarini had aspirations of becoming a surgeon as a child. However, a chance job at a racing farm inevitably led her down a different path — the adrenaline-fueled life of a Suffolk Downs thoroughbred horse jockey.
Last year, Piermarini won four races on opening day to begin a meet-best 100-win season and her first ever Suffolk Downs riding title. She was also named the recipient of the Eli Chiat Award from the New England Turf Writers Association.
Piermarini, a Salem, N.H., resident, never really had the chance to call any certain town "home" for too long. Her family's constant moving forced her to attend schools in several districts including Triton, Pentucket and others in Seabrook, N.H., and Amesbury.
Eager for some extra cash, Piermarini took a baby-sitting job at a farm in Salisbury named Wallace Racing. She had already had experience with show horses, so when the owners asked her for help with the stalls, Piermarini never second-guessed and was soon working in their horse trailers.
At the end of her junior year, Piermarini's parents decided to migrate once more. However, with the blessing of her parents and employers, Piermarini stayed at the Wallace farm and continued taking care for the farm's horses. Not long after that, Piermarini's responsibilities increased and she was given the task of breaking in their yearlings, which inevitably led to her disbanding her ties with show horses. Piermarini was now exclusively grooming and galloping race horses, and even she had no inkling as to how far that would go.
"I was finally really getting into the whole system and such when someone asked me, 'Why don't you become a jockey?'," explained the mother of two (Izabella, 7, and Johnny, 2). "The minute I turned 18 was the moment I was eligible to become a jockey. I received the OK from five different trainers and after that, everything else is history."