The California-based equine physical therapist’s role is to identify and treat muscular issues that might develop with Reddam Racing’s Kentucky Derby winner. Like a physical therapist who works on humans, Cerin, 24, can serve up an assortment of treatments, including massage and controlled release stretches to relieve the tightness or soreness he finds.
Cerin was with Team O’Neill at Churchill Downs during the week leading up to the Derby and continued on to Baltimore with the colt. He is at Barn D at Pimlico every day, watching for any signs of discomfort that might affect the colt’s training and performance in the race.
“He is in great shape. It seems like he’s been in great shape ever since I started working with him,” Cerin said. “I haven’t had to do much with him from Day 1. After the Derby he looks just as good as he did before the Derby. To me, he looks strong, happy to go to the track every morning. His ears are forward, happy to be out here and doing his job and loving life.”
Since his patients cannot tell him how they feel, Cerin has to rely on interpreting body language.
“There are tons of things you look for when you do therapy or anything on a horse,” he said. “You want to keep him happy. With this horse, there’s not much to do. But back home, I try not to spend too much time with a horse because you can tell from their body language when they’re starting to get a little sour on you. You don’t want that. You want to keep them as happy as you can at all times.”
Cerin grew up in a racing family – his father, Vladimir, is a prominent trainer in California – and he has been around horses all his life. However, Cerin decided not to enter the family business.
“I guess the more I got into the game and learned how stressful every other trainer is out there besides Doug, I realized that my true passion was probably more working with the horse,” he said. “I wanted to be a person that just helps the horse as much as I can and not go into the training part. Maybe down the line, 10 years or so if I can do it and not be stressed out, and not have to worry about financial stability, have everything in my life kind of stable, I might think about training as more of a hobby than anything. I’m just happy to be a part of this team right now and be lucky enough to be out here and working with the top horses with Doug and some other people back at home. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Cerin said his career began to take shape when he was 17 and is self-employed.
“I worked for my dad for a long time, just doing things for his barn and learning the different types of therapies there are for horses,” he said. “Anything from lasers - my dad’s got a pulse magnetic machine - to electric current machines and micro current machines. I tried to figure out what I thought worked best with certain things. My dad gave me a great opportunity to learn all his things and then he started me off sending me to some seminars that I wanted to go to. I got to learn from some other people things you can do with your hands.”
Cerin said his father continues to be great supporter as he develops and expands his business.
“My dad just really wants me to be happy,” Cerin said. “He knows how tough the training game can be.”
O’Neill said he is determined to have a strong team in his stable and that Cerin is a good fit
“He brings a lot of experience with horses’ physical tightness and soreness from training, O’Neill said. “If he pinpoints any tightness, he is able to help work out that tightness. We’ve got a chiropractor, too, who is brilliant. He was in town with us the whole Derby week. He does chiropractor work on the horse every other day. Anything we can do to maintain the stride is what the goal is.”
O’Neill said Cerin has been working on his horses for a few years.
“He’s got a tremendous horseman’s background” O’Neill said. “He’s very passionate about what he does and he’s a big help.”