At first glance, Kerri Raven’s barn punching above its weight

Kerri Raven
Trainer Kerri Raven (right) congratulates jockey Carol Cedeno after A Primera Vista won at Delaware Park June 8. Photo by

Trainer Kerri Raven’s racing journey has made her a globetrotter, taking her from Fergus, Ontario, to France and Holland, to Minnesota and Florida and New York, and now to Delaware.

It’s put her on the back of endurance horses traveling a hundred kilometers a day and flat horses whistling a half-mile in 50 or so seconds. With any luck – perhaps as soon as this week – it will put her in the winner’s circle to celebrate her 100th career win; she’s at 99 currently.

“Probably, it will feel as good as Asmussen when he got his 12,000th,” Raven said with a laugh. “I remember when I was in the 80s [in wins], I was like, ‘Why is this taking so long?’ But it does. When you have a small barn, it just takes time.”

Raven’s Delaware Park-based operation numbers just seven horses, but what she lacks in quantity, she’s made up in quality. Raven is 4-for-5 at the current Delaware Park meet, having won her last four starts. This week she’ll send out Bad Hombre (6-1 morning line) Wednesday and Beach Island (5-2) on Thursday; both won last time out.

On Saturday she’ll send out her top current runner, A Primera Vista, in the $150,000 Christiana Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf test for three-year-old fillies. A Primera Vista, 5-for-10 in her career, has made over $147,000. She’s won three straight and four of five in 2024. She is 15-1 on the morning line.

“She’s absolutely fantastic,” Raven said. “I couldn’t be happier with how she’s coming into it.”

A Primera Vista won over the Delaware turf course June 8 in a second-level allowance/optional claimer, posting a front-running score by three parts of a length. Since then she’s had one recorded work, a half-mile move June 29 that went in 48 4/5 seconds, second-fastest of 51 at the distance. Regular pilot Carol Cedeno will ride.

“Carol’s a big part of my barn,” Raven said. “We gallop together; I gallop my own, and she gallops with me. She gallops ‘Prim 90% of the time. I gallop her once in a while, but not too often. Carol loves her; that’s her girl.”

Raven appreciates Cedeno’s connection with the horses in the barn.

“She does great with them,” the trainer said. “She enjoys it; it’s a big difference in you when you get on them and you enjoy it.”

A “natural horsewoman” is how Raven describes Cedeno, and the same applies to her: A lot of know-how coupled with some intuition and a dash of seat-of-the-pants. Take, for example, how she came to own – and name — A Primera Vista.

The dry facts are that she bought the daughter of Competitive Edge for $70,000 at the 2022 Minnesota Thoroughbred Association yearling sale. In a sale in which the median price was $6,000, Raven’s purchase jumped out as the sale-topper.

“I didn’t see a bad angle. When I saw her in the stall, I was like, ‘Wow, what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?’” Raven remembered. “I hadn’t seen a horse like her in a really, really long time. I just thought structurally, she was perfect.”

So taken was she with the filly that she had her throat scoped “before I even pulled her out to have a look at her walking.”

When it came time to name her, Raven originally wanted At First Glance because “I was just so taken by her” when first laying eyes on her. Alas, that name wasn’t available. “A primera vista” is “at first sight” in Spanish.

Raven doesn’t come from a horse family, describing her parents as “normal-class citizens that had normal jobs,” her dad a musician, her mother an artist. But, she said, “I was just born horse-crazy. I swear ‘horse’ was my first word.”

She found her way to other horse people, trail-riding in northern Ontario, and soon came into possession of an ex-racehorse, “and that probably sealed the deal with me right there because, man, he was fast! He would run off with me down those backroads.”

Later she began galloping horses at the track, which eventually led to a stint riding and training endurance horses – horses that might run 200 kilometers in two days – in France before eventually returning to the States, serving as an assistant trainer for several years, and, eventually, training horses on her own.

“I took everything I got in those years and was just like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready,” Raven said, adding with a laugh, “I don’t want to just make men look good in this business. I want to put my own name on it.”

Raven owns a place in Florida and, now, a farm in New Jersey, just over the Delaware Memorial Bridge and not far from Delaware Park. She’s followed the horses from place to place over the years but is starting to think about putting down roots. In the Mid-Atlantic, her horses can race all year, and with the contract between Delaware horsemen and track management signed earlier this year, they can even train at Delaware year-round.

That would be something of a milestone in itself, having a one-place, year-round operation. But first there’s the matter of getting that hundredth win, and if barn favorite A Primera Vista were the one to get it, well, that would be just fine with Raven.

“She’s so professional. She’s such an athlete: ‘I eat, I sleep, I run,’” Raven said of her star. “She’s so cool. I mean, I really, really appreciate her.”