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Monday, November 23, 2015


Santa Anita Park has announced five finalists for the prestigious Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, with the winner to be announced in February following a vote of jockeys nationwide.

            Veteran jockeys Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Victor Espinoza, Gerard Melancon and Joe Steiner are the 2016 finalists for the trophy that has been presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950.

            One of the most coveted awards in all of racing, the Woolf Award, which can only be won once, is presented to a different jockey each year and it recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.  The trophy is a replica of the life-sized statue of legendary jockey George Woolf, which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.

            Woolf, who died following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946, was regarded as one of the top big-money riders of his era.  Known affectionately as “The Iceman,” he was revered by his colleagues, members of the media and fans across America as a fierce competitor and consummate professional who was at his best when the stakes were highest.

            The 2016 Woolf ballot, which will be distributed to active jockeys across the country, features five highly regarded riders who have plied their trade with honor and distinction.

            An iconic figure on the eastern seaboard, “Jersey Joe” Bravo is Monmouth Park’s all-time leading jockey and is held in the highest regard by horsemen and fans alike.  Synonymous with winning in his native New Jersey for nearly 27 years, Bravo won eight riding titles at The Meadowlands and has won 13 at Monmouth, dating back to the early 1990s.   

            Born on Sept. 10, 1971, Bravo first rode professionally at Calder Race Course in South Florida in the fall of 1988, at age 17.  Bravo’s dominance in New Jersey is no better underscored than by his success in the Jersey Shore Stakes at Monmouth, as he’s won the race five times, including three straight from 2004 through 2006. 

            Perennially among America’s leading money-winning jockeys, Bravo won his 5,000th career race this past May 23 at Monmouth, thus becoming only the 31st North American jockey to reach this lofty plateau.  He’s kept his momentum going throughout the year, as he has now won 17 graded stakes in 2015—including six Grade I’s.  Through Nov. 18, Bravo had 5,054 wins and his mounts had earned $156,146,548.

            A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, 38-year-old Javier Castellano is the son of a former jockey who began riding full-time in 1966.  He moved to the United States in 1997, where he became a regular on the South Florida circuit.  Castellano was initially thrust into national prominence when victorious aboard Ghostzapper in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Lone Star Park.  He was back in the national spotlight in 2006, when he won the Preakness Stakes aboard Bernardini.

            Born Oct. 23, 1977, Castellano’s career win total through Nov. 18 stood at 4,249.  With career earnings of $241,338,225, his biggest payday came in the $2 million Golden Shaheen Stakes aboard Saratoga County on March 26, 2005 in Dubai.

            Courtesy of the Bob Baffert-trained American Pharoah, Victor Espinoza became America’s first Triple Crown winning jockey in 37 years when he guided the son of Pioneerof the Nile to victory in the Belmont Stakes this past June 6.  Gleefully proclaiming himself “the luckiest Mexican on earth,” on national television following his Triple Crown triumph, Espinoza made multiple appearances on national shows such as Good Morning America and Dancing With the Stars, thus helping to enable racing to transcend traditional barriers and appeal to a broad-based audience far beyond the confines of the industry. 

            In addition to winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, Espinoza and Santa Anita-based American Pharoah won this year’s Grade I Arkansas Derby, Grade I Haskell Invitational and, in a performance for the ages, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic by 6 ½ lengths on Oct. 31—all the while elevating the profile of jockeys nationwide and generating tremendous ratings and interest in The Sport of Kings.

            Born May 23, 1972 on a dairy farm near Mexico City, Espinoza is the 11th of 12 children.  A three-time ESPY Award winner, Espinoza has also been tireless in his efforts on behalf of cancer-stricken youth, donating 10 percent of his winnings to support pediatric cancer research at City of Hope, in nearby Duarte.  In addition to winning the Triple Crown, Espinoza has three overall Kentucky Derby wins, three Preakness victories and he has won three Breeders’ Cup races.

            A native of Scott, Louisiana, Gerard Melancon has been a staple at Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs and Louisiana Downs since his days as one of America’s fasting rising apprentice jockeys in the early 1980s.  Born May 19, 1967 in Rayne, Louisiana, Melancon has won multiple riding titles at Delta Downs and he owns the record there for most wins and purse money won in a single season.  A two-time winner of the Grade III Delta Jackpot, Melancon also won the Grade II Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in 2004 with Fantasticat.

            Louisiana-bred Bonapaw provided Melancon with 11 stakes victories, including a win in the prestigious Grade I Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park in 2002.  One of a long list of gifted Cajun riders, Melancon became the 65th North American rider to win 4,000 career races on Jan. 30, 2013 at Delta Downs.

            A lifelong “race tracker,” Joe Steiner grew up going to the races at the now-shuttered Longacres Racetrack near Seattle and took his early lessons from his uncle, top rider Jack Leonard.  Steiner made his mark in Southern California by working for the legendary Johnny Longden, who used Steiner on a regular basis, including aboard the stakes winning Kangaroo Court in the early 1980s.

            Steiner broke his maiden at Del Mar on Sept. 10, 1981 and was based primarily on the tough Southern California circuit throughout most of his career.  Born Aug. 7, 1964 in Renton, Washington, he returned home to ride full-time in the Seattle area earlier this year and notched his 1,000th career victory aboard Gold Boom on April 19 at Emerald Downs.

            Quick with a smile, the popular Steiner, whose parents, Joe and Sally operate Emerald’s popular backside kitchen, The Quarter Chute Café, was the track’s fifth leading rider this year, finishing with 41 wins.  Joe’s brother, Jack, is a trainer based currently at Golden Gate Fields.

            The Woolf Award is traditionally presented at Santa Anita in mid or late March, depending upon the winner’s riding schedule and availability. Santa Anita Publicity Department


Monday, November 23, 2015


Jockey Florent Geroux enters the 2015-16 Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meet in the rare position of topping a career year in 2014 with another career year in 2015. After winning his first Breeders’ Cup race in his initial try with Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Work All Week in November of 2014, the 29-year-old native of Argantan (Normandy), France, and father of two recovered from a slow beginning to the 2014-15 meet to – like his victorious ride on Midwest’s The Pizza Man in the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million – finish with a flourish.


Unlike the aforementioned son of English Channel, Geroux did not win, but finished in a three-way tie for second along with veterans Miguel Mena and Francisco Torres (behind champion James Graham) – while ruling the grass course with a meet-leading 37 wins over the lawn and a stats-topping 21% strike rate. On the dirt, Geroux was no slouch – easily sweeping all three major stakes for 3-year-old fillies with Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s I’m a Chatterbox en route to a sophomore season that should likely land the daughter of Munnings on the Eclipse Award ballot. He would go on to win multiple graded and ungraded stakes on both surfaces – including four races worth $1 million or more, two more Breeders’ Cup races and currently has $9.5 million in purses earned – ranking 12th in the nation in that category.


“I’m getting a little more attention than last year,” Geroux said. “Maybe they thought I was getting lucky last year with a 20-1 shot (Work All Week). This year, I had a solid meet here at the Fair Grounds and then continued to Arlington and did well while winning multiple graded stakes races with Grade I horses like The Pizza Man and I’m a Chatterbox. Still, there are a lot of good jockeys here, even with James Graham gone. There’s also a lot of good business for the riders.”


Business has taken off and diversified for Geroux, with no lack of diligence from his adept agent and former racing secretary Doug Bredar. The team has traveled the country in 2015, while also knocking heads with the best at premier engagements such as Keeneland’s spring and fall meets.


“Trainers like Steve Asmussen, Larry Jones, Mike Stidham, Brad Cox, Eddie Johnston and Wayne Catalano are giving me good opportunities,” Geroux continued. “I rode Street Story and Regally Ready for Asmussen and they both are very good horses, for example. It’s nice to have that kind of support from such great trainers. I’m riding Thirteen Arrows for Jones at Zia Park in a stakes this week and I have a nice mix of old and new supporters.”


Despite already having won two $1 million Grade I races this year – the Cotillion and Arlington Million – going into the event, the Breeders’ Cup may have been the tipping point for Geroux, as far as earning national respect. In the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, he guided Gary Barber’s Mark Casse-trained Catch a Glimpse to a well-timed victory over highly regarded Irish invader Alice Springs. A day later, at odds of 16-1, he overcame the outside post to win the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Mongolian Stable’s Enebish Ganbat-trained Mongolian Saturday.


“I’m excited to possibly go to Hong Kong (for the Group I $2.4 million Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin) with Mongolian Saturday,” he said. “He’s a very tough, fast horse and the trainer has given me a great opportunity. He doesn’t need Lasix and I think he can win. I can’t wait to see what happens with Catch a Glimpse and I’m a Chatterbox, too. They’re both getting breaks and coming back and they’re both really talented fillies.”


One would think that Geroux, after such a successful year tasting success at many different tracks, would have certain an appetite for new races he would like to conquer. Yet, Geroux – the son of a successful French jockey – has learned to keep his focus like his dietary portions: simple.


“I try not to set certain goals, I just hope to get out of this meet with good horses like I did last year with horses like I’m a Chatterbox,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to have the right horses. Fair Grounds is a very fair track and the turf course is very fair and in amazing shape right now. You can ride proper races on both tracks and everyone has a chance. I just try to ride the best races I can and hopefully in the end I have the best horses when it’s all over.”


Friday, November 20, 2015

Keiber Rengifo hopes to parlay hard work to racing success

Back in 1996 a young 20 year old jockey from Caracas, Venezuela arrived in the U.S., armed only with a dream and a strong sense of purpose.  History may be repeating itself.

Keiber Rengifo. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Keiber Rengifo. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Twenty years ago, the upstart rider was Ramon Dominguez, and by the time he retired, Dominguez had established himself as one of the most successful and popular riders in the history of the sport. Before head injuries suffered in a spill in January of 2013 prompted Dominguez to hang up his tack, the rider had led the nation in races won three different years, had won Eclipse awards as the nation’s top jockey in 2010-11-12 and had set a new single season mark for earnings in 2012 when his mounts earned $25,582,252.

Now, almost 20 years later, another young man from Venezuela with a vision for the future and a driving work ethic is trying to follow Dominguez’s footsteps to success.

Keiber Rengifo arrived in Maryland earlier this fall, and thus far the 21-year-old has won nine races from 64 mounts, a respectable 14 percent clip. The youngster’s journey to this point includes stops in Ocala, Florida, Gulfstream Park, and Arlington Park, as the aspiring rider acquired valuable knowledge and experience along the way.

“I first went to Ocala and went to work with Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo, who develop and consign young horses for the sales,” Rengifo recalled. “I was green and inexperienced, and so were the young horses I was working with, so as they learned I learned.”


Like most learning experiences, it wasn’t easy.

“I spent some time on the ground,” he admitted.  “But the more I worked with them (the young horses), the more I learned about horses’ behavior, the things that spook and distract them and how to work to gain their confidence. I worked in Ocala for about a year and a half then went to Miami last winter to work at Gulfstream Park. This winter I worked for Wesley Ward for a while, and then he suggested I go to Arlington Park.”

Rengifo logged his first victory at Arlington Park, and when that meet ended, he came east.

Agent Tom Stift picks up Rengifo’s story at that point. “Benny Feliciano (former jockey and agent) brought Keiber here and he called me not long after he got here and asked me if I would take Keiber’s book. Benny said he was 72 and felt like he didn’t have the energy to be able to handle the travel and long hours that are needed to promote a young jockey. He wanted the rider to make the most of his time as an apprentice, so he recommended to Keiber that I take over his business.”

Stift, who has, in recent years, handled Eclipse Award winner Victor Carrasco and Tyler Conner among others, said the rider is still learning and is a work in progress.  But, he allows, if hard work means anything, the young jockey’s chances of success are high.

“He (Rengifo) is on the backside at 5:30 every morning,” Stift reports, “and he doesn’t miss a day. We were ribbing Victor (Carrasco) the other day that the kid was beating him to the barn because Victor’s one of the hardest working riders I’ve ever worked for.”

Rengifo won three races on a single card on Sunday, October 18th. Mondays are usually quiet on the backstretch and many riders take that morning off, but Rengifo was there and ready to go.


“One of the guys at the barn said, ‘Man, you win three yesterday, why are you out here this morning?’  I told him I didn’t win three races because I took days off, I won three races because I didn’t.”

So far, so good.

“I’ve been able to bring my mother and father to this country, and they’re in Ocala now, and I’ve got my wife and little girl Reah here,” Rengifo reported.  “I’m hoping I can continue to learn and get better as a rider and make a good living for my family.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Castellano Breaks Own Jockey Earnings Mark

Castellano, who has secured the past two Eclipse Awards as outstanding rider, eclipsed his own single-season earnings mark Sunday, Nov. 15, ending the day with purse earnings of $26,237,639.

According to figures tracked by Equibase, Castellano passed his 2013 earnings mark of $26,219,907 when he guided Saythreehailmary's to a second-place finish in the eighth race at Aqueduct Racetrack Sunday.

Castellano, who finished atop the Saratoga Race Course meet by earnings, already has won 17 grade I races this season including the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) and Whitney Stakes (gr. I) on Honor Code  , the Travers Stakes (gr. I) on Keen Ice, the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) on Liam's Map  , and the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff on Stopchargingmaria.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Three Stakes Wins At Two Tracks Net Velasquez Jockey Of The Week Award

Jockey Cornelio Velasquez hit the road Saturday and guided home a pair of stakes winners at Laurel Park and then won the feature race the following afternoon at his home base of Aqueduct in New York. That stakes winning weekend triple helped lead to him being named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for November 9th – November 15th. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.

Velasquez delivered a perfectly timed ride aboard El Kabeir when winning the City of Laurel Stakes. Cornelio’s run from off the pace ended in him just getting the nod in a thrilling three-way head bobbing finish in the third of six stakes races carded Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park.

Cornelio’s next win at Laurel would lead to a far less dramatic finish when he cruised to victory later in the day aboard Hot City Girl. That pair would eventually crush the field for the Safely Kept Stakes by 8 1/4 lengths in wire-to-wire fashion as the prohibitive favorite.

Back home in New York on Sunday, Velasquez would rate the New York bred Sheriffa in the early going then seize the lead at the top of the lane and go on to win the featured New York Stallion Series Stakes for trainer Linda Rice.

Velasquez was introduced to horse racing at age fifteen by trainer Carlos Salazar Guardia in his native Panama and enrolled in the national jockey school there. In his first year of racing in Panama he was his country’s top apprentice jockey and became the leading journeyman rider there in 1994 and 1995.

In 1996 Cornelio came to the United States to race at New York’s Belmont Park. Since then he has competed at meets at tracks in Kentucky and Florida, winning several riding titles. His big break came in 2003 when he won his first Breeders’ Cup on Cajun Beat in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He won another two Breeders’ Cup races in 2005 and rode Closing Argument to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

For the week Cornelio rode four winners from 17 starters with four second placings and three third place finishes. His total earnings for the week were $311,871.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Two Stakes Wins Earn Alan Garcia Jockey Of The Week Title

Jockey Alan Garcia’s perfect rail riding finish to capture the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes, his second stakes win in two days, at Woodbine Racecourse helped lead to him being named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for November 2nd – November 8th. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.

Garcia gave his mount in the $200,000 Autumn Stakes, Are You Kidding Me, a textbook ride from post position one. Under Alan’s guidance, the 5-year-old son of Run Away and Hide found space inside and surged past 2-1 favorite Lukes Alley late to win by a half-length in the 1 1/16-mile test on the all-weather main track.

Are You Kidding Me stalked in fourth, 2 1/2 lengths back through much of the race as longshot Royal Son set the early fractions. Lukes Alley took command briefly in the stretch after a wide closing move from fifth, but could not out finish Are You Kidding Me, who hit the wire in 1:43.41. Garcia rode the winner for long-time leading Canadian trainer Roger Attfield.

“We were behind the speed, comfortable, and saved some ground in the end,” Garcia said. “When it opened up, my horse wanted to go on.”

The day before Garcia captured the Jammed Lovely Stakes by a more comfortable margin when drawing away aboard Strong Incentive to win the $150,000 Saturday feature by four and a quarter lengths for trainer Chad Brown.

Garcia is currently fourth in the rider standings at Woodbine in his first season riding full-time at the premiere Canadian thoroughbred meeting. Garcia, 30, returned to North America after a stint riding in Saudi Arabia. He moved his tack to the Middle East in November of 2014.

“I think sometimes a change is good,” Agent Anthony Esposito remarked. “He’s gone to Saudi and he’s gotten the taste of riding those live horses again, riding a lot and winning a lot. I think momentum is very important for jockeys; they’re competitive people. And resume-wise, he totally fits in with the colony at Woodbine.”

For the week, Garcia had three winners from 11 starts with one second place finish and two third place finishes. His total earnings for the week were $200,487. spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, the Daily Racing Form, Equibase, the Jockeys’ Guild, the Paulick Report, the Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Ricky Ramirez named AQHA/Jockeys' Guild Jockey of the Month

Five stakes wins including an upset victory in the Grade 1 $448,515 Dash For Cash Futurity at Lone Star Park on October 10th has propelled Jockey Ricky Ramirez to another riding accomplishment. He was named the AQHA/ Jockey of the Month for October. His unanimous win this month makes him the first Quarter Horse jockey to be voted the award for a second time this year. The award is voted on by a panel of Quarter Horse racing experts for riding accomplishments and achievements for the previous month of racing.

For jockey Ricky Ramirez, it was his second trip to the winners circle for the night leading to a graded stakes double. After winning the previous race, the Grade 2 $194,100 Dash for Cash Derby aboard Bodacious Eagle, Ricky returned for another win picture after piloting Famous Little Reba to victory in the Dash for Cash Futurity.

The 400 yard Futurity contest ended in a three-way photo with Ferrari Gt and She Looks Racy, but clearly showed Famous Little Reba the victor by a nose. Famous Little Reba paid $18.20 for the win. This was also the second win in the Grade 1, Dash for Cash Futurity for both Ricky Ramirez and owner Johnny Trotter. They won the race with Dynastys First Call in 2013. Ramirez won both graded races at Lone Star for the same connections, trainer Gilbert Aguirre III and owner Johnny Trotter.

Growing up in Odessa, Texas, the now 30 year-old Ramirez cut his teeth in the early days at the match race track in his hometown. Born with a smaller stature that leaned heavily towards the perfect makeup for the building of an elite level jockey, there wasn’t a day in Ramirez memory that doesn’t include something related to an equine pursuit.

“My father did a little bit of racing riding back in his native Mexico as a younger man,” said Ramirez. “He would ride some on his father’s horses from time to time, and it seemed that since my birth that I cannot remember a day when my father himself didn’t have horses in our backyard. To be a jockey is all that I ever wanted to do. I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything beside ride racehorses for a living.

“We did make several trips to see the All American in Ruidoso when I was a child and as a teenager,” said Ramirez. “I got a chance to see all of these riders I had always heard about, like G.R. Carter, Jacky Martin, and Jerry Nicodemus. Seeing them ride, and see them win would just inspire me to follow my dream of becoming a jockey even more.”

For the month Ricky posted a sizzling 43% win percentage with 17 winners from his 40 starters. He was second in total wins for the month and led all riders in earnings with $380,402.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Irad Ortiz, Jr. Takes Belmont Fall Meet Title

Irad Ortiz, Jr. continued his rapid ascension up the New York Racing Association jockey rankings, amassing 50 wins during the Fall Championship Meet to earn his third consecutive Belmont riding title.

Ortiz, 23, entered the fall meeting fresh off of his first Angel Cordero, Jr. riding award at Saratoga, his sixth overall NYRA honor. The native of Puerto Rico won back-to-back leading jockey titles during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 Aqueduct inner track meetings before tying Javier Castellano during the 2014 Belmont spring/summer meet. Ortiz stood alone at the top of the standings last fall at Belmont, clinching the 2014 NYRA overall riding title.

Ortiz's 50 wins included the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational aboard the Chad Brown-trained Stephanie's Kitten on October 3 who, reteaming four weeks later, went on to victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Irad's younger brother Jose Ortiz rode a winner on closing day to tie Javier Castellano for second-place with 40 victories apiece.

NYRA Communications Department

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sophie Doyle Gets BC Opportunity on Fioretti

Sophie Doyle knows how precious the opportunity to have an opportunity is within the Thoroughbred industry.

It is the reason why England’s top female apprentice jockey of 2010 left her native land after an 0-for-85 stint in 2012 to try and rattle some doors on the other side of the Atlantic. Because for all the ability she was trying to hone, the number of meets running in England at a given time are limited. The chance for an upstart rider to break into a major trainer’s yard even more so.

So Doyle came stateside and decided she was going to do whatever it took to get her name and her work ethic in front of those willing offer up a potential break. Which is why last winter at Turfway Park when trainer Anthony Hamilton Jr. found himself needing a new jockey, pronto, after a gate incident, Doyle had the silks on before he had a chance to ask.

“She rode her first horse for me at Turfway, it was actually a filly who (jockey) Aldo Canchano was on her and there was a horse next to her that went up in the gate and spooked her and... Aldo’s shoulder got dislocated,” Hamilton recalled. “Sophie was in the jocks room and she came running out of there and said ‘I’ll ride her, I’ll ride her!’

“The filly ran good so I kept her on and she kept coming out and working horses. She kind of made her own way into the barn.”

At Keeneland on Oct. 3, another Hamilton trainee provided Doyle with the opportunity many horsemen toil entire careers for. This Saturday, Doyle’s sublime hands are set to guide Fioretti, winner of the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II), out of post No. 1 in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at the Lexington track.

The joy that beamed from Doyle after she guided Fioretti to her three-quarters of a length win in the TCA for Two Hearts Farm and Don James to earn a spot in the Breeders’ Cup spoke for itself. But as the words tumbled forth from the 29-year-old rider in ebullient and eloquent fashion, it became clear there was no simple way to sum up what it meant to get tangible evidence that her career risk is paying off.

In this her second full season of riding in the states, Doyle has hustled her way to 62 wins from 618 mounts that have earned $1,354,366—a marked uptick from the seven wins from 125 mounts she earned a year ago.

“It was so nice after all the work I had been doing, all the early mornings of getting up every single day,” Doyle said of her first graded stakes win. “Even when things were going well, you wonder, ‘Where can it lead?’”

“The difference (riding here compared to England) I would say is... there are a lot more trainers around here, a lot more horses around here in Kentucky and lends more opportunities for any jockeys to ride up here. Here in Kentucky, there could be 2-3 tracks you could be racing at at a time if you’re able to maneuver yourself.”

Making her own luck has been Doyle’s hallmark as she strives to become a rider trainers can count on for an all-out ride and astute feedback.

After trying to build up some clientle in California in 2013, Doyle came to Kentucky last year and has worked the circuit for all it is worth.

She has competed at nine tracks in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania  since spring. And when she is not in the saddle adjusting her craft to the North American style of riding, she is in the gym pushing back against those who question whether female jockeys can bring the same strength to the table as their male comrades.

“Her work ethic is huge,” said Hamilton, who is based at The Thoroughbred Center. “I mean she’s in the gym in the mornings and it seems like when she is not riding, she’s exercising. She works really hard on her strength, because that is the big knock that female riders aren’t as strong as male riders. And I think she takes that a little personal and wants to make sure she is in top shape.”

Doyle’s calming yet strong presence in the saddle has played a massive role in getting 5-year-old Fioretti to become a more relaxed horse as they have won two of the four outings together since May.

It is also getting Doyle’s name some recognition beyond her familiar connection. Her younger brother, James Doyle, rides for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Godolphin Stable and has scored classic success for the likes of trainer John Gosden and the powerful Juddmonte operation.

“To watch him have so many successful mounts and win some many graded stakes races... now for the opportunity for me to be there in my own spotlight is pretty amazing,” Sophie Doyle said immediately after her TCA triumph.

With James Doyle set to pilot Birchwood in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT), the Doyle clan is set to make history as the first brother-sister combination to have mounts in the Breeders’ Cup.

Sophie Doyle purchased a ticket for her mother to come to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup shortly after her breakout win aboard Fioretti. That she has made it possible for her family to have multiple chances to celebrate on the Breeders’ Cup stage is still sinking in.

“It’s been huge, to have my brother ride here now on Friday and he gets to stay and watch me ride on Saturday,” Doyle said. “To have my family here supporting me is like a dream come true.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes' Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.


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