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Friday, August 28, 2015

Eric Cancel, an Apprentice Jockey at Saratoga, Listens and Learns

It was the nightcap, the final race on Monday’s card, and all Eric Cancel had to show for his afternoon was dirty riding pants. His horses had so far managed to beat only two horses in three races. When he got a leg up on his final mount of the day, Confessa, the words of his agent and mentor, Angel Cordero Jr., rattled in his head.

“The only horse that doesn’t have a chance is the one not in the race,” Cordero, the Hall of Fame jockey, often reminded him.

Seventeen minutes later, Cancel angled his dark bay filly down the stretch and scrubbed her neck like a washboard to coax a final burst of speed. It worked. In the winner’s circle afterward, Cancel’s smile was as big as the saddle he carried in his arms, and threatened to swallow his 5-foot-1, 100-pound frame.

Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

See, Cancel is a bug boy, an apprentice jockey. He is the new kid in the room, the future of the sport, but for now a potential career hazard to his fellow riders.

“It’s an interesting dynamic inside the room — on one hand, you don’t want to help the kid too much so that he beats you,” said the retired rider Richard Migliore, who won a 1981 Eclipse Award as the leading apprentice jockey. “On the other, you want to teach the bug boy how to ride safely and professionally because the whole room’s lives depended on it.”

It is a delicate ecosystem, especially here, where 20 or so jockeys based in New York ride the bulk of the races and top riders from across the country hustle for the fastest horses to ride, and often settle for very slow ones. So far, for example, Corey Lanerie, a perennial leading rider in Kentucky, has ridden 57 races here without a winner. He is hardly alone. His fellow Kentucky-based colleague and top rider Julien Leparoux has found the winner’s circle only four times in 83 starts.

It is not easy losing race after race under the watchful eyes of colleagues and competitors in a room that is part claustrophobic frat house and part tense waiting room to the winner’s circle.

“You got to leave the last one in the room,” Cancel said.

Earlier in the afternoon Monday, Cancel left behind his dismal fifth-place finish on Lady’s First, and smiled as he sauntered into the paddock to meet the owners of a filly named Bye Sheila. Beyond riding talent and fierce competitiveness, jockeys must charm owners and be able to communicate to trainers. They, after all, are the people who hire him.

Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

“I’m going to get on horses that their trainer knows probably aren’t going to win but need experience,” he said. “If I can’t tell him that he doesn’t like dirt in his face or needs to be outside of other horses, I’m not going to get back on his horses again.”

So Cancel climbed aboard this 1,200-pound animal, then guided her inches apart from five other horses at 35 miles per hour. He bulled her through an opening that looked barely wide enough for him to shimmy through, but to little avail.

She stopped running and beat only one horse home.

In March at Belmont Park, on just his fourth mount of the meet, Cancel won his first race in the mainland United States since arriving from Puerto Rico, aboard a horse named Bright Guy. Both his mother, Gerrela, and father, Efrain, were race riders, and each told him that the most important thing he had to do was listen to his more experienced competitors.

“To be respectful,” he said.

One month later, Cancel tried to squeeze a filly named Colonel Juanita through a hole he should not have, causing a pileup that unseated another rider, Larry Mejias. Colonel Juanita was disqualified from second to last place and Cancel was suspended for five days for careless riding.

Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Worse was the tongue-lashing he got from his colleagues. John Velazquez was among the first to tell him that he had endangered his fellow riders. Velazquez is a Hall of Famer who rode with Cancel’s mother in Puerto Rico and is also represented by Cordero.

“He was not the only one who told me that was a move that only a bug boy would make,” Cancel said sheepishly.

So Cancel continues to learn. He understands that he must.

Next March, he will lose the weight restriction that goes with being a bug boy and become a journeyman jockey. What apprentices lack in experience, they make up for by being allowed to ride anywhere from five to 10 pounds lighter than their rivals.

It is an edge many trainers like to employ. So far this year, the combination of Cancel’s talent and his bug status has gotten him 536 mounts, which is better than average.

He demonstrated that he deserved them by winning 66 times and finishing in the top three 37 percent of the time. He may lack the seasoning to get a mount Saturday in the 146th running of the Travers Stakes, but his record is good enough to earn a stamp as one of the top 50 riders in the nation.

The transition to journeyman is not an easy one, especially in New York. The Ortiz brothers — Irad Jr. and Jose — were bug boys here and now are top-five riders. There have been dozens more over the years, however, who have had to leave the nation’s pre-eminent circuit for Maryland and Chicago, Delaware and Kentucky.

Buoyed by his victory aboard Confessa, an ebullient Cancel kept a smile on his face as he bounced back to the jocks’ room, stopping to sign autographs thrust in front of him by children his size. Finally, he disappeared inside to hear from his elders what he had done wrong. The bug boy had more to learn.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quarter Horse rider G.R. Carter, Jr. Announces Pending Retirement

Ten-time AQHA Racing World Champion jockey G.R. Carter, Jr., who has qualified four head into the $3 million 2015 All American Futurity(G1) and qualified one horse into the $2.3 million 2015 All American Derby(G1) this past weekend, has announced his pending plans of retiring at the end of 2015 season to

 The 47-year old jockey, born in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has been pondering his retirement plans for the last couple of years. “I been analyzing the proper time for me to retire for the last couple of years,” said Carter. “The time to retire was never going to be perfect, but this is time my family and I have decided it would be best if I did so. It is my plan to continue throughout to the end of this year, and then officially retire.”

The decision to announce the retirement comes during a racing year that has all signs pointing towards Carter surely wrestling for the AQHA World Champion Jockey title at years end. With the qualifying of the four-horses into the All American Futurity(G1), the win aboard Dashin Brown Streak in the Remington Park Invitational Championship(G1), and the win aboard Kiss My Hocks in the Rainbow Derby(G1),

Carter finds it hard not to leave the door cracked just a bit for opportunities to ride in the big events in 2016 if the chance arises. First Valiant Sign, under jockey G.R. Carter, Jr., setting the fastest qualifying time on day 2 of All American trials at Ruidoso Downs. © Gay Harris/ Ruidoso Downs “I would definitely entertain the notion to come ride a horse like First Valiant Sign in his three-year old campaign if Mike(Joiner) would perhaps give me that opportunity,” said Carter. “It is my intention to retire, but I love to ride races, especially in the big Grace 1 events. I would have to discuss it with my family at the time, but taking a mount here and there is certainly not completely out of the question.” 

Carter has produced a race-riding career that will be the modern day measuring stick for all future riders to come. Last year, G.R. Carter surpassed Alvin “Bubba” Brossette to become the all-time winning jockey in Quarter Horse racing history(3,792 wins) . He also holds the all-time record for career starts (23,825 as of 08/21/2015), career earnings ($69,207,664 as of 08/21/2015), stakes victories (362 as of 08/21/2015), and G1 winners.  Carter has had the honor of riding countless stakes winning champions in his career. Some of the noted horses that Carter has been aboard include: Be A Bono, Carters Cookie, Country Chicks Man, Dashin Is Easy, Dashing Perfection, Dashin Brown Streak, De Passem Okey, Falling In Loveagain, Fast First Prize, Fast Prize Zoom, FDD Dynasty, Fredaville, Hez Ramblin Man, Got Country Grip, Jess Cuervo, Jess Zoomin, Llano Teller, Lota PYC, Louisiana Senator, Mighty B Valiant, Noblesse Six, PYC Paint Your Wagon, Skuze Pleeze, Stolis Winner, Terrific Synergy, Valiant Hero, Barbs Bounce, Down With Debt, and First Painted Sign. Carter has numerous Grade 1 victories in the All American Derby(G1), two-time All American Futurity(G1) winner, Bank of America Challenge Championship(G1), Championship at Sunland Park(G1), Ed Burke Million Futurity(G1), Go Man Go Handicap(G1), two-time Golden State Futurity(G1) winner, two-time Golden State Derby(RG1) winner, Governors Cup Futurity(RG1), five-time Heritage Place Futurity(G1) winner, Kindergarten Futurity(G1), 4-time Leo Stakes(G1) winner, two-time Los Al Super Derby(G1) winner, two-time Los Al Two Million Futurity(G1) winner, two-time Los Al Winter Derby(G1) winner, two-time Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap(G1) winner, PCQHRA Breeders Futurity(G1), two-time Rainbow Futurity(G1) winner, two-time Rainbow Derby(G1) winner, three-time Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship(G1) winner, two-time Refrigerator Handicap(G1) winner, two-time Remington Park Invitational Championship(G1) winner, Ruidoso Derby(G1), Ruidoso Futurity(G1), seven-time Sooner State Stakes(RG1) winner, Southern California Derby(G1), three-time Spencer Childers Cal Breeders Championship(RG1) winner, three-time Texas Classic Derby(G1) winner, Texas Classic Futurity(G1), two-time Vessels Maturity(G1) winner, and the West Texas Futurity(G1).

G.R. Carter serves as Vice President of the Jockeys' Guild.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Baze looking forward to Japan jockey competition

Russell Baze never expected that doing something he loves would turn him into a world traveler. But on Friday, Baze flies to Japan to represent the United States in this weekend’s World All-Star Jockeys competition at Sapporo Racecourse.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Baze, who also has gone to England and Brazil for similar competitions. “It’s been 25 years since I rode there. It’s always fun to go to different countries and be part of different cultures.”

Baze will be accompanied by his wife, Tami; agent, Ray Harris; and his wife. While there is some sightseeing planned, Baze, ever the competitor, said, “I want to win some races.”

As with Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay Jr., men he surpassed en route to becoming the world’s winningest rider, Baze has become an emissary of racing at home and abroad. It’s a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.

“I’ve been reading up on all the rules,” he said of Japanese racing.

Baze is one of five international riders in the competition, along with Hayley Turner (United Kingdom), Thierry Jarnet (France), Craig Williams (Australia), and Joao Moreira (Hong Kong). They will compete against nine Japanese riders in a series of four races.

Among the Japanese riders is Yutaka Take, who rode briefly at Bay Meadows in 2000.

Baze is on a roll as he heads to Japan. In his final four mounts last Sunday at Golden Gate Fields, he had three wins and a second. He is tied for second with Juan Hernandez in the Golden Gate Fields standings with five wins, one behind Ricardo Gonzalez.

One of Baze’s wins Sunday came aboard the 3-year-old Mystery Strike, who improved her record to 2 for 2 with a 1 3/4-length victory against older fillies and mares in a six-furlong allowance race. A $500,000 Keeneland yearling purchase, Mystery Strike won her debut July 18 at Sacramento. She is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

“She’s a very promising prospect,” said Baze. “I don’t think distance will be a problem for her.”

Baze said she’s worked well behind horses, but she’s still figuring things out when it comes to racing.

“She goes when I ask her, and that’s all that really matters,” he said.

Mystery Strike is by Smart Strike, a son of Mr. Prospector who won 6 of 8 starts, including the Grade 1 Philip Iselin at Monmouth. She’s out of the unraced Belong to Me dam Mystery Trip, who is a half-sister of Horse of the Year A.P. Indy and Preakness winner Summer Squall as well as two other stakes winners.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

JockeyTalk360 Newsletter for August 26.


Santiago Gonzalez goes from last to first to win the Jockey Draft Ride of the Week aboard Frandontjudge


Jockey Santiago Gonzalez is becoming known as one of the best turf riders at Del Mar, and that talent was in full display last Wednesday.

In a 1 1/16 miles turf allowance race, Gonzalez and Frandontjudge were breaking from the very difficult outside post in a field of nine coming out of the chute. Most horses lose a great deal of ground as the chute meets the main course, but Gonzalez was able to guide his mount smoothly to the rail.

Saving all the ground, Frandontjudge was in last place until the stretch turn. Gonzalez let his mount go and began to close ground on the leaders heading into the stretch. With eight horses to weave through, the 32 year old native of Venezuela never panicked as he guided Frandontjudge through two narrow openings and went on to a convincing victory.

Frandontjudge paid $19 to win, while stepping up in class. Frandontjudge is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

If Gonzalez begins to pick up steam with that strong stable, there should be many more trips to the winner’s circle in his future.

Click here to view replay.



Jockeys Irad Ortiz and Javier Castellano continue to be one-two in the Saratoga standings, with Ortiz sporting a 46 to 37 win advantage.  Both enjoyed excellent weeks, with Castellano leading the way with 10 wins.  They were also remarkably consistent, with Ortiz finishing in the money at 64% and Castellano not far behind at 61%.
The leading jockey in North America by wins last week was Antonio Gallardo, who scored 12 victories.  Over the last two weeks, Gallardo continues to dominate the action at Presque Isle Downs with a 36% win rate.  That hot streak continued this week, as Gallardo scored four wins in a row at Presque Isle on Tuesday.
In the Midwest, jockey Robby Albarado has been on a tear.  Over the last two weeks, the veteran reinsman has scored nine wins in 27 mounts and was in the money 74%.  Albarado continues to work the Ellis Park, Indiana Grand and Arlington Park circuit.  His mounts are always well meant.
Hot young rider Chris Landeros has been equally as impressive on the upper Midwest circuit.  Over the last two weeks Landeros has a 37% win rate and last week won four times in six mounts.


AQHA Quarter Horse Standings

John Hamilton remains on top of the wins leaderboard for the year with 106 from 514 mounts. Raul Ramirez Jr. ranks second with 96 wins from 450 starts and David Alvarez ranks third with 91 wins from 436 mounts.

GR Carter Jr. stayed on to top of the AQHA earnings leaderboard with $2,217,181 from 410 starts. Ricky Ramirez is in second in the standings with $1,756,974 and Raul Ramirez Jr. is third with $1,674,828.  Keep up with all the AQHA leaders here . . .

JockeyTalk360 Newsletter 8/26/2015



From riding boots to dancing shoes: Espinoza headed for Dancing With The Stars


From The Paulick Report

Triple Crown winner Victor Espinoza will soon add another feather to his riding helmet: on ESPN2’s SportsNation, the jockey announced that he will be joining Season 21 of Dancing with the Stars on ABC.

Espinoza joins conservationist and actress Bindi Irwin as one of the celebrity cast members. The new season of the reality show begins Sept. 14, with the final roster of participants slated to be announced Sept. 2.

Dancing with the Stars pairs celebrities with professional ballroom dancers and challenges the pairs to perform different types of dance numbers, which are then rated by judges.

Espinoza has been no stranger to the limelight since his Triple Crown win on American Pharoah, having made the circuit on a number of late-night comedy shows. ABC did not report on how he will manage the demands of rehearsals for the show along with his riding obligations.



Irishman Graham finding success 'where the turf meets the surf'


By Hank Wesch / Del Mar


In March, James Graham closed the Fair Grounds meeting in New Orleans with 106 wins and his first riding title after four runner-up finishes there over the years.

Normally, his agenda then would have taken him northward on the Midwest racing circuit, winding up the summer at Arlington Park in Chicago.

This year, however, the 36-year-old native of Dublin, Ireland, decided to follow a different path. A path which brought him to Del Mar for the first time in his life and the experience of his first summertime meeting as a regular here.

“The racing in Arlington is very unstable. So we thought, why not try California?,” Graham said Thursday morning outside the stable area racing office. “If we like it, we’ll stay, if we don’t we’ll go back. The family’s all here, so what does that tell you?”

Making inroads at a new track in a new region is never easy for any rider. But Graham has been making steady progress. He  won his first race here on Sunday, July 26 in the third race on Far Out Kailee ($22.20) for Richard Baltas. He notched his first Del Mar stakes victory, in the Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Oaks last Saturday aboard Sharla Rae for trainer Doug O’Neill.




Six-time British champion Fallon to ride at Indiana Grand, Kentucky Downs


Irish native Kieren Fallon is the newest member of the Indiana Grand jockey colony.

While some might not be fully aware of his accomplishments in the saddle, don’t let his lack of domestic wins fool you. His notoriety has been earned oversees. He has been stable jockey for some of Britain’s leading trainers: Henry Cecil, Michael Stoute and Aiden O’Brien. He is the five-time winning jockey of the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, three-time winner of the Epsom Derby and three-time winner of the Epsom Oaks, England’s version of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. His career has taken him to Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and now Indiana.

With his experience, he has had the opportunity to ride the premiere turf courses in the world.

“The turf course here is beautiful,” Fallon said. “It rides as well as Del Mar or Santa Anita. The tracks over here are much better than ours over in England. The majority of our tracks are up and down and not very comfortable to ride. That’s why we like to come over here.”

Fallon has plans to ride the upcoming meet at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky. It is strictly turf racing and has a very Euro-style turf course. With Fallon’s background, it might play to his advantage.

“I’m hoping it’ll be an advantage,” said Fallon. “(Trainer) Eoin Harty, in particular said he’d use me when he goes there. And he said my European style will help.”

Trainer Wesley Ward was a major influence in bringing the Irishman to the states.

“I helped Wesley out his first year over there (Royal Ascot) breeze horses and get them ready. He had his first two winners there and the rest is history. He goes over there every year now and is very successful. He suggested I come here.”

The European delegation is always very well represented at Breeders’ Cup, which is at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. this year. The dates for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup are Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31, Indiana Grand’s closing weekend. Riding in the Midwest leading up to the Breeders’ Cup could possibly lead to more business for Fallon.




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Monday, August 24, 2015

Gary Stevens Named Jockey of the Week

Jockey Gary Stevens made the most of his two wins this week. He captured the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on Saturday at Del Mar then followed up the next day there with a score in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Handicap. That effort helped him win the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for August 17th– August 23rd. 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.

Stevens kicked of his stakes winning weekend with a smashing victory aboard Beholder in The Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes. Beholder and Stevens simply toyed with the field of nine males, pulling away to win by 8 1/4 lengths in her first start against the opposite sex and her first start at 1 1/4 miles. The two-time Eclipse Award winner is the first female to win the race.

It was the second-largest margin of victory since the Pacific Classic was first run in 1991. Only Game On Dude won by a wider margin—8 1/2 lengths in 2013. Stevens did not give the 5-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes a single crack of the whip and she was under a hand ride to the wire.

“I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed,” Stevens said. “It was out of jubilation. This mare, she makes me emotional.” Stevens said after the race that he didn’t even ask Beholder when she made her electrifying move.

“She did all that on her own around the turn,” Gary said. “I did not move my hands. Her ears were pricked straight up like a morning workout… I took a little peek and there was nobody coming. I knew she hadn’t hit the afterburners yet, and I said, ‘This is going to be fun.'”

The next afternoon the Hall of Fame rider had to put in a little more work to get the job done when he took top honors in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Handicap atop Avanzare. The 5-year-old Grand Reward gelding made a sweeping move five wide exiting the final turn and outlasted Grade 1 winner Talco to win by a half-length.

“I lost some ground coming out of the turn, but the horse to beat, Talco, was on my outside and he was going wider than I was, so I took the chance and it worked out,” Stevens said.

For the week Stevens had two wins, two second place finishes, and two third placings from 11 mounts. His in-the-money percentage for the week was 55 percent with total earnings of $826,180. He led all riders in stakes winnings for the week. 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.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


In March, James Graham closed the Fair Grounds meeting in New Orleans with 106 wins and his first riding title after four runner-up finishes there over the years.


Normally, his agenda then would have taken him northward on the Midwest racing circuit, winding up the summer at Arlington Park in Chicago.


This year, however, the 36-year-old native of Dublin, Ireland, decided to follow a different path. A path which brought him to Del Mar for the first time in his life and the experience of his first summertime meeting as a regular here.


“The racing in Arlington is very unstable. So we thought, why not try California?,” Graham said Thursday morning outside the stable area racing office. “If we like it, we’ll stay, if we don’t we’ll go back. The family’s all here, so what does that tell you?”


Making inroads at a new track in a new region is never easy for any rider. But Graham has been making steady progress. He  won his first race here on Sunday, July 26 in the third race on Far Out Kailee ($22.20) for Richard Baltas. He notched his first Del Mar stakes victory, in the Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Oaks last Saturday aboard Sharla Rae for trainer Doug O’Neill.


“It’s coming along nicely, outdone my expectations, and I just keep working away,” Graham said. “They (horsemen) like my agent (Brad Pegram), which is a big plus. He’s put me into all the good spots, so it’s been good, you know.”


Through Wednesday, Graham had six wins from 77 mounts with earnings of $632,568 to rank in the Top 10 for money at the meeting. He was No. 16 in the Del Mar jockey standings for victories. Nationally, he’s No. 23 for earnings with $4,251,773. Graham has ranked in the Top 30 nationally for wins and earnings each of the last four years with a high of ninth in wins last year. He got career win No. 2,000 on 22-1 shot Call Me George in the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap in March and has added 39 to the total since.


Graham has the call on Bailoutbobby (20-1) for O’Neill in Saturday’s Pacific Classic. Graham is one-for-one on the 5-year-old gelded son of Mizzen Mast. They combined for a two-length win in a 1 ¼-mile allowance at Keeneland in October of 2013. And even if it’s been awhile, Graham said the experience will be valuable.


“Oh yeah, he’s the same horse,” Graham said. “Smart, clever, all class horse. Let’s see what we can do?”

Del Mar Communications Department

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jockeytalk360 Newsletter for August 20


Like Father, Like Son - The Luzzi Legacy Continues


Photo: Susie Raisher

Photo: Susie Raisher

It reads like a script for a Disney movie. Veteran jockey, who suffered severe injuries in riding accident, prepares to return to the saddle after months of rehabilitation. Meanwhile, his teenage son is set to launch his own career as a jockey. 

But it’s not a tale that is coming to the big screen; it’s the real-life story of Mike Luzzi, and his 18-year-old son, Lane, who will soon join his father in the New York jockey colony.

Luzzi, 45, is close to returning to race riding after nearly 10 months on the sidelines to heal from multiple injuries, which he suffered in a paddock incident at Aqueduct on Nov. 1, 2014. 

Two surgeries — the first failed to work — were required to stabilize Luzzi’s shattered pelvis, and 19 permanent screws were inserted to fuse the fracture. Additionally, he broke his left leg in two places.

Luzzi, who has been regaining his fitness by exercising horses in the morning in anticipation of his return in the afternoon, said the tangle of broken bones was the least of his worries in the aftermath of the accident.

“For a couple of weeks the doctors didn’t know if I was going to live because I was bleeding [internally], and they couldn’t find the cause,” Luzzi said on a recent morning on the backstretch of Saratoga Race Course. “I was losing blood every day; I had 14 blood transfusions. They finally found the artery, which was causing the bleeding.”

Despite the severity of his injuries — the worst he has sustained during his 26-year career — and the fact he was bed-ridden for three months, Luzzi said he never considered retirement.

“I know it sounds silly to people, but I feel fine; like nothing ever happened,” said Luzzi, whose injuries were a result of a fractious 2-year-old flipping over and falling on him after he was given a leg up. “It was a freak accident.

“I’ve been able to ride by blocking things out my whole career,” he continued. “That isn’t new to me. You have to ride with the thought that most likely nothing is going to happen. You’re always playing against the odds. That [mindset] is why I’ve been able to ride for so long.”

Luzzi, the grandson of trainer Buddy Raines, was the Eclipse Award winning apprentice of 1989. Since riding his first winner, Tis A Sir, at Laurel Park, in 1988, he has won more than 3,400 races, and his mounts have earned in excess of $108 million.

He has been a constant  presence in New York since the 1990s. Luzzi’s stakes wins at New York Racing Association tracks are plentiful, and include some of the most important events on the circuit, including the Cigar Mile, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Sword Dancer. 

Around the track, the personable Luzzi is well-liked by his fellow competitors in the jockeys’ room, and is viewed as a hard worker among horsemen, who find him to be most accommodating when it comes to getting on their horses in the morning. Earlier this year, Luzzi was the recipient of the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Award. The honor, named for the legendary rider who lost his life in a racing accident, is bestowed upon a jockey “who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.” The winner is determined by vote of his peers.

But it is Luzzi’s son, Lane; daughter, Larue; and wife, Tania; who are his biggest fans.

Lane, who bears a striking resemblance to his father, said witnessing his father’s success while growing up was the catalyst for his career choice. 

“Since as long as I can remember, I wanted to ride racehorses,” said Lane, who is currently exercising horses for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “You know being a little kid and seeing my dad out there on the biggest stage . . .  it was always what I wanted to do.”

While there is no firm date in place for the launch of his career, a fall start is probable.

“Timing is really everything, and I am not going to start before my dad says. He’s my main teacher and when he tells me it’s time, I will be out there,” remarked Luzzi, who said his first major goal is to win the 2016 Eclipse Award as leading apprentice. 

Not surprisingly, his father said he and his wife wished their son picked a path that was free and clear of the occupational hazards associated with being a jockey. Equally, Luzzi said it would have been difficult to dismiss his son’s wishes out of hand.

“One day when Lane was in 10th grade, he said, ‘Dad, I want to be a jockey,’” Luzzi recalled. “I asked him how serious and committed he was, and he indicated to me he was very. The deal was he had to finish high school first. This year, his classes started at 10. He was up at 4:30 and at the track getting on his horses before school began.”

Upon his graduation in June, Luzzi’s world has been non-stop horses — working in the mornings with them, and watching them race in the afternoon. The one thing he said he doesn’t spend much time on is worrying about the dangers of race riding.

“[Getting hurt] is part of the sport. It doesn’t worry me too much,” he said. “I know the consequences, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be out here. I’ve fallen and gotten hurt before. I’ve seen my dad go through those injuries, and I’ve seen him return and win . . . that keeps me going, and has been a great motivator for me.” By Karen M. Johnson (@WriterHorses) for


Talamo takes the Jockey Draft Ride of the Week aboard Melatonin


Melatonin was coming back from an extended layoff in a six furlong allowance race at Del Mar, a race loaded with early speed. As the #3 horse, Melatonin broke from the inside in a large field, so early position would be critical.

Jockey Joe Talamo broke Melatonin perfectly and was right on the lead a few jumps out of the gate. That is where Talamo made a move (or lack thereof) to win the race.

Talamo was able to ease Melatonin off a fast pace contested by four horses and sat chilly, saving all the ground around the turn. Entering the stretch, early pacesetter Rule He Will was tiring but was anchored on the rail, so Talamo shifted his mount out one path and drove Melatonin to victory as a number of entrants closed down the middle of the track after going wide throughout the race.

Melatonin paid $63.60 to win. A 25 year old native of Louisiana, Talamo is currently the third ranked jockey at Del Mar with 18 wins.




First, let’s head to the Spa where the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week Irad Ortiz Jr. continued his winning ways and lead all riders in wins and earnings for the week. Ortiz continued to hold his lead atop the jockey standings by winning 32% and coming in the money on 60% of his mounts. For the week, Ortiz finished with 12 wins, four seconds, and six thirds for earnings of $773,590.
Robby Albarado had a strong week at Arlington Park and Indiana Downs as he took the Grade 3 Pucker Up S. at Arlington and the Don K. Memorial Starter Series S. at Indiana. Albarado won 36% and finished in the money on 71% of his mounts. For the week, Albarado finished with five wins, three seconds, and two thirds for earnings of $204,818.
Joe Bravo led North America in stakes earnings with $670,655 proving his ability to rise up at the highest level. From Bravo's three stakes mounts, he won the Grade 1 Beverly D. and came in second on the remaining two mounts. For the week, Bravo finished with four wins, two seconds, and one third.
Finally, let’s head to the Pacific Northwest where Leslie Mawing had a solid week highlighted by a win in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile and the Emerald Distaff H. at Emerald Downs. Mawing consistently came in the money 60% of his mounts by going 4-3-5 from 20 mounts.

AQHA Quarter Horse Standings

John Hamilton remains on top of the AQHA wins leaderboard for the year with 104 from 506 mounts. Raul Ramirez Jr. ranks second with 96 wins from 445 starts and David Alvarez ranks third with 90 wins from 431 mounts.

GR Carter Jr. stayed on to top of the AQHA earnings leaderboard with $2,190,781 from 476 starts. Ricky Ramirez is in second in the standings with $1,743,094 and Raul Ramirez Jr. is third with $1,672,337.  Keep up with all the AQHA leaders here . . .

JockeyTalk360 Newsletter 8/5/2015




Victor Espinoza named 2015 recipient of Pincay Award


By Hank Wesch/Del Mar


Victor Espinoza, the veteran rider who stirred racing history and glory when he guided the exceptional colt American Pharoah through his Triple Crown triumph this spring, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award.

Espinoza will receive the award and its distinctive trophy from Pincay on Sunday in a winner’s circle ceremony following the third race.

The Pincay Award, given annually by the Hall of Fame rider since 2004 to those who have served the sport “with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction,” originated at the now-closed Hollywood Park, but shifted to Del Mar in 2014.

Espinoza, 43 and a native of Mexico City, has ridden more than 3,200 winners in his sparkling career, but may always be remembered for his trio of scores in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes on the smooth-striding American Pharoah, making him only the 12th American Triple Crown winner and the first to accomplish it in 37 years. The rider first handled American Pharoah in a winning effort in last year’s Del Mar Futurity and in seven starts since then they’ve never been beaten.





Zenyatta winning the Apple Blossom Handicap (Gr 1) print available in our online shop Shop Now Open 
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Baze to Represent U.S. in Japan World All-Star Jockey Race



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jockey Weldon Cloninger Jr. Dies

Jockey Weldon Cloninger Jr., who often rode in Ohio and Pennsylvania, died Aug. 16 of cancer at Cleveland Clinic Hospital. He was 46.

According to the Daily Racing Form, the Dallas,Texas, native began galloping Quarter Horses at age 16. He began riding professionally at 18, taking his first mounts at Louisiana Downs.

During his lengthy career, Cloninger won stakes aboard such horses as Silverleaf, Toolighttoquit, and Halo America. Cloninger moved his tack to Ohio in 2004, and during his time on the circuit, he earned Thistledown’s meet title in 2007.

Altogether, Cloninger won 1,538 of 11,737 races during his career, with his mounts earning $16,350,015.

Cloninger is survived by his parents Weldon Sr. and Carol Ann; sister Teresa Chance-McDonald; girlfriend Kat Dregits; children Shane, Cassidy, Coby, Rudy Destiny, and Cheyenne; and three grandchildren.

A memorial celebration of life will be held Friday at Abundant Life Church of God in Middlefield, Ohio, beginning at 6:30 p.m. He will be interred in Texas.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

‘Family Fun Day’ At Delaware Park To Benefit PDJF

Delaware Park, the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (DTHA) and the Delaware Jockeys’ Association are teaming up to support the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) through Family Fun Day. Activities will include pony rides, jockey autographs and a country-style barbecue.

What: Family Fun Day in conjunction with the benefit for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF)

When: Saturday, August 22, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Delaware Park’s world famous picnic Grove situated between the saddling enclosure and the clubhouse turn

Event attractions include:

·         A bouncy house, super slide, pony rides, face painting and balloon twisters

·         Jockey versus children bouncy ball race on the turf course

·         Jockey autographs and photograph sessions

·         Food will include a country-style barbecue and festival snacks (popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones) in the Grove

·         Official membership cards for the Giddy Up & Go Racing Club for children

All proceeds from activities and items will benefit the PDJF.

“The Delaware Park family has a great appreciation for the jockeys’ continued dedication and contribution,” said John Mooney, Executive Director of Racing at Delaware Park.  “These great athletes risk injury for spectators’ enjoyment.  The Delaware Park family has always been a proud supporter of the PDJF and we look forward to furthering our efforts to benefit this cause.”

Retired rider Ramon Dominguez, the all-time Delaware Park jockey by wins, will be on the track during Family Fun Day as a special representative of the PDJF.

In 2013, Delaware Park, the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen Association, the Delaware Jockeys’ Health & Welfare Fund, and the Delaware Arabian Alliance donated a combined $20,000 annually for a three-year period as part of the Ramon Dominguez Retirement Celebration.

Live racing is conducted on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday.  Beginning on September 8th, Tuesday will be dropped from the schedule and live racing will be on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday through closing day October 17th.  Daily first race post time is set for 1:15 p.m.


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