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Friday, February 12, 2016


In just her fourth career mount, apprentice Rosie Higgins, who was raised on a farm in eastern Ohio, broke her maiden in Thursday’s second race at Santa Anita aboard Blue Law, who appropriately enough, broke from the rail and was assigned the number “one” in the track’s program.

            With her husband, Hall of Fame jockey, Kent Desormeaux, looking on in civilian attire, Higgins sat a close second at the rail to pacesetter Gavination around the far turn and took command turning for home to win by three lengths while covering 5 ½ furlongs in 1:04.46.

            “It was awesome,” said Higgins, 31, in the Winner’s Circle.  “I was a little worried there for a moment, I just didn’t want him (Tiago Pereira, aboard Gavination) to close the door, but we were able to get through.  I just said ‘Come on sweetie,’ and we got through just fine.  Hopefully, it helps my career a little bit.  I understand that I’m new.  I know I’m still green and I know how trainers feel, because I’ve been in their position.  Hopefully, it helps and I keep moving up.”

            Trained by Bob Hess, Jr., and the 6-5 favorite in a field of eight older maidens in for a $20,000 claiming tag, Blue Law paid $4.40, $2.80 and $2.60.

            “This was her third time riding for me,” said Hess, who legged Higgins up for a fourth place finish on Blue Law on Jan. 23.  “She’s very patient and is very mindful of doing things right, of doing what is right by the horse.  She’s got great balance and she’s totally in to what she’s doing.  This is great.”

            A ten pound apprentice, Higgins, according to California racing rules, will remain an apprentice jockey for a period of one year from the date of her fifth winner, or when she wins her 40th race, whichever comes later.

            Although Higgins is now some 5,711 wins behind him, Desormeaux said that immediately following the race, he received a text message that read “Congratulations, Mr. Higgins.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dominguez Ruled Eligible For Hall Of Fame Consideration

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame's Executive Committee has unanimously approved a measure to designate retired jockey Ramon Dominguez as eligible for Hall of Fame consideration beginning in 2016. Dominguez, who announced his retirement in June 2013, suffered a career-ending injury at Aqueduct Racetrack in January 2013. Hall of Fame procedures require jockeys to be licensed in North America for 20 years to be eligible for consideration, but the Museum's Executive Committee has the option of waiving the requirement at its discretion based on special circumstances.

Jockeys who do not satisfy the 20-year requirement must typically wait five calendar years before they become eligible to be considered for the Hall of Fame. The requirement was waived in the case of Dominguez — who rode for 18 years (1996 through 2013) in North America — because he would have satisfied the requirement in 2015 and would have been eligible for Hall of Fame consideration beginning this year if not for the career-ending injury.

“We appreciate the sensitivity of the Executive Committee and Museum director Chris Dragone in responding to his unusual circumstance,” said Edward L. Bowen, chairman of the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. “They all recognize that this is an appropriate use of the discretion given to the Executive Committee.”

Dominguez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He led all North American riders in earnings in each of those years (setting a single-year record for North American earnings in 2012 with $25,639,432, since surpassed by Javier Castellano). Dominguez also led all jockeys in wins in 2001 and 2003 and finished second on seven other occasions. According to Equibase statistics, Dominguez finished his career with 4,985 wins (23 percent) from 21,267 mounts and earnings of $191,620,277. He ranks 17th all time in earnings and 32nd in wins.

The National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame Nominating Committee will meet later this month to review the preliminary candidates and select the finalists for the Hall of Fame voting panel. The Hall of Fame finalists will be named in March and the inductees will be announced in April. The 2016 Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place Friday, Aug. 12 at 10:30 a.m. at Fasig-Tipton in Saratoga Springs.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Leading online wagering provider, Xpressbet, is joining the ‘Fundraiser for Fray,’ an initiative spearheaded by the Maryland Jockey Club to support jockey, Fray Martinez, who was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  The Fundraiser for Fray takes place Saturday, February 13 at Laurel Park and now also online at 


Xpressbet has pledged to donate all proceeds from its customers wagering on Laurel Park on Saturday February 13 to support Fray.  Laurel’s card that day features three graded stakes races, headlined by the $300,000, Grade 2 Barabara Fritchie, as well as the $75,000 John B. Campbell and the $75,000 Maryland Racing Media Stakes.  First post is 12:25PM ET. 


At just 21-years-old, Martinez has quickly distinguished himself as one of the leading up-and-coming jockeys in the Mid-Atlantic, having amassed 127 victories in 2014 and 2015.  He is currently undergoing treatment at the University Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Additionally, he and his wife are expecting their first child this spring. 


“We were saddened to hear about Fray’s diagnosis and are looking forward to helping however possible,” said Xpressbet Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kerry Carlson.  “The entire Xpressbet team is pulling for Fray, and we’re very confident the same perseverance, dedication and tenacity that helped him to become one of the best young riders in Maryland will help him beat Leukemia.”


Carlson added, “Since all proceeds from our customers wagering on Laurel’s Saturday card are going directly to Fray, we hope everyone is generous with their wagers.  And with a great card scheduled, we know our players will enjoy the races.” 


Racing fans in the Mid-Atlantic can visit Laurel Park on February 13 to take part in its Fundraiser for Fray, which includes a silent auction and Bone Marrow Registry Drive.  Among items up for auction are a pair of 2016 Preakness Stakes tickets, signed jockey memorabilia, tickets plus hospitality to the Florida Derby and Santa Anita Derby and an signed and framed photo of Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah winning the 2015 Xpressbet Preakness Stakes.  


Donations are also being accepted in Fray’s name by the Maryland Horsemen’s Assistance Foundation, at 500 Redland Court, Suite 105, Owings Mills, MD 21117.  The Maryland Horsemen’s Assistance Foundation is a 501c-3 charitable organization that provides financial assistance in extraordinary circumstances to eligible employees actively working at Maryland racetracks and/or Thoroughbred farms.


About Xpressbet

Xpressbet provides legal and secure online wagering services to horseplayers in the United States.  It is the industry’s most comprehensive and user-friendly wagering site, allowing customers to wager on more than 300 of the world’s best racetracks from their computer, phone or mobile device.  Xpressbet operates XB SELECT, the industry’s premier destination for high-volume wagering, and XB Net, which connects bet shops and wagering sites from around the world to North American racing.  Xpressbet is a Stronach Group company, which also owns and operates Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness Stakes.  The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, the award-winning Adena Springs operation, AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology, and Monarch Content Management, horse racing’s leading simulcast purchase and sales agent. 


Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Cristian Esqueda Named AQHA/Jockeys' Guild QH Jockeyof the Month

Jockey Cristian Esqueda won the Hialeah Juvenile Invitational at Hialeah Park and led all Quarter Horse riders in wins last month on his way to being named the AQHA/Jockeys' Guild Jockey of the Month for the month of January. The award is voted on by a panel of Quarter Horse racing experts for riding accomplishments and achievements for the previous month of racing.

On January 17th at his new winter home of Hialeah he took top honors in the Hialeah Junior Maturity Invitational aboard String Bet for trainer Elio Vazquez. Esqueda and String Bet would just get up in time from off the pace to beat favored Political Debut in the four hundred and forty yard affair at odds of more than ten to one. It was just the 5th career stakes win for the young rider who began his riding in 2011.Christian_Esqueda

Things are beginning to pick up for Cristian though as he has now won an additional four stakes in the past year. He currently finds himself in third place in the Hialeah Park rider standings which has a strong colony of Quarter Horse jockeys on the grounds for their winter meeting.

Originally based in Michigan and riding primarily at Mt. Pleasant Meadows for the early part of his career, his first stakes win was aboard Fearles Fred in the 2013 Don Boyd Memorial Handicap at Mt. Pleasant.  The young Esqueda then found a home three seasons ago at Indiana Grad Racecourse.

Over the past three years there Cristian has finished 9th, 14th and in the 2015 meeting he ended the meeting 4th in the final Indiana rider standings, one spot behind his younger brother Cesar who fished third.

He was the winner of two stakes last season at Indiana Grand including the Heartland Futurity aboard Woop Dee Doo and Bradford Stakes aboard Mesa Marvel.

Originally from Aguascalientes City, Mexico he is the oldest of five brothers and was recently blessed with a new born baby over the winter by his fiancé Stephanie ,who is the owner of the stakes winning String Bet.

Esqueda currently has 88 wins from 767 lifetime starts for earnings of $1.3 million dollars. For the month of January he led all AQHA riders with 16 wins and he was third in total earnings with $228,537.


The AQHA/Jockeys’ Guild voters are:

Steve Andersen (Daily Racing Form)

Andrea Caudill (Q-Racing Journal Editor)

Martha Claussen (AQHA Wrangler Aces Coordinator)

Chris Kotulak (Remington Park Handicapper/Analyst)

Don Stevens (Delta Downs Announcer)

Doug McPherson (Ajax Downs & Kawartha Downs Handicapper/Chart Caller)

Monday, February 08, 2016

Flavien Prat Named Jockey of the Week

Jockey Flavien Prat made the most of a golden “Hoppertunity” Saturday at Santa Anita when winning the Gr. 2 San Antonio Stakes in a thrilling finish. That head-bobbing victory helped him on his way to being named this week’s Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for February 1st – February 7th.  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.Flavien-Prat

It was the first time aboard Hoppertunity for jockey Flavien Prat this Saturday at Santa Anita.  He got the call from Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and did not disappoint the connections who have seen their horse finish either second or third in seven of his last nine races, all against Grade 1 or Grade 2 company. Regular rider Martin Garcia was aboard the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Cyrus Alexander.

It looked like it was going to be a similar finish for Hoppertunity as three horses hit the wire in the feature race for older horses going a mile and an eighth on the main track at Santa Anita. Down the backstretch Prat had just one horse beat while allowing his mount to settle. Beginning his move into the turn he floated just a little bit wide and took a stride or two before leveling out for a finish. At just that moment he was joined by rider Mike Smith aboard Imperative who had all the momentum and looked to go right on by.

Once Prat got his best stride again these two passed front-runner Donworth as a pair just yards from the wire and finished the race inches apart. Even to the most seasoned race fan it appeared as if Imperative may have gotten home first. Even eventual winner Flavien Prat thought he was the wrong end of a very close photo finish.

"I thought I was beat, to tell you the truth," Prat said of the photo finish.

Hall-of-Famer Mike Smith thought the same thing. "I had to wait for some room to get him out and that really cost me," said Imperative's jockey, Mike Smith. "I still thought he won. I'm dumbfounded right now. I can't even talk. I could have sworn I won."

For Flavien this graded victory is all just a part of getting back to where he was before being sidelined after sustaining multiple spinal fractures and a collapsed lung during a spill at Los Alamitos Race Course on Sept. 17, 2015. Prat would return to racing Dec. 27 at Santa Anita Park and the native Frenchman registered his first win on the comeback trail a day later in the $75,000 Blue Norther Stakes aboard Belvoir Bay.

Prat finished this week with three wins from 17 mounts adding six second place finishes and two thirds. His total earnings of $460,160 topped all riders in North America. 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.

Monday, February 08, 2016

NYRA apprentice jockey program continues focus on safer, more enjoyable racing

Expanded in scope and now preparing Aqueduct's apprentice jockeys for long and successful careers in thoroughbred racing, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) apprentice jockey program continues to develop new riders through intensive instruction and one-on-one mentoring.

Led by legendary jockey and current NYRA television analyst Richard Migliore, the program works with the support of NYRA stewards, racing officials and other partners to further educate apprentice riders on race preparation, skills, and techniques, with a specific emphasis on equine and human safety.   Sessions are held throughout the Aqueduct meet on Sunday mornings in the Aqueduct film theatre.

"The New York Racing Association is fortunate to have Richard Migliore leading this important initiative," stated Martin Panza, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations.  "Through Mig's personal instruction and mentorship, we are creating a safer racing environment and effectively helping our young apprentices become even better riders."

Migliore, the winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation's top apprentice jockey in 1981, concluded his career in 2010 following a 30-year career.  Affectionately known as "The Mig" to horseplayers and racing fans around the world, the Brooklyn-born Migliore finished his career with 4,450 wins and more than $160 million in total earnings. 

Among the journeymen jockeys who have been through the program are Irad Ortiz, Jr. and his brother Jose, who finished 1-2 in the NYRA jockey standings last year and are currently atop the leaderboard at Aqueduct's inner-track meet.  Taylor Rice, Eric Cancel and both Jackie and Katie Davis, all regular riders on the NYRA circuit, have also taken part in the program.

Starting this year, the program will be expanded to introduce additional life skills such as nutrition and financial planning, designed to further promote success both on and off the track. 


Friday, February 05, 2016


Apprentice jockey David C. (for Charles) Lopez is one of the best-kept secrets in Santa Anita’s riding colony. Through 24 days of the Winter Meet, the 26-year-old native of Puerto Rico who was raised in The Garden State and is “a Jersey boy at heart” ranked third in the standings with 14 wins from 76 mounts, a respectable 18 percent average.

It doesn’t appear Lopez will slow down anytime soon, since he doesn’t lose his five-pound apprentice allowance until March 7. The next day, he will ride as a full-fledged journeyman,

“Originally, I came out from Monmouth Park,” said Lopez, who is represented by agent J.R. Pegram. “I was raised in Long Branch, right next to Monmouth Park (in Oceanport). I went on a break for a while just galloping horses since 2011, then came back late 2014, early 2015 to Turf Paradise, got going a little, then went to Golden Gate with agent Dennis Patterson, and he got me rolling right off the bat. I think I won three the first week there.

          “It’s all been clicking. I never dreamed I’d be doing this well at Santa Anita, ever in my life. I just wanted to make a living at any track I was at, and I came here and everything’s been like a dream, really.

          “I’ve been galloping seven years and racing professionally about a year-and-a-half.”

          Lopez comes from a family of racetrackers, as does Pegram. David’s father, C.C. Lopez, still rides at Penn National at 53; his brother, Erick Lopez, 28, rides at Golden Gate; and his cousin, Jose Ferrer, rides at Tampa Bay Downs.

          “My grandfather, Carlos Lopez, also was a jockey,” David points out.

          Agent Jim Pegram is the father of J.R. and agent Brad Pegram. Owner/breeder Mike Pegram is Jim’s brother.

          One important horseman Lopez has impressed is leading trainer Phil D’Amato.

          “I think he’s definitely shown he can compete with the big boys on the Southern California circuit,” said D’Amato, who saddled two winners Thursday.

          “David’s got great hands and is one of those riders horses just run for. He reminds me of a version of Pat Day. He’s got light hands, finesse, and seems to get better each week.”

Santa Anita Communications Department


Thursday, February 04, 2016


Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse jockeys from around the country will be in attendance during the annual Jockeys’ Guild Assembly February 15-17 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.


A welcome cocktail party is planned for Monday evening, February 15 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.


Tuesday sessions will include “Developing a Concussion Model in Horse Racing” and a presentation by Paul Struthers, Executive Director of the Professional Jockeys Association in the United Kingdom, “Jockey Safety in Britain-Protecting our Athletes.” A panel discussion will feature retired riders Angel Cordero, Jr., Laffit Pincay, Jr., G.R. Carter, Ramon Dominguez and Casey Lambert as well as active rider John Velazquez discussing preparing for life after riding.  The panel will be moderated by Mike Penna.


The annual awards banquet will be held Tuesday evening at Gulfstream Park.  That evening, the Jockeys’ Guild will present the Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award to Casey Lambert, the Jacky Martin Award to Gilbert Ortiz and the Eddie Arcaro Award to Brian Elmore, Vice President of Racing for Centaur Gaming.  The second annual Courage Award will be presented to legendary jockey Ron Turcotte in recognition of the courage and determination of the more than 60 riders who depend on the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, which in 2016 is celebrating its 10th anniversary.  Two new awards will be presented by JockeyTalk360, the Most Improved Rider for 2015 to Florent Geroux and The Comeback Rider of the Year to T.D. Houghton.


Sessions on Wednesday will include track updates from the regional managers, an update on Exchange Wagering, a presentation on financial planning and Paul Struthers discussing “Jockey Support in the United Kingdom.”


“All Guild members should attend this assembly,” said John Velazquez, Chairman of the Jockeys’ Guild.  “We have to make our industry safer and plan for our future.  It is vital for all members to join us and provide feedback on the issues and future priorities of the Guild.”


The full agenda is attached.


Sponsors for this year’s assembly include Xpressbet, Morgan Stanley, American Quarter Horse Association, Horsemen’s Tack & Equipment, Daily Racing Form, The Jockey Club, and Duralock.


Contact:  Jockeys’ Guild 859-523-5625


About the Guild

Jockeys’ Guild, Inc., the organization representing professional jockeys in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the United States, was founded in May 1940 and has approximately 1,270 members, including active, retired and disabled jockeys. The purpose is to protect jockeys, strive to achieve a safer racing environment, to obtain improved insurance and other benefits for members and to monitor developments in local, state and federal laws affecting the racing industry, and in particular, the jockeys. More information at and


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Laurel Park Hosting ‘Fundraiser For Fray’ Feb. 13

Laurel Park will hold a fundraiser and silent auction benefitting jockey Fray Martinez and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Maryland on Saturday, Feb. 13 featuring dozens of items during its Winter Carnival weekend.

Items include packages to this year's Preakness, Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Maryland Million and Haskell, Orioles memorabilia, signed items by Hall of Fame trainers King Leatherbury and Todd Pletcher, and signed items, pictures and posters by jockeys Edgar Prado, Victor Espinoza, Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, Rosie Napravnik, Joe Bravo, Kent Desormeaux, Paco Lopez, John Velazquez, Mike Smith, and the Maryland Jockey Club Colony.

Martinez, 21, was diagnosed in December with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He is receiving treatment in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Fray and his wife, Yelitza, are expecting their first child this spring. Part of the fundraiser will include a bone marrow registry drive by There Goes My Hero. Guests who get their cheek swabbed will receive a $2 betting voucher.

Donations can also be made to Martinez by mailing a check to the Maryland Horsemen's Assistance Foundation, 500 Redland Court, Suite 105, Owings Mills, MD 21117.

Winter Carnival weekend will include the 62nd running of the $300,000 Barbara Fritchie (G2), John B. Campbell and Maryland Racing Media Stakes Saturday, Feb. 13, and the General George (G3), Miracle Wood and Wide Country Stakes Monday, Feb. 15. The weekend will also include ice carvings, giveaways, dining and drink specials and entertainment.


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