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Friday, October 17, 2014

Jockeys Around the World Honor Fallen Colleagues

In a week that saw three promising young jockeys die from racetrack accidents, the tributes from fellow riders continue.

Following Thursday’s third race at Santa Anita, the jockey colony assembled in the winner’s circle to honor 17-year-old apprentice Juan Saez, who died Tuesday night following a spill earlier in the day at Indiana Grand Race Course. With a picture of Saez displayed on the track’s Infield video monitor, announcer Trevor Denman also noted the recent passing of Australia-based jockeys Caitlin Forrest and Carly-Mae Pye and asked that everyone observe a moment of silence in their collective honor.

Friday at Britain’s Newmarket on Dubai Future Champions Day, riders participating in the first race, the Dubai European Breeders’ Fund Fillies Nursery, will enter the parade ring a couple of minutes early to lead a minute’s silence as a mark of respect to Saez, Forrest, and Pye.

Jockeys will also wear black armbands as a mark of respect for, and in memory of the fallen riders.

Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys’ Association, said: “Jockeys share a unique bond wherever in the world they ply their trade, so the death of a colleague is a shock and a tragedy no matter where it happens.

“The thoughts and prayers of the all of the PJA’s members and staff are with the family, friends and colleagues of Carly-Mae, Juan and Caitlin.”
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hovdey: McCarron forced to teach hard lessons

It’s one thing to stand at arm’s length and contemplate the horror of last Tuesday afternoon at Indiana Grand Race Course, where the 17-year-old apprentice Juan Saez was killed in a race worth $34,000.

It is quite another, though, to wake up the next morning and confront a room full of young Juan Saez wannabes, all of them longing to live the life of a professional jockey in spite of the dangers once again screaming at them from the headlines.

“I’m pretty upset about something, and I’m going to show you what it is,” began retired Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron as he convened his class at the North American Racing Academy in Lexington, Ky. “Someone has lost their life for the sake of the profession.”

McCarron proceeded to show his students the video of the Saez accident, which occurred without warning when Saez’s horse, the 4-year-old Montezuma Express, appeared to clip the heels of another horse while racing on the far turn of the six-furlong optional claimer. Saez, a graduate of the Laffit Pincay Jockey School in Panama, won 89 races in a U.S. career that began last June and included the riding title at the Ellis Park meet.

“They were visibly saddened, of course,” McCarron said of his students. “There were a lot of concerned faces in the room. But I’m not there to sugarcoat or hide anything from them.”

McCarron has had a lot of material lately with which to work. In recent weeks, there have been a series of well-known riders injured to varying degrees in accidents during the post parade, the starting gate, and in the heat of the race itself.

While a trailing horse was fatally injured in the chain reaction triggered by the Saez accident, Montezuma Express escaped without serious damage. This is a sight that tends to confound the racing fan with a visual disconnect – the horse is loping away, footloose and fancy-free, but the rider is down, terrifyingly still.

To hear experienced riders tell it, horses are clipping heels all the time during a race. This is because American racing is conducted primarily on ovals of a mile or less, and the American style of riding is tight. Jockeys have it driven into their heads at a young age that loss of ground is a cardinal offense. They learn to measure in inches how close they can ride to the opposition, and sometimes they get it wrong.

“It doesn’t happen as often on the turf because horses are flat-shod, wearing Queens Plate shoes,” McCarron said. “It is the toe grabs on the shoes worn for dirt racing that make for a greater chance that a horse could go down clipping heels, and it stands to reason. If the shoe grabs something and holds for only a split second, that interruption in the stride can be enough to cause a fall.”

McCarron has been campaigning for years for the elimination of the cleat, or toe grab, on the front of racing plates, which many trainers believe provides for better traction. There have been restrictions in place – in California, for instance, a toe grab can be no higher than four millimeters – but the fact that they are allowed at all increases the chances that a routine clipping of heels might result in a fall, in McCarron’s view.

“There are other reasons other than toe grabs that a horse will stumble or fall when they’ve clipped heels, just as there are a number of circumstances that lead to horses clipping heels at all,” McCarron said. “Sometimes it’s reckless riding, sometimes it’s careless riding.”

And sometimes it’s the view.

“I was told by someone familiar with Indiana Grand that at that point, at that time of day, jockeys have difficulty with the sun in their eyes,” McCarron said. “There are many racetracks around the country where we experience that problem. If your goggles have any scratches on them whatsoever, the scratches will refract the sunlight, and it’s very difficult to see where you’re going.

“From watching the replay, I’m noticing that Juan did not react at all when the horse in front of him is coming back to him in the middle of the turn,” McCarron said. “There’s no standing up on his part, no checking. It was just getting closer, closer, and then down. I will bet anything that he lost sight for a brief period of time.”

In a career of 28 years, 34,240 mounts, and 7,141 wins at the top of the game, McCarron counts himself fortunate that he never witnessed a fellow rider pay the ultimate price. There have been 153 riding fatalities documented by The Jockeys’ Guild since it started keeping track in 1940.

In October 1988, McCarron was in California, riding at Santa Anita, when Mike Venezia was killed at Belmont Park. In January 1975, McCarron was still in Maryland, fresh off his championship apprentice season, when Alvaro Pineda was killed in the starting gate at Santa Anita. On Oct. 14, 2014, when apprentice Juan Saez lost his life on the far turn at Indiana Grand, McCarron was at home in Kentucky grading quiz papers for his class of future jockeys.

“Whenever there’s such an incident, I’m there to teach them why I think it happened and how it maybe could have been prevented,” McCarron said. “They need to know – this is the worst part of the game.”
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fray Martinez following his dream – and Victor Carrasco’s footsteps

Fray Martinez and Victor Carrasco, like kids the world over, had their heroes and dreams as youngsters. Growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the pair with a race track background fantasized of being Johnny V. or Joel Rosario, driving toward the finish aboard the leader in the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup Classic. The pair both grew up in racing and both attended and graduated from Escuela Vocacional Hipica, a highly regarded race track riding academy whose graduates include the Hall of Fame member and two time Eclipse Award winning jockey Velasquez

Carrasco, 22 and two years older than Martinez, journeyed from Puerto Rico to the U.S. and made the first step toward realizing that dream when he took the racing world by storm, winning 215 races in 2013 and earning the Eclipse Award as the country’s top apprentice jockey.

Back in Puerto Rico, Martinez followed Carrasco, who he says is “like my older brother,” every step of the way.

“I’d watch him (Victor) on the computer all the time,” the young rider said, “If he was riding anyplace where they streamed the video, we were watching. Then Victor and I would talk almost every night. When they announced he had won the Eclipse Award, everybody in the neighborhood was so proud. We used to talk all the time about someday going to America and riding in this country. But for one of us to win the Eclipse Award, that was beyond even our dreams. I couldn’t wait to follow Victor, to come to the U.S.”

And Martinez was able to make that happen. Carrasco spoke with agent Tom Stift, who has handled the older rider’s career since he came to this country and arranged for Stift to handle Martinez’ engagements when he travelled to this country. Martinez rode his first race in the U.S. in April, and by his own admission, it took a while for him to adjust to what it takes to put horses in position to win in this country.

“We were taught not to rush horses early, to rate them early in races, but in this country and especially at Delaware Park, you have to be on or near the lead most of the time to have any chance to win,” the young rider admitted. “Once I learned that, things have gone much better.”

“We had a little talk a while back,” Stift revealed. “Fray thought he was doing the right thing by taking horses back off the lead most of the time but that just doesn’t work in this country, especially at Delaware. The track is very speed favoring. The trainers know this and train their horses accordingly. We (he and Martinez) were in danger of losing stables if he didn’t change his approach. Once he understood the changes that had to be made, we started to win.”

The strategy change apparently worked, as Martinez has picked up steam in the last two months, winning on 17 or his last 100 mounts. He currently is the top apprentice in the standings at Delaware Park with 31 wins and has won 75 races in 2014, a solid first season. And he has his apprentice allowance until February of 2015.

So Martinez and Carrasco continue to follow their dream. They live together here, and every night they talk about the day, their mounts, and what they can do to improve themselves as riders.

“We’ve both been lucky so far but we’re young and we have goals we both would like to attain,” said Martinez. “It’s great to be able to live together and ride together. It’s what we dreamed of doing and now it’s coming true.”
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Racing Industry Pays Tribute to Fallen Jockey Saez

It was a somber day at racetracks across the country and on social media Wednesday as fellow jockeys, fans, executives, and others mourned the loss of 17-year-old rider Juan Saez.

Saez died late Tuesday night from injuries sustained in an accident during the eighth race at Indiana Grand in Shelbyville, Ind.

Indiana Grand cancelled its card for Wednesday, but at several tracks where racing did take place, there were moments of silence in memory of Saez. At Keeneland, jockeys, staff and other connections gathered in the tunnel to honor the talented younger brother of successful jockey Luis Saez.

Indiana Grand announced that it would hold a public memorial Thursday to honor the life and career of Juan Saez.

“A moment such as this gives us great pause, and reminds us all that our racing athletes bravely risk their lives each and every day,” said Jim Brown, Centaur Gaming’s president, COO and Indiana Grand general manger. “We ask that our local racing fans as well as those watching via simulcast join us on Thursday as we remember Juan and pay our respects to our fallen friend.”

Indiana Grand plans a public memorial for Saez Thursday

Indiana Grand plans a public memorial for Saez Thursday

“To have an up-and-coming star in the sport of horse racing taken from us so young is a tragedy,” said Jon Schuster, Indiana Grand’s vice president and general manager of racing. “His passion for horse racing was immense and only surpassed by his good-natured outlook on life.”

Many racing organizations and individuals in the industry expressed their condolences to the Saez family.

“Juan was such a talented and sweet kid, with a promising future,” said John Velazquez, chairman of the Jockeys’ Guild. “It is like losing a member of the family. We are competing against one another on the track, but off of the track, we are all very close.

Tributes also came pouring in from across the industry on social media. Some race fans also have taken to Twitter encouraging donations to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund in memory of Saez. The organization has advised the best way to donate is by texting JOCKEY to 50555. Some of the messages shared today:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The Guild is saddened to report that our member, apprentice jockey Juan Saez, 17, passed away late last night due to the injuries he sustained Tuesday evening, Oct. 14, during the 8th race at Indiana Grand.  

After the spill, Saez was airlifted from a heliport near the track by Life Flight and transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital where he was treated in the level one trauma center. 

“There are no words to describe the devastation that we are all feeling,” said Terry Meyocks, National Manager of the Guild.  “Our thoughts and prayers are with Juan’s family during this tragic time.” 

“Juan was such a talented and sweet kid, with a promising future,” said John Velazquez, Chairman of the Guild.  “It is like losing a member of the family. We are competing against one another on the track, but off of the track, we are all very close.  Since his family was in transit, it gives some comfort knowing that he was surrounded by his fellow riders, his agent, Julio Espinoza, and close friends, when he passed.”

Saez, a native of Panama, comes from a racing family, and was the younger brother of journeyman Luis Saez, cousin to Gabriel Saez and Angel S. Arroyo.  Saez received the leading rider title at Ellis Park this summer, with 51 wins from 194 starts.  He graduated at the top of his class from of the Laffit Pincay Jr. Jockey School in Panama.

Juan’s family is en route to Indiana at this time and service arrangements are pending.

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 1150 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 www.jockeysguild.comand


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Napravnik, Sharp Discuss Careers in Racing With BCTC-NARA Students

On October 8, about 30 students of the Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s North American Racing Academy (BCTC-NARA) and the Locust Trace Agriscience Center (LTAC) were invited to ask questions about how to get started in the horse racing world from one of the top jockeys in the nation, Rosie Napravnik.

Her advice was simple and straightforward: “You always want to improve your jockey skills, and also learn to speak to people in a professional manner. Present yourself as outgoing and approachable. If you show a good, strong work ethic, you’ll have a good chance of succeeding in this business,” said Napravnik.

As a female jockey, Napravnik said she has struggled getting beyond the perception that women “are weak” in the industry. To combat that notion, Napravnik said, “It’s important to show my strengths and establish myself as the ‘real deal’ by coming early to work and staying late, and just proving that I am a capable rider and have a passion for it. I don’t want any breaks because I am a female.”

The “How to Succeed in the Horse-Racing Industry” event was held in conjunction with Fayette County Schools at the Locust Trace AgriScience Center facilities in Lexington, KY. LTAC is a career and technical high school with an emphasis on equine studies, plant and land science, and other programs. “This was a wonderful occasion to collaborate with BCTC in hosting this event,” said Anne Clark, LTAC Principal. “The opportunity for LTAC students to mingle with industry professionals is an irreplaceable experience.”

Students were given the opportunity to ask Napravnik and her husband, Joe Sharp, a rising star among the horse training ranks, about what to expect when first starting out. “If you don’t like working seven days a week and getting up early every day and putting the passion in what you are doing, you’re in the wrong profession, “ said Sharp, who also emphasized the need to “keep it professional, and don’t party late at night when you need to be at work in the morning.”

On the question of what attributes employers in the equine industry are looking for, both Napravnik and Sharp agreed that aside from being well-versed in equine studies, whether as a jockey or trainer, a newcomer needs to be a good listener and eager to learn, and always be punctual. “Employers want to see consistency and you need to earn their respect, which in turn, will earn their support in your future career options. And make sure you don’t jump from one job to another. Employers want to see that consistency in work ethic,” Sharp advised.

Proving that initiative is also a good trait to have, Jordan Erwin, a recent graduate of BCTC-NARA, was attending the event, saw her opportunity and asked Sharp for a job. She starts this week.
Monday, October 13, 2014

Joel Rosario named Jockeys Guild Jockey of the Week

Joel Rosario won two stakes at Keeneland and one at Belmont to be named the Jockeys Guild Jockey of the Week. The title goes to the week's outstanding jockey in the opinion of a panel of industry experts. They looked at races run from October 6-12.

Overall for the week, Rosario posted 7 wins, 6 seconds and 1 third from 22 starts, earning $469,761. His fans collected an average $8.77 payoff on $2 mutuel tickets on his seven winning mounts.

Rosario kicked off his winning week on Rainha Da Bateria in the Grade III Jessamine Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Keeneland on Wednesday. He trailed the field in the early going before circling the field and powering home a length and a half in front as the second favorite.

On Friday, he won the $100,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland on second favorite Free as a Bird.

In the most dramatic finish of his week's three stakes wins, Rosario and front-running La Tia held off the late challenges of Byrama and Overheard to win the Grade III Athenia Stakes at Belmont Park on Sunday.
"They pressured me last time," said Rosario, who rode La Tia for the first time in the Grade IIT Canadian at Woodbine last month. "The stretch in Woodbine is longer than here, and that day they finished up very strong. She ran a good race and got beat by some very good horses. I was very confident with her today and knew she was going to give me 100%."

Rosario, 29, grew up on a farm outside Santo Domingo and decided to become a jockey after  gong to the races when he was 13. He turned pro the following year, and was leading rider in the Dominican Republic four times before moving to California in 2006. By 2008, he was riding in stakes for leading trainers, and he finished fifth in the national standings in 2009 with $13 million in earnings. In 2012, he moved to the east coast.

Last year, he won the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup on Animal Kingdom, and the Kentucky Derby on Orb in the space of five weeks.

Rosario is currently ranked second in wins and third in earnings at Keeneland. Nationally, he's the second leading jockey by earnings, with over $18 million in 2014.

The Jockey of the Week is the centerpiece of, a new website offering a unique blend of news, features, social media and statistics that will appeal to racing's casual fans, as well as seasoned handicappers.
JockeyTalk360 is collaborating with the Jockeys' Guild and other industry partners to bring fans closer to racing's talented and fearless athletes. A majority of the revenue generated by the site is earmarked for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The 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.

To find out more about the great sport of horse racing, and to learn more about your favorite jockeys visit


Monday, October 13, 2014

Jockey T.D. Houghton Injured in Mountaineer Spill

T.D. “Terry” Houghton, who was severely injured[1] in a fall this March, was injured again Saturday night when his horse fell in the fifth race at Mountaineer.

Houghton’s mount, Ashado Cat, was vying for the lead at the top of the stretch when the filly fell, sending the jockey out of the saddle.

According to Houghton’s agent, Tim Frekin, the jockey was transported to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh with a broken nose, a concussion, and a stabilized hairline fracture in his neck. A CT scan on Houghton came back in good order, and no surgery will be necessary for any of the injuries.

In March, Houghton suffered multiple breaks in his collarbone and a fracture of his T9 vertebra. He returned to the saddle in August at Hazel Park and is currently third in the jockey standings at Mountaineer.

Ashado Cat got back on her feet after the spill and ran off. According to information from Frekin, the filly escaped serious injury in the incident.
Friday, October 10, 2014


When jockey Florent Geroux last rode at Santa Anita, he was a 20-year-old apprentice fresh to the U.S. from his native France.

That was early 2007. When Geroux makes his return trip to Santa Anita in three weeks, it will be for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

“They will see a more experienced rider,” said Geroux, who galloped horses in the morning and rode a few for trainer Patrick Biancone in 2007. “It is going to be great to go back out there with a horse that has a big chance to win.”

That horse is Work All Week, who coasted to a one-length victory in last Friday’s Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G3) to give Geroux his first Keeneland stakes triumph.

Geroux is not worried about facing the top sprinters in the land in the $1.5 Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) on Nov. 1.

“They talk about the California speed that can go in :21 and :43 (for the first quarter- and half-mile),” Geroux said. “If I push the button on him, he can go :42.”

Geroux already has had more success at this meet than he did in his initial time at Keeneland in the 2007 Fall Meet when his stay lasted for two races. Geroux was involved in a spill in which he broke his wrist and fractured two vertebrae, sidelining him for five months.

Through the first five days of the Fall Meet, Geroux had two winners plus a second- and third-place finish from eight mounts. He was coming off a banner Arlington meet in which he rode 82 winners with his mounts posting a meet-high $2,457,228 in earnings.

In addition to Work All Week, Geroux is scheduled to ride I’m Already Sexy for trainer Wayne Catalano in the $200,000 Goldikova (G2) going a mile on the grass at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

According to agent Doug Bredar, Geroux will take some time off after the Breeders’ Cup before heading to New Orleans for the Fair Grounds meet.
From:Keeneland Communications Department


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