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Thursday, February 26, 2009

George Woolf Award to Velazquez set for March 8

            In a ceremony between races, Velazquez will formally receive the Woolf Trophy and be surrounded by many former winners of the award, which was instituted by Santa Anita in 1950.  By a vote of his peers nationwide, Velazquez was selected over four other finalists, Gary Baze, Calvin Borel, Javier Castellano and David Flores.
            The winner’s trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of George Woolf which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.  The statue was created through donations from the racing public after Woolf’s death following a spill at Santa Anita on Jan. 13, 1946.

            Woolf, who was regarded as one of the greatest big-money riders of his era, was affectionately known as “The Iceman” in reference to his cool under pressure, and was revered by his colleagues as a fierce competitor and consummate professional.

            The award, which honors and recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing, is regarded as one of the most prestigious honors in the racing world.

            Past winners such as Ray York (1955), Merlin Volzke (1958), Bill Harmatz (1960), Peter Moreno (1961), Ismael Valenzuela (1963), Alex Maese (1966), Donald Pierce (1967), Laffit Pincay Jr. (1970), Jerry Lambert (1971), Fernando Toro (1975), Frank Olivares (1977), Eddie Delahoussaye (1981), Gary Stevens (1996), Alex Solis (1997) and  Mike Smith (2000), are likely to attend.
Santa Anita Communications Department
Thursday, February 26, 2009

Albarado Named Jockey of the Week

Albarado earned his most lucrative victory for the week when Selva posted a 1-3/4 length win in the $60,000 Mardi Gras Stakes on Tuesday at Fair Grounds.
A Lafayette, Louisiana native, Albarado made his North American riding debut in 1990 and has earned 3,948 wins through Tuesday.  He earned his first win at the Breeders' Cup World Championships aboard Curlin in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (GI).
Curlin, the 2007-'08 Horse of the Year, retired from racing as the all-time leading North American-raced earner with career earnings of $10,501,800.  Albarado rode Curlin in 15 of the Smart Strike horse's 16 career starts, including seven Grade or Group I wins.
Albarado also was the regular rider of 2003 Horse of the Year and champion older male Mineshaft.  He earned his first victory in a $1 million race aboard Mineshaft in the '03 Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI).
Albarado, 35, is the founder of the Robby Albarado Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists homeless and less-fortunate individuals in the Louisville area.
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Thursday, February 26, 2009

Charles Town Horsemen Approve Raise For Jockeys

The Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has approved a new scale, relative to purse size, that ranges from $75 to $105 for riders who do not finish in the top three positions in a race. The former scale was $45 to $105.

“We are pleased to reach this accord and would like to thank CTHBPA president Randy Funkhouser, the board of the CTHBPA, its executive director Lenny Hale as well as the Guild’s regional manager Larry Saumell and jockey Larry Reynolds for their time and effort in reaching this agreement,” Guild National Manager Terry Meyocks said.

Meyocks said the agreement came after steady negotiations and the riders will work to increase interest in racing at Charles Town.

“As a group, the jockeys are to be commended for their patience and commitment to reaching this agreement in a proper manner,” Meyocks said. “It is our belief that the jockeys, working with owners, trainers, and all the other segments of the racing industry, can help better the sport at Charles Town. The jockeys look forward to that challenge.”
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stevens Champions Woolf Award Winner Velazquez

“I retired four years ago, but even back when I was still riding, John was one of the most respected riders,” said Stevens, now lending his expertise in front of TV cameras for HRTV and NBC.

“I admire him not only for his riding, but because he’s a great family man, and a huge supporter of the Jockeys’ Guild, obviously, with him being president,” Stevens added. “He’s a super guy and the award is well-deserved”

Velazquez, a native of Puerto Rico and a two-time Eclipse Award winner, was selected by a vote of his peers. He will receive the award at Santa Anita on Sunday, March 8.

            Presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950, this year marks the 60th presentation of one of racing’s most prestigious awards. The Woolf Award honors and recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.  Santa Anita Communications Department

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Losing Mount Fees Increased In Iowa

Losing mount fees will begin at $75 on the low end to $105 for races of $100,000 or more.  Previously, losing mount fees ranged from $45 on the bottom to $105.

“We’re very pleased with this deserving raise for the jockeys in Iowa,” said Jockeys’ Guild national manager Terry Meyocks. “I would like to thank Iowa HBPA president Leroy Gessmann and the entire board of the HBPA for their cooperation and recognition that an increase was in order. Thanks also go to Jeff Johnston, the Guild’s regional manager, and jockey Perry Compton for their efforts in reaching this agreement.

“The jockeys look forward to working with the horsemen to improve the racing industry in Iowa,” he continued. “There is much work we can do together to help the industry in the state. We would also like to thank the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission and Prairie Meadows for helping implement the new scale.”

This new scale follows increases in mount fees through legislation at California tracks and negotiated increases at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga, Finger Lakes, Monmouth, Meadowlands, Atlantic City, Hawthorne, Arlington, Gulfstream Park, Calder, Fairmount Park, Indiana Downs, Hoosier Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and Turf Paradise. Jockeys at Philadelphia Park and Penn National have also received raises in their losing mount fees. Negotiations are ongoing in other racing jurisdictions.
The Blood-Horse


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Film to focus on history of women in racing

If anyone has the background to make a documentary film about horse racing, it's Neff - call it bloodlines.

And Neff, the producer/director of JOCK, is doing just that by creating the first documentary detailing the history of female jockeys in United State Thoroughbred racing. On Saturday, Neff began what promises to be a cross-country trek with a stop at Charles Town Races & Slots to film the 40th anniversary celebration of Barbara Jo Rubin's historic victory at the track. On Feb. 22, 1969, Rubin became the first female jockey to win a pari-mutuel race in the United States when she rode Cohesion to victory at Charles Town.

For Neff, filming Rubin's return and induction into the track's Hall of Fame was a must-shoot element for JOCK.

"We were actually supposed to go down to Hialeah to film Diane Crump's anniversary, but she got in an accident and couldn't make it," said Neff, referring to the trail-blazing jockey who became the first ever to ride in a recognized race in the U.S. "We're really focusing on the key dates, and obviously these are both key dates in racing history."

Neff said JOCK, which will be a feature-length documentary, will focus on the first generation of women to push the gender barrier in horse racing. Before Crump broke through in 1969 and Rubin followed two weeks later with her historic ride, no female jockeys had been permitted to ride in the United States. Their struggle to gain acceptance and a chance to compete is the story Neff plans to tell in his film.

"We're focusing on what I call the first generation," Neff said. "The jockeys that competed in the first three to five years, we're basically capturing their stories."

That started at Charles Town, where Neff conducted interviews with witnesses to Rubin's ride and filmed location shots.

Rubin is excited to be part of the project.

"I think it's great that he's doing the documentary," Rubin said. "It shows how hard it was to get into it and what the female jockeys had to go through."

For Rubin, that included a nasty reception in her initial foray to the track. After obtaining her apprentice jockey's license in Florida, Rubin was scheduled to become the first female jockey to ride in the United States. But the male jockeys at Tropical Park, where she was set to ride, largely refused to race against her and threatened a boycott of the race if Rubin was allowed to enter. Ultimately, she didn't ride and Crump broke the gender barrier the following month on Feb. 7, 1969.

Keeping the independent project going has been a challenge for Neff, who must constantly seek funding for the film and schedule shoots around his full-time job as a director of photography and camera operator for DIRECTV's "Hometown Heroes."

It's worth the hardship for Neff, who wants to keep control of his project. The film is scheduled for completion next year, if all goes according to plan.

"It depends on financing," Neff said. "Right now I'm basically self-funding it as an independent project and I'm probably going to keep it as an independent project."

Neff plans to feature other pioneering female jockeys, including Mary Bacon, Patty Barton and P.J. Cooksey.

"A lot of people that I've talked to love the idea," Neff said of JOCK. "Fortunately for me, there's never been a documentary done on female jockeys."

- Jeff Nations can be reached at (304) 263-3381 ext. 134 or at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Australian Jockeys Resigned to Padded Whips

Association chairman Ross Inglis said he was resigned to the rule being ratified by the Australian Racing Board on March 19.

He said state jockeys' associations had made a detailed submission to show there was no evidence current whips inflicted lasting injury or pain.

Inglis said perceptions needed to change, not whips.

"It's going to happen. We'll tolerate it, but there are a few issues with it," Inglis said.

"It's a perception thing. If the public thinks a padded whip lessens the impact, then I think that's going to win out."

Inglis said the size and length of the padded whip remained an issue.

Australian Jumps Racing Association secretary Peter Griffiths, a former jumps jockey, was instrumental in the introduction of padded whips in jumps racing several seasons ago.

Many Victorian riders, including Victorian Jockeys' Association board member Stephen Baster, remain unconvinced that padded whips would be beneficial.

Baster told the Herald Sun on January 19 padded whips could injure horses.

"If a horse is not responding, do you just hit them harder?" he said. "Some jumps jockeys use them, but you have to remember they are 10-15kg heavier and that makes a big difference."

Inglis said the interpretation of the use of the whip, particularly in the final 200m of a race, would cause continued debate.

He said it was impossible to put a figure on how many times a jockey could hit a horse inside the final 200m.

It is believed the new rules will prohibit jockeys hitting a horse every stride.

"In a desperate finish a jockey is expected to pull the whip," Inglis said. "Imagine the uproar if a jockey stopped using the whip in a close finish in a Golden Slipper because he had used up his allotted number of times he used the whip. It's unworkable."

Another contentious rule centres around how many times a jockey is allowed to use the whip before the 200m.

Inglis said a jockey should be able to use the whip at their discretion, especially if it was to "wake up" a horse.

"Sometimes you have to use the whip to get them going," he said.

Jockeys were adamant they must be able to carry whips in two-year-old races.

Inglis said whips served as a safety and educational tool on inexperienced juveniles, but he acknowledged there should be "limited use" of the whip on two-year-olds.

He also said there would be a 4 1/2-month education period for jockeys, trainers and owners. Adrian Dunn Adelaide Now/Melbourne

Monday, February 23, 2009

Troilo Gets Career Win 2,500

 The milestone win came one race after Troilo earned win number 2,499 with Queen of Victory.  He added win number 2,501 in the eighth race aboard Overdrive.

 A veteran of winter racing at Turfway, Troilo stood in chilly rain and blustery wind for photos with friends, fans, and fellow jockeys.  “It’s only fitting I should do it on a day like today,” he grinned.  “As long as we’re going to be outside in this kind of weather, we might as well try to make as much money as we can.”

 Describing the headline ride, Troilo said, “I’ve ridden this mare before, and she’d break good and be laying close, but she wouldn’t finish anywhere.  Today I wanted her to save a little bit, so I tucked her right in on the rail and followed the leader. Then the rail opened up and I was able to have some horse left.  She tries hard.  She gives you what she’s got.”

 Born in Philadelphia, Troilo started his career at the suggestion of a friend who introduced him to George "Rusty" Arnold II, then a young trainer based in the Midwest.  He started working for Arnold in 1979, took out his jockey’s license in 1982, and earned his first career win that year at River Downs.  Throughout his career he has consistently finished among leading riders in Ohio and Kentucky, with 10 River Downs titles since his first there in 1991. 

 Troilo, who will turn 48 on St. Patrick’s Day, has amassed career earnings surpassing $27 million.  His win total includes 78 stakes victories, recently including the 2008 River City Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs aboard Karelian.  He has 11 stakes wins at Turfway, most recently the 2008 Wishing Well with the outstanding race mare Lady Belsara, the 2008 Gowell Stakes with Step Out Smartly, and the 2009 WEBN Stakes with Parade Clown.


Among personal career highlights, Troilo counts a win for Calumet Farm aboard Antoniette in the 1999 River Cities Breeders' Cup; his races and win aboard multiple stakes winner Hail a Cab; and a streak in 1992 that brought him seven stakes wins at five different tracks. Troilo crafted a similar streak in 2003-04 when he won five stakes races with Devil Time, including a 16-length victory in the Best of Ohio Endurance at Beulah Park.

In addition to his jockey’s license, Troilo has held a Kentucky realtor’s license since 2003.  He makes his home in Burlington, Ky., with his wife, Mary, Turfway’s longtime director of simulcasting. Turfway Park Communications Department



Friday, February 20, 2009

John Velazquez Wins George Woolf Award

Presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950, this year marks the 60th presentation of one of racing¹s most prestigious awards. The Woolf Award honors and recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize Woolf, who was known as one of the greatest riders of his era and who died soon after a spill at Santa Anita on Jan. 13, 1946. The Woof trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey which adorns Santa Anita¹s Paddock Gardens area.

Velazquez, 37, was America¹s leading money-winning and Eclipse Award winning jockey in 2004 and 2005, and he is currently riding full-time at Gulfstream Park in Florida. He moved from Puerto Rico and began riding in New York in 1990, where he has amassed 24 riding titles at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga.

A winner of the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard the filly Rags to Riches, who was conditioned by one of his primary clients, Todd Pletcher, Velazquez has won six Breeders¹ Cup races and numerous other stakes nationwide. In 2004, he won the Bill Shoemaker Award for top Breeders¹ Cup performance by a jockey, as he took the Distaff with Ashado and the Sprint with Speightstown.

Velazquez, born Nov. 24, 1971, got his 4,000th career win on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park. His recent stakes victories include a win aboard the Pletcher-conditioned Cowboy Cal in the Gr. II Strub Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7. ³Johnny V.² as he is known in racing circles, has long been regarded as a leader among his peers and he commands the respect of horsemen and media throughout the racing world. Velazquez first came to New York at the best of fellow Puerto Rican and retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero, who currently serves as his agent. Velazquez is married to the former Leona O¹Brien, daughter of trainer Leo O¹Brien. They have two children, a daughter, Lerina, and a son, Michael Patrick. The Velazquez¹s reside permanently in New York.       
Past winners of the Woolf Award are Gordon Glisson (1950), William Shoemaker (1951), John Longden (1952), Eddie Arcaro (1953), Ralph Neves (1954), Ray York (1955), Johnny Adams (1956), Ted Atkinson (1957), Merlin Volzke (1958), Bill Boland (1959), Bill Harmatz (1960), Peter Moreno (1961), Steve Brooks (1962), Ismael Valenzuela (1963), Manuel Ycaza (1964), Walter Blum (1965), Alex Maese (1966), Donald Pierce (1967), Braulio Baeza (1968), John Sellers (1969), Laffit Pincay Jr. (1970), Jerry Lamber (1971), Angel Cordero Jr. (1972), John Rotz (1973), Alvaro Pineda (1974), Fernando Toro (1975), Sandy Hawley (1976), Frank Olivares (1977), Darrel McHargue (1978), Ron Turcotte (1979), Chris McCarron (1980), Eddie Delahoussaye (1981), Patrick Valenzuela (1982), Marco Castaneda (1983), Steve Cauthen (1984), Pat Day (1985), Jorge Velaszuez (1986), Don MacBeth (1987), Don Brumfield (1988), Larry Snyder (1989), John Lively (1990), Earlie Fires (1991), Jerry Bailey (1992), Kent Desormeaux (1993), Phil Grove (1994), Eddie Maple (1995), Gary Stevens (1996), Alex Solis (1997), Craig Perret (1998), Jose Santos (1999), Mike Smith (2000), Dean Kutz (2001), Russell Baze (2002), Edgar Prado (2003), Robby Albarado (2004), Ray Sibille (2005), Mark Guidry (2006), Jon Court (2007) and Richard Migliore (2008).

Velazquez will receive the Woolf Award at Santa Anita in late March or early April, with a specific date to be announced shortly.  Santa Anita Park Communications Department

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gomez Named Jockey of the Week

Gomez earned his most lucrative victory during the week when Life Is Sweet posted a three-quarter length win in the $200,000 La Canada Stakes (GII) on February 15 at Santa Anita.
The 37-year-old jockey also won a pair of $150,000 races on February 16 at the Arcadia, California track.  He rode Evita Argentina to a one-length win in the San Vicente Stakes (GII) and earned a 2-1/2-length triumph aboard Jibboom in the Buena Vista Handicap (GIII).
A Tucson, Arizona native who lives in Duarte, California, Gomez earned his second consecutive  Eclipse Award in 2008 as outstanding jockey.  He concluded the '08 season with $23,344,351 in purse earnings, a figure that left him only $10,609 shy of breaking Jerry Bailey's North American record for purse earnings in a season.
Gomez made his North American riding debut in 1988 at Santa Fe Downs in New Mexico, and has compiled 3,094 wins through Tuesday.  Thorougbred Times TODAY
Monday, February 16, 2009

Jockey Vitek returns from cancer treatment

On Saturday at Turfway Park, Vitek finished last in his first start in nearly a year but experienced one of the biggest triumphs of his life.

Vitek was diagnosed with myelogenous leukemia on February 16, 2008. After his first round of chemotherapy, Vitek’s cancer is in remission and he said his doctors told him to “go live.”

"After I went into remission, they told me there was a 60% chance it would come back. Now the odds are about 40%,” Vitek said. “I guess that makes me 40-to-1."

He started exercising horses in the mornings for trainer Ted Drury Jr. in November at Skylight Training Center on Oldham County, Kentucky. Vitek rode regularly for Drury for two years before his diagnosis and on Saturday at the Florence, Kentucky, track he made his return aboard Model’s Memo.

The four-year-old bay filly broke slowly in her first start in seven months and was bumped at the start. Model’s Memo finished last of seven in the six-furlong allowance/optional claiming race, but Vitek was just happy to be back in the saddle.

"It felt great," Vitek said. "She broke a little tardy and got slammed, so it kind of took her out of her game, but it was the first time back for both of us. I wasn't nervous, but I am excited. I wanted to get back not just for myself but for all the people who helped me do it."  Thoroughbred Times

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday, the 13th a lucky day for Jose Lezcano

         “He broke well and I was able to put him in good position,” said Lezcano. “He gave me an extra push at the quarter pole.”

         “Obviously, being from such a small town in Panama (Chiriqui) this is a big deal for me and my family. Even though I had dreams, I never thought I would get this far when I came to this country.”

         The 23-year-old, who arrived in the United States in 2003 to begin his professional career, earned his first victory in the States in 2004 aboard Cloudy Gray at Gulfstream Park, after a two-year run in his native Panama.

         Lezcano notched championships at Tampa Downs, the Meadowlands and Monmouth since arriving in the United States six years ago.

         Lezcano, third overall at the 2008 Gulfstream meeting with 55 victories (his mounts earned $1,555,222), also won last year’s Gulfstream Park Turf aboard Einstein and rode Maram home in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

         He is a graduate of the Laffit Pincay Jockey School in Panama.
Gulfstream Park Communications Department
Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mike Smith Named Jockey of the Week

Smith has ridden Stardom Bound in each of her six career starts, including a 1-1/4-length victory in the Las Virgenes Stakes on February 7 at Santa Anita Park.  The win was the fourth consecutive Grade I victory for the Tapit filly..
Stardom Bound was voted 2008 champion two-year-old filly after concluding her juvenile season with a win in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) on October 24 at the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.
Smith, 43, was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2003.  He won the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in 1993 and '94 after leading all North American riders by purse earnings both years.
A Roswell, New Mexico, native who lives in Pasadena, California, Smith was based in New York from 1989 to 2000, when he moved his tack to California.  He rode in his first race at age 11 in New Mexico.
Smith launched his career as a licensed jockey in 1982, and has compiled 4,753 wins through Tuesday, February 10.   Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Industry Veteran Belvoir Dead

 Born in 1942 in Payette, Idaho, Belvoir started a career as a West Coast trainer in 1960. He later switched roles to equine transportation, which he did for 35 years, most recently with American Horse Transportation.

Belvoir is survived by his parents; his wife of 30 years, Carol; son, Duane; daughter, Kelly; stepdaughters, Laura, Cindy and Marilyn; 10 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sister, Janet; and brothers, Howard, Bob, Gary, and Don.

A memorial service will be held Feb. 14 at 2:00 pm at the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association sales pavilion located at 3220 Emerald Downs Drive in Auburn.
In lieu of flowers please donations may be made to: The Jockey’s Guild, INC; 103 Wind Haven Drive Suite #200; Nicholasville, KY 40356.
The Blood-Horse

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Joe Talamo, 19, rides high at Santa Anita in "Jockeys"

"I was at a roadblock: Stay in Louisiana, or go elsewhere?" said Talamo, the New Orleans Fair Grounds' leading rider as an apprentice. "It was a hard thing... probably one of the hardest things I ever did in my life."

Talamo listened as Foret weighed all the possible relocation outcomes: Big fish in a small pond? Small fish in a big pond?

"Without hesitation, he looked at me and said, 'Mr. Chick, I want to be a big fish in a big pond,'" said Foret, a friend and adviser to Talamo. "He's gifted as a rider, and he also has the New Orleans personality. He really does."

On Friday night, the world got to see more of both.

Talamo is one of several riders competing at Los Angeles's Santa Anita Race Track who are profiled in "Jockeys," a new series that the Animal Planet cable network describes as a "docu-soap."

Now 19, Talamo is presented as a teen sensation in the series, an upstart poised to upstage some of Santa Anita's more seasoned riders.

"It was fun," Talamo said of the shoot. "It was the first time for all of us doing it. We didn't do it for money or fame or anything, but to hopefully get the sport recognition, (show) how great it is, how much we love it.

"At first we kind of knew where the cameras were. In the jock's room, it just kind of flew. Sometimes we didn't even know it was on."
"As jockeys, we all know," said Talamo, interviewed at the end of a January day during which he rode three winners at Santa Anita (he's currently the No. 4-ranked jockey there). "Knock wood, I haven't been hurt real bad yet, but I know I'm going to break a collarbone, break a leg. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. We take that chance. No one tells us to go out and ride horses 50 miles an hour. We take that chance.

Which is not always a good thing on reality TV, so here's the standard question for anyone who gets involved with the genre: Did Talamo do anything that might cause him -- or his family -- to cringe when he's watching the series?

"Nothing I know of," he said. "We'll see."

Since it's TV, the series also dwells dramatically on the workplace dangers jockeys face every day.

"As jockeys, we all know," said Talamo, interviewed at the end of a January day during which he rode three winners at Santa Anita (he's currently the No. 4-ranked jockey there). "Knock wood, I haven't been hurt real bad yet, but I know I'm going to break a collarbone, break a leg. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. We take that chance. No one tells us to go out and ride horses 50 miles an hour. We take that chance.

"It's not something that when we go out (we say), 'God, I hope this horse doesn't fall.' That's so far in the back of my mind. All I'm thinking about is winning. Horses are like every other animal, they have an instinct. When you're nervous, they're nervous. When you get scared, they're scared. So you have to be as calm as possible. I think that's what makes a good jockey."

A Marrero native and the son of an assistant trainer, Talamo began accompanying his father to the Fair Grounds at age 7, and riding at a training center at age 11. Since moving west, he's ridden at the Hollywood Park and Del Mar tracks in addition to Santa Anita.

Life in Los Angeles has been a bit of an adjustment, said Talamo, who owns a home near Santa Anita, but one he's enjoyed.

"One thing about L.A., it's very fast," he said. "The people are great.

"Everybody says they love my accent. I get that a lot."

Off the track, Talamo golfs and even tried surfing during the Del Mar meet.

"I fell many more times than I stayed up," he said.

Foret said that what he's seen of "Jockeys" so far depicts Talamo in a positive light.

"I think what you're going to see from the show is, the camera doesn't lie," he said. "They really show who Joe is. He's just a good kid from the West Bank of Jefferson Parish.

"Exponentially, his career is going to get better. Through this show, people are going to realize who Joe Talamo is.

"The trainers already know."

TV columnist Dave Walker can be reached at or 504.826.3429.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Court Enjoys His TV Show Experience

 The series was shot in Southern California, where Court had been based the last five years. This past month, however, he and his family decided to return to the Midwest, and in the spring Court will be based in Kentucky.

Court has been traveling back and forth from Oaklawn to California for stakes mounts and to close out his affairs. After three weeks of the Oaklawn meet, he is 1 for 28 with 11 second- or third-place finishes. Among his best local mounts is Initforthekandy, an allowance winner who is being pointed for the Grade 1 Apple Blossom.

Court is looking forward to the "Jockeys" series, noting that the producers' idea of giving the whole picture of a rider's life made the project appealing to him. He said filming began last October. The normally even-keeled Court looks for the show to at times reveal a surprising side of his personality.

"I was a little quiet, there wasn't much eventfulness to my character, and I had a few producers come to me and say I had to step it up a little more," he said. "They wanted everything.

"I said, 'You want color? I'll give you color. I've been around the racetrack too long. I'm 48 years old and I've learned to tame my tongue, but here we go.' That's part of the show; we do embarrass each other. We take turns having fun with it. I had a blast."

Court hopes the series will lure more fans for racing. He also hopes it gives those not familiar with the sport insight into the emotional and physical challenges jockeys face as professional athletes.

"I want people to realize that we're not just animated characters," he said. "We let things roll off our backs, but we also have lives that are very involved with family and just everyday circumstances.

"There's a lot of stress involved, and they're going to see, for the first time, the behind-the-scenes things they may have been aware of, or they may never have been aware of."
Mary Rampellini/Daily Racing Form
Thursday, February 05, 2009

"Jockeys" Series Shares Insiders' View

 The series, which will be broadcast in high definition in two half-hour episodes each Friday over the next six weeks, promises to take the viewer inside the world of jockeys in a way that nothing has before. Filmed mostly during last fall's Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita, the previews and advertisements for the series have concentrated on the danger aspect of the profession. But all the angles will be covered, both on and off the track, promise the show's executives.

"When I was growing up my step-father bet on the horses for a living," said Liz Bronstein, who is executive producer of the series along with her best friend, Tina Gazzero. "We used to spend Jewish holidays at the track. And when I came out here and started producing television, I really, really wanted to tell the story and wanted to make a television show about jockeys."

During a national teleconference Feb. 3, Bronstein said they developed the idea five years ago but couldn't sell it to anyone at the time.

"We really thought the idea of jockeys in this very high-stakes world was so compelling, and we couldn't get it going five years ago," Bronstein said. "And persistence pays off. Animal Planet -- we heard through the grapevine that they were looking to do a show in the world of horseracing about jockeys. And we charged in saying, 'We're the ones.' So, you know, it's been a long time coming. It's a passion project for both of us, and we really think it's just such an interesting world."

The producers -- along with Darrell Haire, western regional manager for the Jockeys' Guild, and Richard Shapiro, then the chairman of the California Horse Racing Board -- met with the Southern California Thoroughbred riding colony during last summer's Hollywood Park meeting and got the go-ahead from the riders. Haire, who has been a consultant on the show and is also featured, notes, "I've been with this from the get-go. This is special. We (the jockeys and the Guild) wouldn't have done it otherwise."

A pilot episode was developed and jockeys were interviewed. From those interviews, several were invited to participate as featured characters in the "docu-soap." Some declined, Bronstein said, because they didn't want the intrusion of cameras on their professional and personal lives.
“We looked for people who are passionate and would allow us to come into their lives,” Bronstein said. "We were given unprecedented access (to the jockeys' room). It was really incredible. We were so honored that we were allowed to film in there. We had cameras in there all day long, every day. And it definitely takes a little bit of time. I mean, it's true on every show that I do. It takes a little bit of time for people to get used to the cameras.

"We were nervous coming to the jocks' room that a couple of riders wouldn't want us in there and there would be issues and you know it actually turned out to be the opposite. The riders were all really welcoming. It ended up being really good."

Bronstein said that working with jockeys was refreshing in other ways.

"So often in this business, you're working with people who just really want to be on TV and really want to be stars, and they really want exposure desperately," she said. "And desperation has an odor. I think a lot of TV shows really suffer from that. And the audience, they just sense it, that someone is just really desperate to be on television. The jockeys were just absolutely the opposite. These were guys who didn't really care if they were on a TV show, didn't really need that sort of (fame).

"They love what they do, and I think all of them were involved with it because they love horseracing and they want more people to love horseracing and know about horseracing," Bronstein said. "They're really fun to be around. They're funny, they're lighthearted. They have a great time. I always thought that they were just going to be very serious and boring. And (it's) sort of just the opposite -- really a blast to film, a blast to be around.

"And I was surprised at how they were able to balance the competition and the friendship. You know, that they can be so competitive in the jocks' room and then everybody goes out to dinner and drinks some wine and talks through the day and give each other a hard time. But, you know, it's this very tight-knit family."

The seven jockeys who agreed to allow the cameras to follow them both at the track and in their private lives believe the series will give horse racing much needed exposure to the general public.

"I think it's great for the industry," said jockey Aaron Gryder, a 38-year-old rider whose relationship with up-and-coming Joe Talamo is a pivotal part of the opening episode. "Unfortunately over the last several years (racing's) had a lot of negative press, and it's only because we don't get the coverage. Not jockeys ... but horseracing. It's covered through the Triple Crown which is three racing days and the Breeder's Cup. But we get very little exposure in our sport and it's a wonderful sport.

"And I think this show's going to bring a lot of people that maybe disliked racing because they thought it might have been something different than what it is. Or it will introduce a lot of people that knew nothing about horseracing and never followed it into going to see it. It's a great sport."

Gryder, who has won more than 3,000 races in a 22-year career, says he has seen the difference in the jockeys' room at Santa Anita over the years.

"When I first started riding, it seemed like the jockey's room was a much older room," he said. "And, you know, it's a very young room now, so, I guess I am one of the older guys."

But not so much older that he can't pull a prank on the 18-year-old Talamo, whose locker is next to Gryder's. At one point, Talamo throws a fit when he finds a parking enforcement boot has been placed on his car with a note attached to the windshield, saying, "subject to arrest." Gryder said he was laughing because he was the one who had the boot put on.

"He grabs the microphone off his shirt, throws it on the ground, and says, 'Dammit, this is serious!'"

Later, Talamo is on the phone explaining his unpaid parking tickets to the track stewards, who know nothing about what he's talking about.

Gryder said he and Talamo enjoy "messing with each other."

"But I think he also looks up to me for advice, different things that might happen in a race or something that I tell him that he says or does ... and I tell him, 'That's not the way you want to be portrayed. Just leave that alone. You know, don't go in that direction,' " said Gryder.

"So I think it was pretty real with Joe and I, but there's not always that interaction with the younger riders," Gryder added. "I mean, it's hard when a young rider maybe has no job that pays him anything until they get their first license at 16 years old and now they're thrown into a man's sport where you could easily make, you know, $10,000, $12,000 a week."

The three-year relationship between Mike Smith, a Hall of Fame rider, and the Canadian jockey Chantal Sutherland, a relative newcomer in California, is also an early staple of the series.

"Mike and I are competitive when we are at the racetrack," Sutherland said. "He's a very well known rider, (so) we kind of have different business and so I kind of respect him and then I learn from him. And I'm still a learning jockey. I'm up and coming. But when we're racing against each other, deep down inside, I want to beat him so I can come home and maybe not gloat, but I could just silently gloat. And, you know, it's more of a fun thing, and also he is a very good teacher. He also is a good sport in that he'll always tell me when I ride well.

"It's nice when you ride a race and you don't do so well or you think that you could have done something different, I'll watch his races or he'll watch mine and he'll say, 'You know, you rode a good race. There's nothing you could have done. You know, you did everything you could. That horse -- you didn't have enough horse.' It's kind of supportive. So, I know it's a really interesting dynamic and I think that when you watch the show you'll see all angles of it. But it is a unique relationship for sure."

Sutherland said she came to forget about the filming even as it was going on around her.

“At first, it was kind of awkward having so many cameras in your house,” Sutherland said. “After a while, you get used to the cameras and the guys working with us and everything just got easy for us. It kind of worked out and flowed on its own.”

The other featured riders are Jon Court, Alex Solis, and Kayla Stra. Many of the other jockeys from the West Coast riding colony also make appearances.

Early on, Stra, a young female rider from Australia trying to gain a foothold in Southern California, is seen marching through the barn area at Santa Anita with her agent trying to drum up business while letting her frustration show.

Later, still in quest of an elusive first victory at the meet, she wistfully tells a friend, "Winning a race is like ... better than sex."
Jack Shinar/The Blood-Horse
Thursday, February 05, 2009

Leparoux Named Jockey of the Week

Leparoux also led all North American riders by purse earnings with $455,860.
The 25-yeaer-old native of Senlis, France, guided Saratoga Sinner to a three-quarter-length win in the $150,000 Holy Bull, a 1-1/8-mile race for three-year-olds, for his most lucrative win of the week.
Leparoux, who had 30 mounts, also tied for the most victories during the period with Juan Diaz, who won 10 races from 21 mounts.
Leparoux currently ranks third behind Rafael Bejarano and Garrett Gomez on the list of North American jockeys by purse earnings for the year with $1,394,030 through Tuesday.
Leparoux, the son of former jockey-turned-trainer Robert Leparoux, grew up around racing in Chantilly, France, and rode competitive hunter-jumpers until his father allowed him to begin a racing career at 18.  He came to Southern California in January 2003 to work as an exercise rider for trainer Patrick Biancone, who shortly thereafter made Leparoux his first-call rider.
Leparoux won the 2006 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice.  He has won riding titles at Keeneland Race Course, Churchill Downs and Turfway Park.
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Jockeys hope series boosts racing's exposure

 Gryder put a boot on Talamo’s car and placed a ticket on the vehicle that said ‘subject to arrest.’ When Talamo rushed to his car, he made a huge scene and was very upset.

A phone call to the stewards soon followed, and Talamo told on himself for parking tickets that the stewards knew nothing about. 

Over the course of six weeks, this scenario and many others documenting the lives of seven jockeys on and off the track will be broadcast to the world in 30-minute episodes scheduled to run back to back each week.

The documentary series “Jockeys” makes its television premiere on Friday at 9 p.m. EST on Animal Planet. The 12-episode series was filmed during the recent 30-day Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting that culminated with the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

“This will be the first great exposure we’ve had in racing in many years,” Gryder said during a national teleconference on Tuesday.

Each one of the seven jockeys was given a two- or three-word description to summarize his or her persona in the documentary.

Mike Smith “The Icon” and Chantal Sutherland “The Breakout Female Star” compete on the track daily while working to maintain a romantic relationship off of it.

Gryder “The Working Man” and Talamo “The Hotshot” are riders separated by 19 years but only two lockers in the Santa Anita jocks’ room.

“When I first started riding, the jockeys room seemed like a much older room,” Gryder said. “It’s a very young room now.”

Veteran Jon Court “The Elder Statesman,” Alex Solis “The Comeback Kid,” and Kayla Stra “The New Girl” also are featured.

Although the daily drama of top-level Thoroughbred racing and the  competitiveness between the athletes is at the core of the program, personal vignettes filmed before and after the races are meant to show the softer, human side of the jockeys, who take their lives into their hands each time they take a mount.

Five years ago, co-producers Liz Bronstein and Tina Gazzerro were unsuccessful in selling their jockey documentary idea—until Animal Planet expressed interest.

“We charged in and said, ‘We’re the ones’,” Bronstein said.

Featured jockeys were selected based upon personal interviews conducted in the jocks’ room.

“We looked for people who are passionate and would allow us to come into their lives,” Bronstein said.

Animal Planet and the crews were given unprecedented access to the track and the jockeys. Despite the obvious intrusion, Gryder said the camera crews were respectful to the riders as they tried to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

“It’s different when the cameras are not following you because it means you haven’t done enough to warrant it,” said Gryder, who appeared in an episode of the HBO hit television series “The Sopranos.”

For some of the jockeys, however, it took time to adjust to crews following them around at all times, especially in their homes.

“At first, it was kind of awkward having so many cameras in your house,” Sutherland said. “After a while, you get used to the cameras and the guys working with us and everything just got easy for us. It kind of worked out and flowed on its own.”

For more information on the show and to see a short preview, click here.
Laura Pepper/Thoroughbred Times
Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Gulfstream Park presented the Jockeys’ Guild with a $22,000 check Saturday

          The donation was made possible in part by a state-tax credit program that the Guild put together in conjunction with Gulfstream Park.

          “Riders risk life and limb every time they get into the saddle,” said Mr. Murphy. “Gulfstream and MEC have a long-running, positive relationship with America’s riders. Sympathetic state lawmakers also deserve credit for putting this law in the books, and we look forward to working with them in the future, expanding this program and creating programs for thoroughbred retirement.”

          Saturday’s presentation came between the Holy Bull Stakes and the debut of Barbaro’s brother, Nicanor.  Gulfstream Park Communications Department

Monday, February 02, 2009

Vitek Set To Get Back In Race

But in the painful weeks and months that followed, with the help of friends and family, Vitek found the will and strength to fight the acute myelogenous leukemia that currently is in remission.

In fact, Vitek is feeling so good that he intends to return soon to what he loves: being a jockey. Granted the okay by his physicians, and having exercised horses on a regular basis for the last couple of months, Vitek, 35, is open for business at the winter-spring meet at Turfway Park. Although he was named to ride a colt named Furillo in the seventh race Saturday at the Florence, Ky., track, the horse was scratched, meaning Vitek will be waiting a few more days to ride in a race for the first time since Feb. 14, 2008.

"There's nothing else I care to do, really," Vitek said this week from his home in Sulphur, Ky., located some 35 miles northeast of Louisville and about 50 miles southwest of Turfway. "I'm basically trying to go on with my life. I'm not going to stop living my life just because something might happen to me."

Vitek said he has been getting on about four or five horses per day at the Skylight training center near Goshen, Ky., with Tom Drury, who oversees a stable of about 40 horses, being his main supporter.

"I think this says a lot about Justin's character," said Drury. "The fact he's made it back this far after all he's been through is something else. Anything with four legs and a pulse, he's been willing to get on, that's how intent he is on getting back into riding. He's put a whole lot into this."

Vitek (pronounced VEE-tek) grew up near Houston and began his riding career in 1993, eventually moving around to several different circuits before settling in Kentucky. He has won 763 races from 8,205 mounts.

The form of leukemia that Vitek has is virulent and relatively rare but potentially curable. Vitek has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy, including highly aggressive "introduction" treatments soon after he was diagnosed with the disease. Those treatments, he said, caused him to be weak and nauseous, and his spirits dipped to unimaginable lows during that time period.

"My mom stayed with me for about three months, and I had a lot of great friends pulling me through," he said. "Without all them, I don't know how I could've gotten through it all. There were a lot of people who took phone calls from me in the middle of the night - countless people."

Vitek, who shares custody of a 5-year-old daughter with his ex-wife, said he has undergone recent treatment at the renowned M.D. Anderson cancer center in Houston, partly in preparation for the possibility that he might be required to undergo a bone-marrow transplant.

"If the leukemia comes out of remission, I'll probably have to have a transplant," he said. "They're going to check me periodically. In case things go south, they'll be ready."

But Vitek hopes his upward cycle will continue and his comeback will proceed as hoped.

"My doctors said to take it as you can get it," he said. "There's no guarantee it's going to come back, and no guarantee it won't. So I'm going to do it while it's good."
Marty McGee/Daily Racing Form


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