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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Well Done, Aaron

My maiden journey to Dubai began at John F. Kenney Airport on the morning of March 21. Excited, as well as a bit nervous about traveling solo so far from home, I was delighted to see a familiar and friendly face in jockey Aaron Gryder in the Emirates Lounge before the 12 1/2-hour journey through several time zones.

Gryder, who was accompanied by his brother, Jason, had just flown in on the red-eye from California, but you would have never known it. He was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and completely pumped for yet another trip to the Middle East – he had already made the trek on nearly two-dozen occasions to ride in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Little did I know –although Gryder thought he had a heck of a chance – I was conversing with the jockey who so deservedly, seven days later, would win the biggest race thus far in his 22-year career.

Gryder, 38, enthusiastically chatted about Well Armed, whom he had ridden to a third-place finish in the 2008 World Cup. He assessed this year’s 14-horse field and said he thought Asiatic Boy, who just nipped Well Armed for second last year, would be his main contender. Gryder also stressed that Well Armed, who has flourished on synthetic tracks on the West Coast, is a better dirt horse, despite having just one win in four starts on conventional dirt tracks before the 2009 World Cup.

The rider praised Eoin Harty, Well Armed’s California-based trainer, for his work with the 6-year-old gelding that resulted in a calmer and more relaxed animal during the course of the last year. As an illustration, Gryder recounted Well Armed’s pre-travel breeze at Santa Anita Park on March 15.

“Before the work, we were just standing there with the pony, and Well Armed was just taking everything in,” Gryder recalled. “He was so relaxed, and he hasn’t always been like that. I guess we stood there long enough for Eoin to call me on my cell phone and ask: ‘Is everything alright?’”

Gryder and Well Armed are well-acquainted with each other. The rider has been the regular pilot of the WinStar Farm-owned homebred, since Well Armed came to the United States in 2006, via Great Britain and the United Arab Emirates. A well-respected member of the New York jockey colony for many years, the mount on Well Armed would never have come Gryder’s way had he not switched his tack in 2006 to his native California, where he launched his career in 1987.

In California, Gryder, who notched his 3,000th career win just a little more than 24 months ago, has created a niche for himself as a very capable, steady and reliable rider. He has also gained popularity of another sort. He is one of several riders featured on the Animal Planet’s “Jockeys”, a reality show that began filming its second season the evening Gryder left California for New York, and his onward journey to Dubai. The Animal Planet provided Gryder with a nifty hand-held recording device that he would use to document his experience in Dubai. Needless to write, the Animal Planet crew had to be head-over-heels with Well Armed’s emphatic 14-length victory in the World Cup.

A father of two, Gryder shared with me an amusing story about his 6-year-old daughter, Grace, who is so over-the-moon about being part of “Jockeys” that whenever the film is rolling, she can’t help but look directly in the camera and gleefully wave. “Then it’s time for Take Two,” Gryder chuckled.

Gryder is extremely likeable, gracious, and self-effacing. Simply put: He is one of the good guys in racing. It would be difficult to find anybody who didn’t believe the glory the rider found in the desert Saturday evening was well-earned.

Outside the jockeys’ quarters, following his World Cup victory, I gave Gryder a bear hug, and said: “Well done.”

He replied: “Well Armed.”

Indeed.
Karen Johnson/NTRA Blog
Karen M. Johnson, a freelance writer, is a New York correspondent for The Blood-Horse and a staff writer for The Saratoga Special and Keeneland Special. A former reporter for Daily Racing Form, she has written a book, The Training Game, about modern-day trainers for Daily Racing Form Press, which will be released in April. She is a daughter of Hall of Famer Phil Johnson, who trained 2002 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi, a horse co-owned and bred by the Johnson family's Amherst Stable.
Monday, March 30, 2009

Riders Up! For a Good Cause at Keeneland

            “American Idol” watch out. 
   On April 17, several Keeneland jockeys and retired riding legends will perform in Riders Up!, a karaoke-style talent competition presented by Keeneland and the Jockeys’ Guild to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Lexington’s own Tony-nominated actress Laura Bell Bundy will host the show.

 

            Tickets are available for the event, which will be held at the Keeneland Entertainment Center and is open to the public. The evening will feature a “Bayou Meets the Bluegrass” buffet and cash bar.

 

            Among the jockeys scheduled to perform are Robby Albarado, Jon Court, Brian Hernandez, Jamie Theriot and John Velazquez, along with retired legendary riders Jerry Bailey, Angel Cordero Jr., Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Earlie Fires and Patricia Cooksey.

 

            A panel of celebrity judges from the music and racing industry will critique the jockeys as they perform with a live “all-star” band and back-up singers. Judges include Kentuckian Eddie Montgomery of the chart-topping country duo Montgomery Gentry and his wife, Tracy. The Montgomerys will be joined by Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas; DeAnn Stephens, radio host of 98.1 The Bull’s Moo Crew; and Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's Director of Sales who promises to add Simon Cowell-like critiques of the performances.

 

             Tickets may be purchased online at www.jockeysguild.com for $50 (advance purchase only). Space is limited.

 

            Established in 2006, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund provides much-needed financial assistance to jockeys who have suffered catastrophic injuries such as paraplegia and head injuries while performing their services as a jockey. These injuries not only prevent them from returning to racing but also limit their opportunities for gainful employment. 

 

            “Presently, the fund provides financial assistance to 60 jockeys,” said Terry Meyocks, the Guild’s national manager. “This assistance helps with the day-to-day living expenses as well as medical expenses and in-home care.  Many of these injuries have occurred while they are only in their 20s or 30s, many with young families who have been faced with a new way of life and all the challenges that come with it.

 

            “We wish to thank Nick Nicholson for making the event possible at Keeneland.” 

 

 

Riders Up! At A Glance

 

Date: Friday, April 17

Location: Keeneland Entertainment Center

Time: 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Benefits: Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund

Attire: Casual

Tickets: $50 each, which includes buffet.  A cash bar will be available.  Tickets may be purchased online at www.jockeysguild.com.

 

# # # #

 

            For further information contact Amy Gregory at 859 288-4376 or Jim Williams at 859 288-4220.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Desormeaux To Ride Entire Churchill Spring Meet

Desormeaux, who won last year's Kentucky Derby on Big Brown, has spent the past two fall meets in Louisville, tying for third in the standings with 21 last fall and fourth in 2007 with 20 wins. But after Derby week, he has gone on to New York for the Belmont spring meet and Saratoga.


Now he says he'll ride at Churchill and take the two weeks off before Saratoga begins. Two of his biggest outfits will be Kenny McPeek, for whom he rides Theregoesjojo in Saturday's Florida Derby, and Bill Mott, on whom he won last Saturday's Lane's End on Hold Me Back.


"I'm going to stay all meet," Desormeaux said at Gulfstream. "I might even buy a house this time. Instead of going back to Belmont, I'm going to pull the Pat Day schedule. I enjoy it. I really do. All I do is follow the horses. Wherever Kenny or Billy feel I'm needed, or wherever a power stable needs me, I'm going to go where the fast horses are. That's my job."  Jennie Rees/Louisville Courier-Journal
Friday, March 27, 2009

Female Jocks Making Up Ground

More than 2,000 miles to the West, Chantal Sutherland is tracking along the backside of California's Santa Anita Race Track with fellow rider Dee Dee Williams in hot pursuit. Sutherland's horse is beginning to tire, but she knows Williams might have a shot. They hit the final turn. "You go, girl!" she screams. "You go, go, go!"

All the way over on the East coast, Maylan Studart is powering down to the finish line at New York's Aqueduct Race Course. The stretch drive sparks an adrenaline rush, the competitive instinct kicks in. She hurtles under the wire, victorious, to claim her 40th career victory.

You've come a long way, baby.

These female jockeys are holding their own at tracks across the country, riding with a talent and consistency that hasn't been seen since the days of that plucky little Julie Krone. Karlsson, 25, became only the second woman to win a title at Arlington Park in Illinois last summer and was runner-up for the 2008 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice. Sutherland, 32, won Canada's Sovereign Award for Outstanding Apprentice. Studart, 19, was one of four female riders in her entire native country of Brazil before moving her tack to Aqueduct's tough circuit this past winter. And they're not alone.

Anna Rosie Napravnik. Emma Jayne Wilson. Jackie Davis. They're the new blood, taking the reins from legends such as Patricia Cooksey and Donna Barton Brothers, riding a path blazed by racing's first recognized girl jocks (like Barbara Jo Rubin, who, in 1969, became the first female to ever win at a recognized racetrack). And one thing's for sure: they may be outnumbered in a sport where the guy-girl ratio hovers around 90-10, but it's a heckuva lot easier for a woman to ride races today than it was forty years ago.

Agent Penny Ffitch-Heyes ought to know. A former steeplechase jockey, she's the manager of Karlsson's book. Her rider has talent, no question. Surviving the Chicago circuit without an apprentice allowance, the Swedish native could confidently take her tack to tougher locals: Kentucky, New York, California. So what if she's in the minority? She knows what she wants and she's going after it with an athlete's determination.

"Being a girl is definitely not the disadvantage it was 10 or 20 years ago," says Ffitch-Heyes. "But even back then, I never played the 'girl card.' To survive the test of time, you have to prove yourself, male or female."

Karlsson has done just that, dominating the standings at Arlington and Hawthorne with incredible gumption. A former boxer in her native land, she has everything it takes to move to the next level.

"People said, 'are you sure you want to be in Chicago? That's not a girl's place,'" Karlsson recalls. "That made me even more determined. I went into it 100%, training four to five hours per day, doing like I would do if I was going to be in a boxing fight, preparing myself just like that. I told myself, if I'm gonna do it, I'd better make it."

That attitude was typical of the hard-knocking female athletes who competed in the saddle in the past.

"Since when did we become a bunch of girl riders?" asks Donna Barton Brothers, who retired in 1998 after piloting more than 1,000 winners. "It never was like that when I was riding. My goal was always to be the best rider I could be, to ride has hard and strong and well as any other rider on the racetrack."

Film producer Jason Neff has been researching this very topic, collecting information for the documentary JOCK about the first generation of women who won the right to compete as professional jockeys. Those pioneering riders faced discrimination and harassment due to their gender, but they persevered to win a major women's rights battle in a sport known for its' somewhat archaic society.

"Some of the opinions were unreal," he says. "Women 'weren't emotionally capable of riding in a race,' or women's reflexes 'weren't as quick as a man's.' I think that women bring a certain quality to riding that wasn't really acknowledged back then. Connecting with the horse, working with finesse, I don't read anything about that. Back then it was all about strength."

That's a challenge female riders still face — as recently as this season, Sutherland had an owner choose to take her off a horse because he "didn't want a girl" riding his runners.

"I would love to ask him why," she says. "A gentleman like that, who doesn't really want people to know, that's good, because it means his attitude is pretty much taboo."

For the most part, however, polished technique and proven success is all that owners and trainers are looking for in a rider.

"When I first started it was people telling me they couldn't let me ride for them because I was a girl," Karlsson says. "But when you start beating them they're going to put you on sooner or later, just because they get aggravated when you keep beating them. By the end of the Arlington season, I had trainers cheering me on in the paddock because they saw how hard I was working for the title."

And how do today's male jockeys feel about their female counterparts?

"The boys in the jocks' room treat me so well," Sutherland says. "They look after me, they're nice to me, and if we have an argument it's like having one with your brother. We're competitive out of respect for each other."

"(Longtime leading Chicago rider) Chris Emigh came up to me one day and said, 'You know, we used to make fun of you,'" Karlsson recalled. "Then he smiled and said, 'We're not making fun of you any more.'"

Taking on the boys. It sounds like such a challenge. Not so long ago, it was. But today?

"It's something," Studart says, "That every woman does in this world."

Claire Novak is an award-winning journalist whose coverage of the Thoroughbred industry appears in a variety of outlets, including The Blood-Horse Magazine, The Albany Times Union, and NTRA.com. She lives in Lexington, Ky.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Desormeaux Named Jockey of the Week

Desormeaux picked up his most lucrative win of the week when he rode Hold Me Back to victory in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes (GII) on March 21 at Turfway Park.  The next day, he won the $150,000 Orchid Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream Park with Dress Rehersal (Ire).
 
A Maurice, Louisiana, native who lives in Garden City, New York, Desormeaux was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.  He made his North American riding debut in 1986 and had posted 5,108 wins through Tuesday.
 
Desormeaux, 39, won an Eclipse Award as North America's outstanding apprentice rider in 1987.  He received the same honor as North America's outstanding jockey in 1989 and 1992.
 
Desormeaux, Chris McCarron and Steve Cauthen are the only jockeys to win Eclipse Awards as an apprentice and journeyman.  Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Five Facts You Won't Read in the New York Times


1. Anabolic steroids have been effectively banned in racing states representing 99.96 percent of Thoroughbred pari-mutuel handle.

2. Nearly 80 racetracks are participating in a new national injury reporting system that will provide comprehensive data leading to a safer racing environment. 

3. National standards have been adopted with regard to horse shoe and hoof care that will lead to fewer equine injuries and greater health and safety for both horse and rider.

4. More than 55 racetracks – representing more than 90 percent of the Thoroughbred pari-mutuel handle in the U.S. – as well as owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, virtually every major horsemen's organization, veterinarians and regulators, and even fans, have pledged their support of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

5. Through an accreditation system similar to that utilized in industries like healthcare and education, members are instituting uniform policies relating to injury reporting; medication; testing and penalties; safety research; a safer racing environment; and aftercare of retired racehorses. Specific reforms involve pre- and post-race veterinarian exams, out-of-competition testing, security and testing protocols, and use of the riding crop, among others.  We are just getting the accreditation process underway with the Triple Crown tracks, Delaware Park, Keeneland and Hollywood Park currently slated to be  the first tracks accredited this Spring (See my previous blogs "All Aboard" and "The Code" on this topic).  The accreditation process is time consuming, and ongoing compliance with the reforms will be very demanding.  Real change does not occur overnight.

Through this blog I have strived to keep you updated on the industry's progress while also providing a vehicle for two-way communication. You have helped create a process that has led to a greater degree of transparency and better end result and for that I thank you.

Up until now, I've asked you to comment on issues relating to my blog. Today, I am asking you to read my response to the Times and to use e-mail and Twitter (@joedrape) to let Mr. Drape know if you agree with all or portions of what I wrote.  

This movement toward reform has succeeded to this point based on the collaborative efforts of industry participants including customers and fans like you. The next several months will be vitally important to the industry as media re-visit the events of last year's Triple Crown.  We do not doubt Mr. Drape's sincerity and concern for the safety of our equine and human athletes and we welcome any suggestions and constructive criticism. All we ask is that he and others get the facts right.

Thanks in advance for helping me set the record straight and for everything you do for our game. Alex Waldrop/President & Chief Executive Officer NTRA
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Derby Nears, but Safety Rules Don’t

Last summer, in the wake of Eight Belles’s death, a Congressional subcommittee scolded the industry for endangering thoroughbreds with lax drug policies and faulty breeding, saying that the sport emphasized greed over transparency. It urged horse racing to empower a central governing body. To make that happen, it threatened to reopen legislation that allows all-important interstate wagering.

Nothing has changed.

“I am a firm believer that we need a commissioner — someone who holds everyone accountable,” said Rick Porter, who owned Eight Belles and owns this year’s highly regarded Derby contender Old Fashioned. “We were a major sport, and we could be again. Instead, we’re going right down the tubes because it’s business as usual for our so-called leaders.”

In October the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, a trade group that lacks the powers of a governing body, formed a Safety and Integrity Alliance, with the goal of establishing national standards. Like most other initiatives in the sport over the past decades, however, it promotes suggestions rather than policies because it cannot hand down binding punishments.

It is the reason a laissez-faire attitude still permeates a sport that has become unsettling to follow for casual and devoted fans alike. Otherwise, how could Paul J. Campo, the vice president and director of racing for the New York Racing Association, explain the recent spate of fatal breakdowns at Aqueduct — 12 euthanizations since Nov. 14 — as essentially the cost of doing business?

“I don’t think there is any explanation to it,” Campo told William C. Rhoden of The New York Times last week. “It’s an unfortunate part of our industry that we don’t like. But we try to minimize any type of breakdowns we have using all the policies and procedures we have in place.”

There is plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence suggesting that breeding for the marketplace rather than the racetrack and relying too heavily on medications have put thoroughbreds at risk. Still, no consistent rules for breeding or medications have been put in place across the nation. In Europe and Asia, including Dubai, no race-day medication of any kind is permitted. Is it a coincidence that in all of those regions, horse racing is a financially healthy industry with ardent fans who consider it a major sport alongside soccer and cricket?

Gosden, Mafaaz’s trainer, insists that a healthy 3-year-old should not need medication to race. He should know; he worked in California in the early 1980s when he trained two Eclipse champions. In October he brought Raven’s Pass to Santa Anita and upset the United States’ two-time Horse of the Year, Curlin, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“These horses aren’t racing on medication and don’t require it,” he said of Mafaaz and Close Alliance, his two runners in the Derby Challenge. “Medication is a thorny subject, and the sooner we have one set of rules across the United States, the better, but maybe I’m dreaming to say it.”

Just think of how the conversation about horse racing would change if Mafaaz, a colt from England who has been raised on hay, oats and water, as old-timers like to say, won the Derby.

Last year, the excitement of Big Brown’s bid to become the 12th Triple Crown winner dissipated when his trainer, Rick Dutrow, conceded that Big Brown had been given the anabolic steroid Winstrol leading up to the Derby. When Dutrow abandoned Big Brown’s steroid treatment before the Belmont Stakes and his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, had to ease the colt on the final turn and trot him home in last place, the colt’s previously undefeated record and dominant performances in the Derby and in the Preakness Stakes were called into question. The discussion did hasten a ban on competing and training on steroids. But the damage to the sport’s credibility was already done.

Performances like Big Brown’s before the Belmont should be regarded suspiciously, as should Eclipse award-winning trainers with multiple medication violations and numerous suspensions. Horse racing does not have to reinvent the wheel but merely to return to its roots when it comes to breeding and drug policies.

Until horse racing demonstrates it takes the safety of horses seriously, why should anyone take it seriously?  

By JOE DRAPE/New York Times
Monday, March 23, 2009

A Pioneer Woman Jockey

“That’s nice to see,” Barbara Jo Rubin said. “It wasn’t always that way.”

Forty years ago, Rubin broke down doors and made history, becoming the first woman to win a race and the first to ride in New York. But she handled the difficulties and insults with restraint and won many races in a short time, proving that she belonged and helping ease the way into the sport for the women who have come along since.

Rubin, now 59 and a dressage instructor in Illinois, was recently honored at Charles Town Racetrack in West Virginia, where she became the first female to win a race, in 1969. “Jock,” a documentary chronicling the careers of Rubin and other pioneering female jockeys, is in the works.

On March 14, 1969, Rubin received her first New York mount, a 13-1 shot named Bravy Galaxy in the third race at Aqueduct. She rode flawlessly, bringing home a winner. Rubin made it look easy, but getting to that day was not.

She began riding at age 7 to strengthen her legs after contracting polio. Enamored with horses and the excitement of racing, she wanted to be a jockey. Bryan Webb hired Rubin to exercise horses in the mornings and helped prepare her.

She was set to make her riding debut on Jan. 15, 1969, at Tropical Park in Florida on a horse trained by Webb. But the male jockeys refused to ride against her and threatened to boycott not only Rubin’s race, but also the ones before it. Rubin’s dressing room trailer was pelted with rocks, one of which broke a window. Under pressure from track management, Webb agreed to have a man ride his horse.

“I always knew that eventually I’d be able to ride,” Rubin said. “Getting mad didn’t help. My attitude was that as long as I persevered, it was going to happen. When people got mad at me or angry, I’d just smile at them. They’d just get a little madder.”

The complaint heard most often from the men was that Rubin would be too weak to control a horse and, therefore, a safety hazard.

“I never thought that was really it,” she said. “The sport had been dominated by men for so many years, and everyone looked up to them as super athletes. I think they felt there would be a stigma if a woman rode, that if a woman could ride, how hard could it possibly be?”

Because she was unable to compete at Tropical, Rubin was not the first female to ride in a race. Diane Crump was allowed to ride in a race at Hialeah on Feb. 7, 1969, finishing 10th.

Fifteen days later, Rubin was permitted to ride at Charles Town. She won a race aboard Cohesion, establishing her place in the sport’s history.

By the time she came to New York, she was a celebrity. Rubin made appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “To Tell the Truth,” and her New York debut attracted a large crowd of reporters. Webb had run into trouble with racing authorities, so he ran Bravy Galaxy under the name of the trainer Buddy Jacobson.

“There was a lot of talk about not going out to ride,” said the former jockey Bill Nemeti, now a racing official at Aqueduct. “It didn’t matter to me one way or the other. I figured it would just be easier to win the race because one of the jockeys was a girl.”

Rubin said the crowd of 25,557 included supporters and detractors.

“When I came out on the track for the post parade, there were people yelling, ‘Go home and make babies’ or ‘Women don’t belong on the racetrack,’ ” she said. “I just tried to blank everything out. Other people were cheering for me, saying ‘Way to go’ or ‘Good for you, girl.’ ”

Bravy Galaxy outran the competition, and the next day, Rubin won in her second try in New York, guiding May Berry to victory. It was her seventh victory in only 11 mounts.

Rubin’s stay in New York was largely free of problems, but that was not the case everywhere. She said that during races, other riders would cut her off during races and that jockeys at Waterford Park in West Virginia once slashed her with their whips.

Nothing diminished her enthusiasm.

“No matter what track I was at, the feeling was the same every time I won,” she said. “It was a great feeling.”

But Rubin was involved in a number of spills; one resulted in a broken pelvis and neck. She was forced to retire after riding for less than a year, ending a short but historic career.Bill Finley/New York Times


Friday, March 20, 2009

"Jockeys" Renewed For Second Season

Following the successful first season, which brought in more than 9.2 million unique viewers, Animal Planet has ordered a second season of seven hour-long episodes set to premiere late this summer.

“It's our goal in the second season to bring viewers even deeper into the exciting, challenging and complex lives of the jockeys," said Marjorie Kaplan, President and general manager of Animal Planet. "Hour-long episodes give us a broader palette to do so and to create a richer experience of the whole world of racing, horses, and the track.”

For season two, the network, in conjunction with entertainment production house Go Go Luckey, will bring back six of the jockeys previously featured and introduce viewers to two new jockeys, Garrett Gomez and Corey Nakatani.

“The addition of Gomez and Nakatani will round out a class of jockeys whose professional and personal stories will pull viewers further into the enticing world of horse racing,” said Jason Carey, executive producer at Animal Planet. “We hope viewers will not only connect with the intense love of competition apparent in these athletes, but also appreciate the relationships the jockeys share with each other and with the horses they partner with in every thrilling victory.”

Returning to the show after appearing on season one are Chantal Sutherland, Mike Smith, Kayla Stra, Alex Solis, Joe Talamo, and Aaron Gryder. Jockey Jon Court will depart the show during the first episode of season two as he moves his riding base from California to the Midwest.
 The Bood-Horse/Edited from Animal Planet Press Release

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Albarado Named Jockey of the Week

Albarado rode Macho Again for the first time in a race in the New Orleans Handicap on March 14 at Fair Grounds, and the Macho Uno colt rallied to post a one-length victory.  The win was the first graded stakes triumph of the year for Albarado.
 
A Lafayette, Louisiana, native who lives in Louisville and New Orleans, Albarado made his riding debut at a licensed racetrack in 1990.  He had 3,968 career wins through Tuesday.
 
Albarado was the regular rider of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who was retired to stud following the 2008 season as the all-time leading North American-raced earner with career earnings of $10,501,800.
 
Albarado was also the regular rider of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft.
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Aussie Jocks Feel Padded Whips Compromise Safety

Corey Brown, Kerrin McEvoy and Stephen Baster and retired great Greg Hall said the Australian Racing Board would jeopardise jockey safety if it bowed to pressure groups and modified the whip.

The ARB is expected to decide tomorrow to bring in padded whips and restrict whip use nationwide as of August 1.

There is also pressure to abandon the whip all together, which jockeys universally agree would lead to greater rider death and injury.

Brown and McEvoy, who both ride for Australia's biggest stable, Darley Stud, said padded whips would be ineffective with some horses, potentially causing accidents.

"Say you get a wayward colt who could take charge of you," Brown said. "You give it a cut with a padded whip and there's no effect whatsoever. It's a safety issue, for sure."

McEvoy rode with padded whips while based in England with the Godolphin stable.

He recalled a terrifying incident behind the barriers one day where a colt reared a number of times, then took charge and ran off the track once the race began.

"I gave him a couple of cuts behind with the padded whip and it didn't have any impact on the horse at all," McEvoy said.

Hall doubted padded whips would do enough to control wayward or spooked horses.

"They'll learn very quickly not to respect it. They'll laugh at you. 'Is that all you've got?' they'll say," he said.

Hall and Baster said two-year-olds were the most risky to ride, and most in need of the current whip, because of their immaturity and lack of race smarts.

Baster said race results would change with padded whips, saying "con artist" horses usually cajoled to win by the whip would start losing.

Brown, McEvoy and champion hoop Damien Oliver agreed the number of times horses were allowed to be whipped in a race should be reduced.

Oliver said the padded whip should be introduced initially only in two-year-old races to monitor its effectiveness.
Matt Stewart/Herald-Sun
Monday, March 16, 2009

Arkansas Mount Fee Increase at Impasse

Cecil Alexander of Heber Springs, chairman of the Arkansas State Racing Commission, said he believed Friday that an agreement had been reached, but said during a regularly scheduled commission meeting Saturday that the two sides remain apart.

Alexander said Oaklawn will operate under the fee scale already in place until the meeting ends April 11.

He said negotiations will resume this summer in hopes of reaching an agreement for the 2010 meeting.

The commission has to approve any change in the fee scale.
Robert Yates/Arkansas-Gazette-Democrat
Friday, March 13, 2009

Fast-rising Talamo Takes Aim At Derby

There was no need to watch a movie, or find something to read. Talamo was busy reflecting on the events of recent weeks - his success at Santa Anita this year, and his win in Saturday's Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct aboard Triple Crown hopeful I Want Revenge. When he allowed himself to daydream, there was always the future.

"You keep thinking, I'm not supposed to be doing this good," Talamo said on Sunday.

Less than three years after riding his first race, and a little more than a year after the Louisiana native was honored with the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding apprentice jockey of 2007, Talamo is on the verge of his first Kentucky Derby mount with I Want Revenge.

Every time Talamo mentions the colt, especially the emphatic victory in the Gotham, an ear-to-ear grin creeps across his face. It is the look of a young man who cannot believe what is happening to him.

"I don't know how to put it into words," he said. "Just to ride in the Kentucky Derby would be incredible."

Talamo turned 19 in January - "I'm getting old," he said - and the milestones are piling up. He won his first riding title at Fair Grounds in 2007, and made the successful transition to riding on the tougher California circuit later that year. It was during that season that he earned the mount on Nashoba's Key, a mare he rode to wins in two Grade 1 stakes - the Vanity Handicap and Yellow Ribbon Invitational.

While Talamo did not win a Grade 1 stakes in 2008, he won the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap last month here aboard Santa Teresita. She is a leading contender in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita.

Santa Teresita pulled an upset at 13-1 in the Santa Maria. She will be a shorter price in the Santa Margarita, a race led by the 4-year-old Life Is Sweet.

Santa Teresita "is a stalker and I think she'll get first run," Talamo said. "That will help."

Through Sunday, Talamo was fourth in the jockey standings at Santa Anita with 30 wins. He will not win the riding title - Garrett Gomez leads the ranks - but Talamo is content with his placing.

"Santa Anita is the toughest meet out here other than Del Mar," he said. "To be in the top five is incredible."

Getting to the Kentucky Derby was foremost on his mind last weekend. He has seen one Kentucky Derby in person, as a 15-year-old spectator, in 2005 when Giacomo pulled off a major upset.

Talamo has ridden I Want Revenge in 5 of his 7 starts, including a maiden win in October; a second, by a nose, in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December; and a third in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride synthetic track in February.

Following the Robert Lewis, trainer Jeff Mullins opted to try I Want Revenge on a dirt surface, leading to the trip to New York. In the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes over 1 1/16 miles, I Want Revenge stalked pacesetter Mr. Fantasy to the final turn and pulled clear to win by 8 3/4 lengths.

"I think his performance goes to show what the difference in the dirt and Pro-Ride is for some horses," he said. "I thought he'd do that in his last race, but when I shook the reins at him he stayed even.

"It was interesting what he did [in the Gotham]. He didn't want to stop. I think that was the perfect race we were looking for."

Owned by David Lanzman, I Want Revenge will return to New York for the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct on April 4. Talamo will fly back to New York for the mount.

If I Want Revenge wins that race, he will creep closer to Nashoba's Key's status as Talamo's best mount. Riding a multiple major stakes winner such as Nashoba's Key early in his career gave Talamo a perspective on riding top horses.

"I think that was the best thing I could hope for," he said. "You want to get there again, to have that big horse."  Steve Anderson

Copyright © 2007 Daily Racing Form, LLC. All rights reserved.
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Leparoux Named Jockey of the Week

Multiple Grade I winner Einstein made his first start on a synthetic surface in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 and gamely responded with a one-length victory on the Arcadia, California track's Pro-Ride synthetic surface.  Leparoux rode Einstein in each of the Spend a Buck horse's previous three starts, including a win in the 2008 Clark Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs.
 
A Senlis, France, native who lives in Louisville, Leparoux earned his most lucrative victory in 2008, when he rode Forever Together to victory in the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly and Mre Turf (GI).
 
The 25-year-old Leparoux arrived in the United States in January 2003 to work as the excrcise rider for trainer Patrick Biancone, and he later became the first call rider for the fellow Frenchman.
 
Leparoux earned an Eclipse Award in 2006 as North America's outstanding apprentice jockey.  His father, Robert, was a jockey and assistant trainer in France.
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

KY Horsemen, Jockeys Disagree on Fees

Representatives of the Jockeys’ Guild and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association said they would favor a proposed across-the-board increase of $15 per mount in races where riders finish out of the top three places. But the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association would not endorse the plan.

Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky HBPA, said his board narrowly approved the increase, but just days after that decision Turfway Park announced a 5% purse reduction and the cutting of two stakes races. Maline also said legal counsel advised against approving the plan.

Commission members Ned Bonnie and Burr Travis have been talking with horsemen and riders in an attempt to reach a compromise on the mount fees. Bonnie said at the end of the last meeting, all three groups were given an agreement that would increase fees $15 across the board.

At Tuesday’s commission meeting, Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild, and Regional Representative Jeff Johnston said the riders would approve the plan, which would start with the Keeneland Race Course spring meeting and expire at year’s end. David Switzer, executive director of the KTA, said his group also would agree to the plan, but noted the KTA only represents horsemen at Keeneland and Churchill. Maline said the Kentucky HBPA would not sign the agreement.

“This has been how these talks have gone,” Johnston said. “The Kentucky HBPA tells us ‘yes’ one day and then they turn around and say ‘no.’ We have to be prepared to continue talking.”

Commission Chairman Robert Beck urged the groups to meet with commission members again but noted that if an agreement is not reached by next month, the commission would likely pass its own mount fee schedule.

“If you guys can’t do it, we’ll come up with our own agreement,” Beck said. “You may or may not be happy with what we come up with.”

Meyocks urged the commission to consider scrapping the mount fee structure listed in its regulations if an agreement cannot be reached. That could allow riders to negotiate their own fees. Meyocks said the fees originally were listed as a fallback plan but instead have become the accepted structure.

Currently, Kentucky riders receive $45 for a losing mount in a race with a purse of $5,000 to $9,999. The scale increases as the purses increase.

Frank Angst is senior writer for THOROUGHBRED TIMES

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gomez Tops Jockey Rankings

After achieving so much, many ask what drives them to continue to ride and succeed in the sport they love? What goals do they still have? Are there superstitions they believe in?

“I would be lying if I tell you that I am not superstitious,” said jockey Ramon Dominguez, who ranks sixth by earnings among North American jockeys in 2008. “I think that everybody is, especially in this game where you can see some horrible things happening. Luck seems to be such a big factor. I always try to get out of bed and be careful, with my right foot always first and for the races, so that is what I have been doing, and I feel that that will lead to a good day. I just feel superstitious, but I really try to separate myself from being too superstitious.”

Garrett Gomez led all jockeys by earnings, average earnings per mount, graded stakes wins, stakes wins, and percentage of stakes wins from mounts in 2008.

Racing Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze is the only other rider to lead any of the other statistical categories used in this annual feature profiling North America’s leading jockeys. He led all jockeys by number of winners, number of wins, and percentage of wins from mounts.

The profiles, listed by earnings at North American racetracks in 2008, were written by THOROUGHBRED TIMES editorial intern Laura Pepper.

To view the jockey rankings, click here.

1. Garrett Gomez

Garrett Gomez is on top, and he knows there are plenty of rivals who want to take him down. He says his competitiveness drives him to be even better.

“I just strive to be the best,” Gomez said. “It is that everyday [challenge] of somebody trying to knock you off that totem pole that gives me the drive, and just knowing that every day I get to go out there.”

The 2008 season marked the third straight year Gomez led all jockeys in North America by purse earnings. He fell only $10,609 short of breaking the all-time record of purse earnings in one season.

After earning his 3,000th career victory in September, Gomez went on to win a record four races at the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships and received the Bill Shoemaker Award for an unprecedented third time. He also earned his second straight Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey.

Despite the achievements, the 37-year-old Gomez still wants to win as many races as possible.

“The Pacific Classic [Stakes (G1)] has always been kind of a special race to me, and it has been really good to me also, so I would love to win it again,” Gomez said. “There are a lot of races that I want to win, including the Kentucky Derby [Presented by Yum! Brands] (G1) and all the Triple Crown races, the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), those kinds of things. There are those goals and just getting the right opportunity with the right horses to be able to accomplish something like that.”

Date of birth: January 1, 1972

Birthplace: Tucson, Arizona

Residence: Duarte, California

Primary tracks: Del Mar, Hollywood Park, Santa Anita Park

Leading earner in 2008: Go Between, $1,655,000

North American stakes winners in 2008: Albertus Maximus, Ariege, Babs Moossa, Black Mamba (NZ), Boss Lafitte, Bsharpsonata, Champs Elysees (GB), Chocolate Candy, Circular Quay, Colonel John, Communique, Costume (GB), Dawn After Dawn, Dawn Before Dawn, Dreaming of Anna, Emirates to Dubai, Giant Gizmo, Gio Ponti, Go Between, Hyperbaric, Hystericalady, Indian Blessing, J Be K, Johnny Eves, Just for Keeps, Lethal Heat, Looky Yonder, Lucky Copy, Mi Chiamano Mimi, Midnight Lute, Midshipman, Nashoba’s Key, Pioneerof the Nile, Proudinsky (Ger), Quite a Bride, Rewrite, Rutherienne, Salinja, Saucey Evening, Sky Mom, Spring House, Springside, Storm Military (Arg), Study Abroad, Sweeter Still (Ire), Tizdejavu, Tutta Bella, Ventura, Wait a While, Whatsthescript (Ire), Zappa

2. Rafael Bejarano

Whenever he poses for pictures with fans or in the winner’s circle after a race, Rafael Bejarano frequently makes the peace sign with his right hand. After a win, Bejarano heads into the winner’s circle, pumps his fist in the air, and looks to the sky, symbolic gestures that have become his trademark.

RAFAEL BEJARANO“I am a very nice person with everybody, I don’t make any difference with anybody, and I try to learn something new every day,” Bejarano said. “My love to me means a lot. I’m at peace with everybody, I love my family, [and] I love everything. I love what I do; I love horses, so peace and love.”

Bejarano’s switch to the West Coast in 2007 preceded a string of goal accomplishments for the native of Peru in ’08.

He became just the third jockey to sweep the major Southern California meeting riding titles, topping the standings at Santa Anita Park, Hollywood Park, Del Mar, and Oak Tree at Santa Anita. He also was a finalist for Eclipse Award honors as outstanding jockey for the second time in his career.

Bejarano frequently travels the world to compete in jockey competitions. For three years, he has traveled to his native Peru to compete in the Campeonato Internacional de Jockeys at Monterrico racetrack.

“It is so important doing something for my country, especially when it is a competition and a lot of new guys come from everywhere,” Bejarano said. “I love to be there to support my country.”

Bejarano receives advice from and looks up to fellow Peruvian jockey Edgar Prado and follows his personable approach.

“Edgar Prado is one of my best friends, and he gives me a lot of inspiration to do like him, to being like him,” Bejarano said. “My family, too, they give me a lot of inspiration.”

Date of birth: June 23, 1982

Birthplace: Arequipa, Peru

Residence: Los Angeles

Primary tracks: Del Mar, Hollywood Park, Santa Anita Park

Leading earner in 2008: Ginger Punch, $1,113,924

North American stakes winners in 2008: Albertus Maximus, Alexandra Rose (SAf), All Saint, Amazing Results, Azul Leon, Backbackbackgone, Bel Air Sizzle, Big Booster, Canteen, Double Trouble (Brz), El Gato Malo, Flashmans Papers (GB), Georgie Boy, Giant Gizmo, Ginger Punch, Golden Doc A, Heatseeker (Ire), In Summation, Kilderry, Kool Comic, Lethal Heat, Monzante, Pamona Ball, Passion, Precious Kitten, Proudinsky (Ger), Rebellion (GB), Silky Smooth, Slew’s Tiznow, Snoose Goose, Square Eddie, Trifecta King

3. Kent Desormeaux

Throughout the 2008 Triple Crown season and during his quest to sweep the classics aboard Big Brown, Kent Desormeaux drew inspiration from his nine-year-old son, Jacob.

KENT DESORMEAUXJacob was born with Usher syndrome, an inherited disorder that causes deafness and an advancing loss of vision. He utilizes cochlear implants to help hear sounds and glasses to see. Desormeaux hoped that joyful memories of the Triple Crown would help his son through tough times later in life.

After winning an allowance race aboard Big Brown at Gulfstream Park in early March by 12 3/4 lengths, Desormeaux canceled plans to ride on the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) program to guarantee a mount aboard Big Brown in the Florida Derby (G1). He and Big Brown won the Florida Derby by five lengths before teaming to dominate the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1). Big Brown came up short in the Belmont Stakes (G1) when Desormeaux eased him in the stretch, a defeat that came ten years after Desormeaux was dealt a painful Triple Crown-denying nose defeat on Real Quiet in the Belmont.

The 2008 season was also highlighted by Desormeaux’s 5,000th career victory on July 27 aboard Bella Attrice at Saratoga Race Course. He became just the 23rd rider to pass the milestone and earned a glass of champagne from the winner’s connections and a face full of cake with green frosting to commemorate the accomplishment.

Date of birth: February 27, 1970

Birthplace: Maurice, Louisiana

Residence: Garden City, New York

Primary tracks: Belmont Park, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland Race Course, Saratoga Race Course

Leading earner in 2008: Big Brown, $3,576,700

North American stakes winners in 2008: Adriano, Banrock, Big Brown, Carriage Trail, Casino Drive, Cool Coal Man, Eaton’s Gift, Halo Najib, Hungarian Boatbaby, Indescribable, La Dolce Vita, Love Cove, Mauralakana (Fr), Quite a Bride, Raffie’s Treasure, Roi Maudit, Sharp Susan, Silver Tree, Stormy West, Thorn Song, Under Serviced, War Monger, Zee Zee

4. Edgar Prado

Edgar Prado has overcome personal hardships in recent years, including the loss his beloved mother and the breakdown and subsequent death of Barbaro, but those setbacks and others do not prevent the veteran rider from continuing to succeed in his career.

EDGAR PRADO“I just have a lot of faith,” Prado said. “Faith to move mountains.”

Prado, who is one of 11 children, said family is a main source of inspiration. His father was a trainer in Peru, brother Jorge is a jockey-turned-trainer, and brother Anibal is a jockey in the United States.

Prado made Peruvians proud when he became the first jockey from that country to be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. Earlier that year, he earned his 6,000th career victory and two victories on the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) card.

Although he won the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) aboard Barbaro, the 41-year-old Prado continues to have Derby dreams.

“It is a great feeling,” Prado said. “It is something that will stay with you forever in the books, but the feeling that you experience all the time is something that you cannot describe. I would love to have the same feeling back again any time soon.”

In his book My Guy Barbaro, which was released in April 2008 and is a semifinalist for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award presented by Castleton Lyons and THOROUGHBRED TIMES, Prado recounts his experiences in Peru and the U.S. and of course his time with Barbaro.

“I have been thankful for the opportunities that I have had through the years to ride horses and meet so many great people and to give me the greatest success in my life—to give me the Kentucky Derby,” Prado said. “To meet a lot of good people in this business, it is priceless.”

Date of birth: June 12, 1967

Birthplace: Lima, Peru

Residence: Miami

Primary tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland Race Course

Leading earner in 2008: Tale of Ekati, $663,858

North American stakes winners in 2008: Adriano, American County, Arson Squad, Bayou’s Lassie, Benny the Bull, Buffalo Man, Bustin Stones, By the Light, Carriage Trail, Cosmonaut, Criminologist, Desert Party, Goodday, I Lost My Choo, Jade’s Revenge, Laragh, Logic Way, Megapixel, Midwatch, Miss Challenge, Monba, Rebellion (GB), Silver Tree, Sir Whimsey, Smart and Fancy, Starforaday, Stormin Normandy, Straight Faced, Tale of Ekati, Tamborim, Tough Tiz’s Sis, Trinity Magic, Vineyard Haven, Why Tonto, You Go West Girl

5. John Velazquez

John Velazquez describes himself as a good and honest person. He transfers these qualities to his career and is regarded throughout the Thoroughbred industry as a reliable, quality individual both on and off the track.

JOHN VELAZQUEZHis peers reflected those sentiments in 2008 when they voted Velazquez as the recipient of the ’09 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. The award goes to the jockey who earns esteem for the Thoroughbred industry through personal character and career accomplishments.

“Where do I get my inspiration from?” Velazquez said. “From the horses. Actually, it is just being competitive. I think you get that from being competitive and trying to be the best that you can be.”

Velazquez recorded his 4,000th career victory in September while riding at Belmont Park.
Since his career began in 1990, Velazquez has received two Eclipse Awards for outstanding jockey and scores of other honors. He has seven Breeders’ Cup wins, one Kentucky Oaks (G1) victory, and earned his first American classic win aboard Rags to Riches in the 2007 Belmont Stakes (G1).

“I pray to God. That is all I do,” Velazquez said when asked if he has any special prerace superstitions or rituals.

There are many races that Velazquez would still like to win, but the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) are at the top of his list.

“I am very thankful for the things that I have achieved in my career,” Velazquez said. “I am real thankful of the people that I work with that make my job a lot easier, especially the owners and trainers that make the job a lot easier. I owe everything really to the owners and trainers that really helped my career.”

Date of birth: November 24, 1971

Birthplace: Carolina, Puerto Rico

Residence: Hempstead, New York

Primary tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland Race Course

Leading earner in 2008: Commentator, $1,068,859

North American stakes winners in 2008: Ahvee’s Destiny, Altesse, Alwajeeha, Bittel Road, Cannonball, Commentator, Cowboy Cal, Criminologist, Distorted Reality, Elite Squadron, Game Face, Host (Chi), Hostess, Indian Blessing, Informed Decision, Keep Laughing, Luck Money (Ire), Merchant Marine, Parading, Ready’s Image, Real Estate, Red Giant, Return to Paradise, Roshani, Silver Knockers, Storm Play, Stud Muffin, Talking Treasure, Thunders Dove, Under Serviced, Wait a While, Zada Belle, Zaftig

6. Ramon Dominguez

Ramon Dominguez has his eyes on winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and might have a seriously good chance this year on Old Fashioned, but after moving his tack to the New York circuit in early 2009 a victory in America’s most famous race is not his lone goal.

RAMON DOMINGUEZ“Another thing that is definitely in mind since I am committed to making a change and riding full time on the New York circuit is to really try to win as many races as possible,” Dominguez said. “Just try to make a name for myself and establish myself as a New York rider.”

In 2008, Dominguez split his time between Delaware Park, Aqueduct, and Saratoga Race Course. He was Delaware Park’s leading rider and in the top ten by wins on the New York circuit.

Every race day, the inspirational words of Booker T. Washington that moved Dominguez from the moment he came across them shine from a paper in front of his locker. It says, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

“That is a sweet reminder when things are going a little rough or not as smooth as I would like to for the day,” Dominguez said. “It is not really all about winning. It is more about taking defeat well or overcoming obstacles. I really like that one.”

Dominguez, 32, said he does not try to prove a point to anybody and only tries to improve himself on a daily basis and win as many races as he can. In 2001 and ’03, Dominguez was North America’s leading jockey by wins. He earned the 2004 Isaac Murphy Award as North America’s leading rider by win percentage and was second leading rider by wins that same season.

Date of birth: November 24, 1976

Birthplace: Caracas, Venezuela

Residence: Elkton, Maryland

Primary tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course

Leading earner in 2008: Cocoa Beach (Chi), $1,115,170

North American stakes winners in 2008: African Violet, Aliysa (Brz), Altesse, Bustin Stones, Cocoa Beach (Chi), Court Vision, Deal Making, Dill Or No Dill, Eight Belles, Eternal Star, Fabulous Strike, Giant Moon, Go Go Shoot, Hadavision, Haynesfield, Independent George, Livin Lovin, Lord Snowdon, Love Co, Love Cove, Magical Forest, Mission Approved, Old Fashioned, Paint Me Red, Porte Bonheur, Pyramyst, Remarkable Remy, Seattle Smooth, Sky Diva, Smart and Fancy, Unbridled Belle, Wishful Tomcat

7. Alan Garcia

The 2008 season marked a breakthrough for Alan Garcia as he proved he could succeed against North America’s leading riders.

ALAN GARCIAAfter earning his first Breeders’ Cup World Championships victory aboard Lahudood (GB) in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1), Garcia gained his first classic win when he piloted Da’ Tara to an upset victory in the ’08 Belmont Stakes (G1) over Big Brown.
Garcia then finished second in the Belmont Park rider standings before taking the Saratoga Race Course meeting by storm, winning his first jockey title.

“I want to ride all the best horses I can,” Garcia said. “I want to be a good jockey, be professional in everything I do, and try my best.”

Garcia said his main sources of inspiration come from his grandfather and father, both former jockeys, and his agent, Tony Micallef.

“Before every race and after every race, I pray to God that nothing happens to me, that nothing happens to my horse, and nothing happens to my family,” Garcia said. “That is the only superstition I have.”

Garcia showed his riding potential at a young age. He entered the jockey school in Peru when he was 14 and began to ride races in 2002. He was Peru’s leading apprentice in 2003 before immigrating to the United States and becoming the leading apprentice jockey at the Meadowlands.

Garcia, 23, describes himself as a happy, professional, and “good-working guy.” His career goals include “trying to do the best I can for every trainer and ... one day be like my heroes.”

Date of birth: October 2, 1985

Birthplace: Lima, Peru

Residence: Tinton Falls, New Jersey

Primary tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, Gulfstream Park

Leading earner in 2008: Grand Couturier (GB), $660,000

North American stakes winners in 2008: Abraaj, Accredit, All Is Vanity (Fr), Angliana, Ariege, Barrier Reef, Break Water Edison, Carolyn’s Cat, Charitable Man, Chestoria, Da’ Tara, Divine Park, Dynaforce, Genuine Devotion (Ire), Go Go Shoot, Grand Couturier (GB), Justwhistledixie, Lucky Island (Arg), Magical Forest, Mani Bhavan, Mohegan Sky, Never Retreat, Pink Viper, Raw Silk, Rewrite, Sailor’s Cap, Shakis (Ire), Sherine, Stud Muffin, Tar Heel Mom, Vineyard Haven, Visionaire, Wild Gams, Wow Me Free

8. Robby Albarado

Across the nation and around the globe, Robby Albarado and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin accomplished more in two seasons than many jockeys and top horses achieve in a decade.

ROBBY ALBARADOAlbarado not only rode Curlin to victory in the 2008 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) as the Smart Strike colt became North America’s all-time leading earner, but was aboard for all seven of Curlin’s Grade 1 or Group 1 victories and ten of his 11 career wins.

“He has taken me to a lot of places that I have never been to,” Albarado said. “He helped me accomplish a lot of personal goals that I had for myself.”

Albarado was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey each of the seasons Curlin was awarded Horse of the Year honors. Curlin also earned champion three-year-old male honors in 2007 and champion older male honors in ’08.

Curlin also gave Albarado his first American classic victory in the 2007 Preakness Stakes (G1), his first Breeders’ Cup win in the ’07 Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (G1), and his first victory in the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) in ’08.

Date of birth: September 11, 1973

Birthplace: Lafayette, Louisiana

Residence: Louisville

Primary tracks: Churchill Downs, Keeneland Race Course, Fair Grounds

Leading earner in 2008: Curlin, $1,694,000

North American stakes winners in 2008: Abbott Hall, Acoma, Boss Lafitte, C. S. Silk, Curlin, Denis of Cork, Dream Empress, Einstein (Brz), Garden District, Grasshopper, Hystericalady, Indyanne, Jardin, Jonesboro, Lantana Mob, Lattice, Leigh McLovin, Mambo in Seattle, Master Link, Nistle’s Crunch, Run Away and Hide, Sara Louise, Secret Gypsy, Smitty’s Sunshine, Star Guitar, Steve’s Double, Superior Storm, Sweepstake (Ire), Tend, Thorn Song, Willist

9. Eibar Coa

When Eibar Coa entered the jockey school in Venezuela, he knew nothing about horses. Growing up, he spent ten years competing in judo and became a champion in the martial arts discipline five times.

EIBAR COAOnce attending the school, Coa not only took a liking to racing but made the bold decision to come to the United States in 1993 to ply his trade as a jockey. He closely followed the career of Racing Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day in his early days in the U.S. and has since become a leading rider himself, taking two New York riding titles and others along the East Coast.

A member of Calder Race Course’s hall of fame, Coa has yet to earn a classic or Breeders’ Cup victory, an achievement many of his contemporaries have already achieved.

“I guess we have the same goal every year, which is the Kentucky Derby [Presented by Yum! Brands] (G1) or any Breeders’ Cup races,” Coa said. “That is what I am missing in my career. For sure I have that in mind every year, so hopefully it comes soon. Other than that, I just need to just stay healthy.”

Tale of Ekati gave Coa his best placings in Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (G1), finishing fourth and sixth, respectively, in 2008. He also rode Tale of Ekati to a fourth-place finish in the 2007 Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

Although Coa does not have any prerace rituals, he said superstitions depend on whether or not they work.

“I guess that everyone has that superstition about something,” Coa said. “It depends on how the days go. If it is good, I guess you will try to have something tomorrow. If it is bad, you try to change something for tomorrow.”

Date of birth: February 15, 1971

Birthplace: Monagas, Venezuela

Residence: McDavid, Florida

Primary tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, Gulfstream Park

Leading earner in 2008: Harlem Rocker, $571,749

North American stakes winners in 2008: A Rose for You, Big Drama, Big Truck, Buffalo Man, Chestoria, Delosvientos, Doc N Roll, Doremifasollatido, Fort Drum, Golden Velvet, Harlem Rocker, Leah’s Secret, Meriwether Jessica, Mint Lane, My Princess Jess, National Pride, Northern Netti, Ruff and Ready, Salute the Count, Sir Greeley, Spring At Last, Summer Patriot, Top Seed, Trouble Maker, Vaulcluse, Willsboro Point

10. Javier Castellano

Javier Castellano was born into racing. As a result, he became a jockey.

JAVIER CASTELLANO“My dad was a jockey,” said Castellano, a native of Maracaibo, Vene¬zuela, who currently rides in New York and Florida. “He rode horses for 30 years in my country, and he was very influential to me. I grew up at the racetrack, and my dad was always my hero. He was always among the top jockeys and would always win races. He was a very good jockey.”

Castellano said that his uncle and grandfather, also jockeys, inspired him. However, no one motivated him more than his father, Abel, who was killed in a robbery attempt in 2000.

Castellano, 31, first rode in his native Venezuela in 1996, then began riding in North America in ’97. He has yet to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) or lead the country in earnings or wins, but he hopes to in the future.

“It is every jockey’s dream to win the Kentucky Derby,” Castellano said.

His other goals include “keeping healthy—that is the most important—winning some races, breaking records, winning [a race in] the Breeders’ Cup [World Championships], and winning [the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey].”

Castellano was the regular rider of 2004 Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (G1) winner Ghostzapper. In 2006 Castellano rode eventual champion three-year-old male Bernardini to victory in the Preakness Stakes (G1), and in ’08 he rode Red Rocks (Ire) to a victory over Curlin in the Man o’ War Stakes (G1).

Date of birth: October 23, 1977

Birthplace: Maracaibo, Venezuela

Residence: Garden City, New York

Primary tracks: Belmont Park, Gulfstream Park, Saratoga Race Course

Leading earner in 2008: Marsh Side, $1,109,640

North American stakes winners in 2008: Backseat Rhythm, Borrowing Base, Brookhaven’s Money, Criticism (GB), Famous Patriot, First Defence, Flawless Treasure, Ginger Brew, Groomedforvictory, Heros Reward, Lady Marlboro, Latitude Forty, Marsh Side, Midwatch, Music Note, Passion, Pays to Dream, Red Rocks (Ire), Royal Vindication, Spice Route (GB), Sporting Art, Spring Waltz, Sugar Swirl, Tam Lin (GB), Wesley, Wheels Up At Noon

Laura Pepper is an editorial intern for THOROUGHBRED TIMES

Monday, March 09, 2009

Keeneland Benefit for Disabled Riders

 Among the active jockeys scheduled to compete in the talent contest are Robby Albarado, Javier Castellano, Eibar Coa, Jon Court, Brian Hernandez, Jamie Theriot, and John Velazquez. Retired jockeys set to take part include Jerry Bailey, Angel Cordero Jr., Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Earlie Fires, and Patricia Cooksey.

The talent competition will be judged by celebrity judges from the music and racing industries as the riders are accompanied by an “all-star” band and backup singers. Among the judges will be Eddie Montgomery of the country music duo Montgomery and Gentry. The event will be emceed by actress Laura Bell Bundy, a Lexington native.

The casual event will also include a “Bayou Meets the Bluegrass” buffet and cash bar.

The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund currently assists 60 jockeys who have suffered catastrophic injuries. The Blood-Horse

Monday, March 09, 2009

Louisiana Jockeys Deserve Pay Increase

This month, a new jockeys' pay scale went into effect at Charles Town in West Virginia. For riding a horse that finishes out of the money at that track, the jockey receives $75 on the low end of a scale based on race purses, and $105 on the high end. Previously, the minimum jockey's fee for an out-of-the-money finish was $45.

A similar increase recently was announced for jockeys who will be riding this year at Prairie Meadows in Iowa. Other states where jockeys' fees for out-of-the-money finishes have increased are California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, Indiana and Arizona.

Louisiana is among the states where negotiations are under way, and it's about time.

A boost in Louisiana mount fees is long overdue.

The Louisiana jockeys' fee schedule last was changed in 1990, when jockeys on the second- and third-place finishers began receiving 5 percent of the purse money for such finishes instead of fixed fees. The winning jockey receives 10 percent of the first-place share of the purse.

It has been about 30 years since the losing mount fees (for out-of-the-money finishes) were increased in Louisiana.

The greater the purse, the greater the losing mount fee. For example, if the purse is from $5,000 to $9,999, the losing mount fee in Louisiana is $40. If the purse is from $10,000 to $14,999, the losing mount fee is $45. Those fees progress to $50, $60, $75 and $100 as the purses rise.

Horse owners pay jockeys' fees. In these tough economic times, owners' bills for just about everything - training, horse-shoeing, veterinary work and other expenses - are rising.

But riders have expenses, too. Jockeys have to pay their valets and agents. Riders have to buy their own insurance. They don't have pensions. They don't get guaranteed money, like other professional athletes do. And, riding racehorses is very dangerous.

"Everything has escalated,'' said John Beech, regional manager for the Jockeys' Guild. "The day rates (for trainers) went up. The feed went up. Everything, except for the jockeys. Every time we ask for something, it's not a good time. We want to be fair. Other states have gone up.''

In December, Beech, accompanied by several jockeys, made the case before the Louisiana State Racing Commission, which has the authority to change the pay scale.

Chairman Jerry Meaux called for a committee, composed of himself, Beech, horse owners, jockeys, Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association representatives, commissioners and commission officials to try to hammer out an agreement. The committee met last month.

"I want to commend the commission and all parties involved to try to get this resolved,'' said Beech, who thanked Meaux for forming the committee.

Meaux said: "I was trying to let everybody have a say, and everybody at the meeting agreed to a number. We all agreed to a change. We went up.''

Beech said that although the committee reached an agreement, he knew that the proposed revised pay scale wouldn't be acceptable to a majority of the state's jockeys. In his visits to riders across the state, he learned he was right. The jockeys rejected the proposal, and Beech informed the commission. He has yet to present a new pay scale for the commission to consider.

"I don't know what they're going to do,'' Meaux said.

The debate mainly concerns losing mount fees at the lower end of the purse scale.

"The guys who ride the 30-1s, the 40-1s, they still have to feed their families,'' said veteran jockey Kerwin Clark, who was on the committee. "It'll make a huge difference to them. It'll help everybody, but it'll help them the most.''

Beech said the argument that jockeys have received pay raises whenever purses have gone up doesn't hold water, because the losing mount fees have stayed fixed.

Meaux said: "How much can an owner take? How much can you take from him? I don't think anybody has got a problem with the top end (of the scale). There are no new owners. If you run some out, what do you have? Everybody agrees something has to be done. The owners want equity. We (the commission) have to represent the owners, trainers and the jocks. We want to be fair with everybody.''

LHBPA President Sean Alfortish, who participated in the committee meeting via telephone, said that because Louisiana has more racing days and fuller fields than other states, jockeys here have more opportunities to make money.

"My personal opinion, not my presidential opinion, is I'm not opposed to having a raise for the riders,'' said Alfortish, a horse owner. "I am opposed to the amount of the raise that some riders want. You have to balance the equity of the industry. You have to balance what the riders want with what the owners can afford.''

Complicating the debate in Louisiana is quarter horse racing, which generally has smaller purses than thoroughbred racing. Quarter horse jockeys in the state are paid under the same scale as thoroughbred jockeys and generally receive losing mount fees of $35 to $45, Beech said. "These guys put everything on the line that thoroughbred jockeys do,'' he said.

Clark said he's confident that the issue will be settled. "It's very negotiable from where we started at,'' he said. "Another $20, $25 would have made it right. It'll get there.''

"I don't know what's going to happen,'' Meaux said. "It's kind of in their court.''

Said Beech: "We just want to be fair with the industry and the horsemen, but they have to be fair with us, too.''
Jennifer Zdon-Bob Fortus/New Orleans Times-Picayune
Friday, March 06, 2009

Animal Planet Renews "Jockeys" Series

Filming for the new season begins Saturday, March 7 at Santa Anita.
Santa Anita Communications Department
Thursday, March 05, 2009

John Velazquez Jockey of the Week

Velazquez rode Quality Road for the first time in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, a one-mile race for three-year-old Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) hopefuls on February 28 at Gulfstream Park.  On the same card, he also rode Twilight Meteor to victory in the $150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (GIII)
 
A Carolina, Puerto Rico, native who lives in West Hempstead, New York, Velazquez rides first call for trainer Todd Pletcher, who trains Twilight Meteor.  The jockey and Pletcher earned their first victory in a North American classic in 2007 when Rags to Riches became the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont Stakes (GI).
 
Velazquez won Eclipse Awards as North America's outstanding rider in 2004 and '05.  The 37-year-old rider was named the 2009 recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, which has been presented annually since 1950 by Santa Anita Park to jockeys whose careers and personal character earn esteem for Thoroughbred racing.  A nationwide vote of riders determines the winner of the award.
 
Velazquez was elected chairman of the board of directors of the Jockeys' Guild in 2006.
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Thursday, March 05, 2009

Oklahoma Quarter Horse Riders' Web Site

The agreement for OQHA and the Quarter Horse may be accessed and downloaded from this web site.
Thursday, March 05, 2009

Push to increase mount fees.

The guild has also been negotiating with horsemen in Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Riders in Texas are awaiting the outcome of legislative efforts for gaming in that state before entering any negotiations.

Terry Meyocks, the guild's national manager, was at Oaklawn last weekend and said he was grateful for the productive discussions he had with the Arkansas HBPA, track management, and the Arkansas Racing Commission, which must approve any change in fees. In the last few weeks, he said, increases have gone through at Charles Town and Prairie Meadows in what has been an ongoing national project for the guild. Meyocks said other jurisdictions that have increased fees include New York, California, and Florida.

"We're trying to be fair with horsemen throughout the country," he said. "We've offered three different scales throughout the country, based on daily average purses.

"The jockeys have had only one increase since 1985, and that was in 2001. We're trying to take care of the jockey that rides three or four races a day."

Perry Compton, who is on the board of the guild, has been working on the issue at Oaklawn.

"All we want to do is get the bottom moved up, because basically, what we're trying to do is take care of the little guy," he said. "The leading riders that have the high win percentage that are riding all the best horses, it doesn't have as profound an effect on them as it does the little guy who is just trying to make a living.

"We've only had one $5 increase in the last five years. And in that time frame, everything has gone up."

Compton said that ideally he would like to see the losing mount fees at Oaklawn, which typically range from $50 to $65 depending on purse levels, raised to $80.

The matter is expected to come before the Arkansas Racing Commission on March 14.
Mary Rampellini/Daily Racing Form
 
NOTE:  Increases in losing mount fees have been negotiated at: Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, Finger Lakes, Arlington Park, Hawthorne, Fairmont Park, Calder, Tropical Park at Calder, Gulfstream Park, Indiana Downs, Hoosier Park, all California tracks, Tampa Bay, Turf Paradise, Charles Town, and Prairie Meadows.  Increases will take effect in New Jersey in 2009.
Monday, March 02, 2009

Centeno sets a torrid pace.

Daniel Centeno is making statements like that almost daily. The two-time leading rider at Tampa Bay Downs is well on his way toward his third riding title. Centeno rode five horses on Friday's card and won with three, raising his win total to 84 through the first 53 racing days. Through Friday, he had a 36-win edge over his nearest competitor.

His 70 wins since Jan. 1 had him tied for second in the country in races won through Friday. If he continues to win at his current rate, he could break the record of 144 wins at a single Tampa meeting set by, you guessed it, Centeno last season.

So is the defending champion looking ahead to possibly breaking his record?

"No, not really," he said Saturday. "I try not to get too far ahead of myself and pretty much go on a day-by-day and race-to-race basis when it comes to goals. I look at the horses I'm on that day, look at the competition, and go out and do my thing for the race coming up."

No one seems to work the ins and outs of the racing surface here better than Centeno, and there also are few riders who seem to know their fellow competitors' strengths and weaknesses better.

"I study the PPs and also who is on the chief competition in each race," he said. "Every rider has their own style and their own approaches, and knowing what a certain jock will do in a given situation can sometimes help make the difference between winning and losing a race."

Centeno will continue to ride here until the end of the meeting and then will head back to Monmouth Park where he has been riding the past two summers. He won 28 races at Monmouth in his first season there and then came back last year to win 63 against a tough riding colony.

"It's a good schedule between here and Monmouth," Centeno said. "And it's warm weather in both spots. There's nothing wrong with that."
Doug McCoy/Daily Racing Form
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