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Friday, December 30, 2011

Don MacBeth Memorial Fund closes

From Thoroughbred Times
Named for successful New York-based rider Don MacBeth, who died of cancer at the age of 37 in March of 1987, the fund has helped more than 2,000 riders—exercise riders and jockeys—over the years. The fund provided financial assistance as well as medical treatment, physical therapy, and other rehabilitative services to riders injured in racing- and training-related accidents.

It was founded in late 1987 after comedian and horse racing enthusiast Tim Conway made an appearance at Canterbury Park in Minnesota that summer and wanted to donate the fee paid him by the track to a fund to benefit riders. He was informed there was no such fund. He then approached Chris and Judy McCarron and the three co-founded the fund named after MacBeth, who was noted for his principles and kindness.

In 1989, the fund launched Jockeys Across America Day, which would be a major annual fundraiser where riders at tracks across the country would donate their fees from at least one mount that day to the fund. That initiative alone raised millions of dollars over the years.

In a letter informing its supporters that it was discontinuing operations, President Judy McCarron wrote: “It has been our great pleasure to have been here for 25 years helping injured riders. The MacBeth Fund’s many caring, generous supporters made it all possible and we offer each and every one of your our sincere thanks for staying with us throughout the years. Our thanks also to those of you who worked so hard to raise funds for Jockeys Across America Day and other fundraising events each year. …

“The reward for good works is most often the knowledge that we have done some good for someone in need. In the case of the Don MacBeth Fund, more than 2,000 riders (jockeys and exercise riders) from every racetrack in the country received assistance. The small safety net that we were able to provide gave comfort to riders during their recovery time.”

She noted that the fund’s director, Tony DeFranco, died in February of this year, and DeFranco had been with the fund from the beginning.

Mark Simon is editor of Thoroughbred Times

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Jockey a Tough Call

 
Voters who only look at money will choose Ramon Dominguez, who won his first Eclipse Award in 2010. With just a few racing days left in the year, he has roughly a $1.6 million lead in money won over John Velazquez ($20.1 million to $18.5 million).  With 344 victories, Dominguez is second in races won to Deshawn Parker, who rides regularly on a minor West Virginia circuit and has 400 wins. This will be Parker’s second straight title in races won.

 I have no problem with Dominguez getting his second consecutive Eclipse Award. He is a distant second to 2004-05 Eclipse Award winner Velazquez in American Graded Stakes wins in 2011, with 27, and second to Javier Castellano in G1 victories, with 10. Velazquez has eight Grade 1 wins, including the Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom.

Dominguez has accomplished those numbers, riding on the East Coast, without being first- or second-string rider for the powerful Todd Pletcher stable. Of his 27 AGS wins, only six were for Pletcher. By comparson, 17 of the 34 AGS wins by Velazquez were for Pletcher, and 11 of Castellano’s 26 were for Pletcher.

Dominguez was the regular rider for Horse of the Year favorite, Havre de Grace, which is also a plus for his Eclipse Award chances.

Javier Castellano has, very quietly it seems, had nearly as good a year as any jockey in North America. He is fifth in races won, third in money won, third in American Graded Stakes victories, and first in Grade 1 wins. That is solid, and he is going to be a force for many years to come.

The two riders who have emerged as best on the West Coast are Joel Rosario and Rafael Bejarano, with 24 and 23 AGS victories, respectively. Rosario has a big edge in Grade 1 wins, nine to five, and he’s done that without having much support from the West Coast’s leading trainer, Bob Baffert.

Of Rosario’s 24 AGS wins, only two were Baffert runners. Bejarano has ridden eight AGS winners for Baffert.

Those two may be the rising stars in American racing, but the 2011 Eclipse Award will almost certainly go to Dominguez or Velazquez. As I scrutinize my ballot more closely over the next few days, I may wind up voting for Castellano. You can make an argument for any one of the three.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dominguez, Velazquez top riding categories while Parker continues to win

Tom Nichols/Thoroughbred Times TODAY
However, despite Dominguez leading the nation in total earnings, a number of riders enjoyed standout seasons also worthy of year-end honors.

Dominguez, 35, maintained a high level of excellence in 2011 by posting earnings of $19,871,360 through Monday, bolstered by 67 stakes wins.

Known for his mastery of the New York circuit, Dominguez may have had his best performance of 2011 at Churchill Downs in coaxing Hansen to a front-running score in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), one of ten Grade 1 victories for the jockey.

Additionally, Dominguez served as the primary rider for Havre de Grace, a leading contender for Horse of the Year honors. Dominguez and Havre de Grace teamed up for victories in the Woodward Stakes (G1), Beldame Invitational Stakes (G1), Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), and Azeri Stakes (G3).

Dominguez’s 27 graded stakes were good for second overall, trailing only John Velazquez, who is seeking his third Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey.

Velazquez, 40, who shares a birthday with Dominguez [November 24], led all riders with 35 graded stakes, but most importantly, won his first Kentucky Derby (G1) when he guided Animal Kingdom to victory in the classic. The win proved extra sweet for Velazquez, who lost probable favorites Quality Road in 2009 and Eskenderya in 2010. Both horses were scratched within a week of the race in the respective year.

Velazquez also won a pair of Breeders’ Cup races in 2011—taking the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) with Perfect Shirl and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2) with Stephanie’s Kitten. He also captured eight Grade 1 races in 2011.

While Dominguez and Velazquez enjoyed the biggest moments on racing’s largest stages throughout North America, Deshawn Parker continued to pile up the victories in the Mid- Alantic region.

Parker, 40, led all North American jockeys by total victories for a second consecutive year, racking up 400 wins from 1,675 mounts. His hard work did not go unnoticed as he was nominated for Santa Anita Park’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, given annually since 1950 to a rider whose career and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing and who has excelled on and off the track.

Also, Parker was involved in perhaps the most uplifting story of the year when he rode Rapid Redux in his record-breaking 20th straight win on November 21 at Mountaineer Race Track. The victory eclipsed the previous modern-era record of 19 straight wins, held by 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta and Peppers Pride.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

VICTORY NO. 1,000 HAS SPECIAL MEANING FOR GONCALVES

From Tampa Bay Communications Department
Thoughts of his father – whom Goncalves lost touch with soon after he began riding Quarter Horse races in Brazil when he was 10 – flooded his memory (six years later, 16-year-old Leandro found out his father had died shortly after they were separated).
 
Recollections of putting his career on hold for 18 months after coming to the U.S. in 2005, to take time to study the styles of top American jockeys while working as an exercise rider, came rushing back.
 

Goncalves also reflected on his feelings for trainer Garry Simms, for whom he had hoped to win No. 1,000 Monday when he traveled to Turfway Park in Kentucky to ride Simms’ Flashy Lassie in the Gowell Stakes (she finished fourth). Simms has been battling multiple myeloma in his spine for two years. So no, victory No. 1,000 (and No. 999, which came in the previous race Wednesday) weren’t just numbers for Goncalves. Not by a long shot.

“It feels great. It means a lot,” said the 29-year-old Goncalves, his voice breaking. “I wish my dad was alive to see me, but I know he is in a better place. He was the one who taught me to ride. He always wanted me to be a jockey.”
 
Goncalves, who began riding horses bareback when he was 7 to herd cattle in Brazil, estimates he won about 300 races in his homeland. He refused to get discouraged when his business slowed upon his arrival stateside, and has emerged the past three years as a force in Kentucky, the Midwest and now Tampa Bay Downs, where he won 66 races last season.
 
His two victories Wednesday both came for Midwest Thoroughbreds and trainer Jamie Ness, aboard the 5-year-old gelding Repenter in a $16,000 claiming race and the milestone 1,000th on 6-year-old gelding Rich Hero in a seven-furlong starter allowance.
 
“I’ve only started with him the last couple of years, but I’ve been watching him and he is the kind of guy I like riding my horses,” Ness said. “He is a class act and a guy who comes to work every day, and that is what I like most. When he works a horse for me in the morning, we notice any little traits or quirks the horse has and he remembers it in the afternoon. Those little things make a big difference.”
 

Goncalves rode two horses at Turfway on Monday, finishing fourth in both races. “I wanted to win for Garry Simms because he is like a father to me. The doctor gave him two weeks to be alive two years ago, but he is a strong man. He has always taught me and helped me in my life and my career.”

Entering the final days of 2011, Goncalves has 295 victories on the year, trailing only Deshawn Parker and Ramon Dominguez in wins. He currently sits atop the Tampa Bay Downs standings with 12 victories.
 

Danny Coa rode three winners on Wednesday’s card. Live racing action resumes Thursday at Tampa Bay Downs with a 12:25 p.m. first-race post time.

###

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Congratulations to Jennie Rees and Claire Novak

From Daily Racing Form
Rees, the longtime racing reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, won in the news/enterprise category for an article that examined the ways in which jockeys resolve confrontations on the racetrack in the wake of the infamous altercation between riders Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup. The article, which was headlined “Jockeys Rein in Their Emotions” and was published on Oct. 30, gave an intimate, candid look at life inside and outside the jockeys’ room. It was Rees’s third Eclipse Award for writing. Her previous writing awards were earned in 1988 and 1993. Also, Rees was part of a team that won the Multi-Media and Internet Eclipse Award in 2008.

Novak, 25, won in the feature/commentary category for a profile of New York race caller Tom Durkin that examined Durkin’s struggle with anxiety and his decision to retire from calling the three Triple Crown races for NBC television. The article [1], which was published by ESPN.com on June 10, was headlined “Pressure off Durkin at Belmont” and interviewed several other race callers whose careers had been influenced by Durkin, including his replacement at NBC, Larry Collmus. This was Novak’s first Eclipse award.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thoroughbred Daily News with Ryan Curatolo

The 19-year-old now has $3.5 million in U.S. earnings, is one of the leading riders in New York, and figures to feature prominently in the Eclipse race for top apprentice. Oo lŕ lŕ lŕ. C’est magnifique.
 

Last Time I Thought, `I Love Being A Jockey!’:

Every day, but particularly this year at the Breeders’ Cup. I rode Pure Gossip for Phil Serpe in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs. It was such an amazing experience. There were thousands of fans and a worldwide t.v. audience. I was somewhat nervous in the jockeys’ room, but when I got out on the the track, I felt great. There was no pressure at all. Ijust tried to enjoy the big event, and I did so, and it was fun. It is every jockey’s dream to ride the Breeders’ Cup and I was there as an apprentice.

Last Time I Cried At A Movie: I never cry. I only laugh.
 

Last Great New York Moment: I won four races in a row at Aqueduct December 5. It was a great surprise, and ironic because, coming over to the U.S. on the plane, I was a little bit worried that the move was going to be too much. LOL!

Last Time I Saw My Family: In March last year, I was in France for my visa. I surprised my grandmother with a visit. She was sooo happy.

Last Time I Had a Great French Meal: Last week at Bistro Bisou in Florida, where I usually eat. The owners are French. I had sole française with mashed potatoes and tomatoes and mozzarella that came from Madrin, Spain.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It's time for Churchill Downs Inc. to settle dispute with Jockeys' Guild

Bob Fortus, The Times-Picayune
A funding agreement between CDI and the Guild expires Dec. 31. In late summer, CDI told that Guild that the company wouldn’t renew the agreement.

This week, the sides finally began talking. On Monday, CDI and Guild officials met in Louisville, Ky., in an effort to settle the matter.

“We didn’t come up with an agreement,’’ Guild National Manager Terry Meyocks said. “It was a productive meeting. We’ll meet again in the middle of January.’’

John Asher, Churchill Downs vice president of communications, said that CDI officials won’t comment on the negotiations.

The holiday season is about good will, good cheer and brotherhood. What better time could there be for the sides to come  together and reach an agreement?

Action taken last week by the California Horse Racing Board concerning the licensing of Twinspires.com, Churchill’s account wagering company, helped bring about the negotiations. A webcast of the meeting was entertaining and enlightening.

On Dec. 15, the board granted Twinspires a four-month license. The board’s grilling of Alan Tse, CDI executive vice president and general counsel, strongly suggested that the license won’t be extended unless Churchill and the Guild work out their differences. Keep in mind, if Twinspires isn’t allowed to operate in California, CDI would lose significant revenue.

“I think you get the sentiment of this board,’’ Chairman Keith Brackpool said to Tse. “I think you get the very strong understanding that in California, we really value jockey welfare and jockey safety, and this board takes it extremely seriously.’’

Disputes about whether and to what extent tracks should support the Jockeys’ Guild are not new. At the end of 1994, for example, the Guild and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a group of tracks, averted a walkout by Fair Grounds riders by reaching an agreement on TRA funding of jockeys’ health insurance and compensation for jockeys’ media rights. The same issues are part of the current dispute.

Under the current agreement between CDI and the Guild, the four Churchill tracks – Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds, Arlington Park and Calder – contribute about $330,000 per year to the Guild. The tracks pay per-mount and per-race-day fees to the Guild.

In a letter written Nov. 10 to CDI Chief Executive Officer/Chairman Bob Evans, Meyocks and jockey John Velazquez, the Guild chairman, explained that the contributions help the Guild provide jockeys temporary disability payments, accidental death and dismemberment insurance and life insurance. The money also helps provide aid to about 50 permanently disabled jockeys. “These benefits are made possible because of contributions to the Guild from racetracks, as well as contributions from the jockeys themselves,’’ the letter says.

Accompanying the letter was a jockeys’ petition seeking a renegotiation. The petition, sent to the CDI Board of Directors, was signed by 240 jockeys who ride at Churchill tracks, including the Fair Grounds.

“Our commitment to the funding of the Jockeys’ Guild has never been questioned,’’ Tse told the California board. “It’s just how and in what terms.’’

Because of mismanagement, the Guild declared bankruptcy in 2007. Tse told the California board that when the Guild couldn’t provide injury insurance for jockeys, “Churchill Downs was the first track to step in and make sure that all jockeys racing at our tracks had the protection of $1 million per accident medical insurance.’’

The corporation spent more than $770,000 on injury insurance for jockeys “in the last year alone,’’ Tse said. Churchill spends more than $2.5 million a year to benefit jockeys, he said. He said that expenditures on “safety-related initiatives’’ exceed $1 million per year. Other contributions go to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund, he said.

Tse mentioned to the board that Churchill Downs doesn’t employ jockeys. That’s irrelevant in this discussion. Though a philosophical argument can be made that independent contractors should look out for themselves, Churchill already has shown, through its payments for on-track accident insurance and funding for the Guild for years, that the corporation rejects the argument – and rightfully so. Because of the risks taken by jockeys in their profession, costs for insurance and health benefits are steep. It’s good for racing for tracks to work with the Guild.

Tse also made a reference during the California board meeting to the Guild’s past financial difficulties. “There’s a history here with this organization about money has been spent and how money is mis-spent,’ he said. The leadership under which the Guild headed toward bankruptcy is gone, and a new team is in place. Certainly, CDI has every right to find out if its money is being spent properly. Past Guild mismanagement isn’t the issue.

Tse told the California board that the Guild “has failed to operate in a transparent manner’’ concerning its contract with CDI and thus is “in breach of our existing agreement.’’

Specifically, Tse said, CDI wants the Guild to provide information on what other tracks are contributing. “According to the Jockeys’ Guild themselves, 50 of the 81 tracks running races in the U.S. today contribute nothing to the cost of the Guild operation, yet the Guild management continues to single out one company, Churchill Downs. … We feel we have been extremely generous with jockeys and the Jockeys’ Guild, and have not been treated fairly,’’ he said

The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Laurel, Pimlico, Golden Gate and Portland Meadows, reached an agreement with the Guild in November. “This is the right thing to do for the jockeys and the sport,’’ Mike Rogers, Stronach Group vice president of racing, said in a statement announcing the agreement.

The New York Racing Association, which operates Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga, also has reached an agreement with the Guild.

Most big-time tracks contribute to the Guild.

California commissioner Jesse Choper asked Tse: “You’ll at least discuss equal participation with other major tracks in the country?

“What we’re interested in is seeing that the jockeys are adequately protected, and that Churchill pays its fair share. Do we have an agreement on that?’’

Tse said: “We’re in violent agreement on that point. We absolutely want to protect jockeys.’’

Brackpool, the chairman, then jumped into the discussion with guns blazing.

“You continually refer to the fact that you need to find out what everybody else is paying,’’ he said to Tse. “This is not a race to the bottom. Leaders lead from the front. Churchill prides itself on being one of the leading race venues in the world. This is $300,000 a year. This is a pittance, and you’re obsessed with what someone else in paying in the hope that you can perhaps get a slight discount. This is about leading. …

“I want to know that you’re corporate citizens that care, deeply care, about the welfare of the participants in the sport from which you profit. So I don’t want to hear that you need to find out what somebody else is paying in the hope that you can get $20,000 less. It just doesn’t resonate with me.’’

Another point, which wasn’t brought out in the California meeting, is that jockeys help the tracks in a public-relations way without being paid.

When jockeys visit hospitals, sign autographs or hand goggles to children, the track benefits. Before and after races, jockeys talk to fans, usually in a friendly way.

Fans who have pleasant experiences at the track will want to come back. There’s value, not measured in dollars, in how jockeys can help promote a track’s business.

Certainly, both sides in this dispute should share all appropriate financial information. “We just want to make sure that the money that we spent is going to the jockeys,’’ Tse said to the California board. That’s fine. Also, the Guild should get to see all the information about CDI’s expenses for jockeys and jockey safety.

If an agreement isn’t achieved soon, there could be ramifications – to the Fair Grounds and to Churchill Downs.

It wouldn’t be difficult for the Guild to make a statement with some kind of labor action during this Fair Grounds meet.

Also, it’s not an accident that the Twinspires license in California runs out a week before the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.

“You host the greatest race in our sport annually, every year,’’ Brackpool said to Tse. “Do you really want this issue hanging over you when that (the Derby) comes up, for $300,000? … It makes no sense to me at all, this position.’’

That’s because it is nonsense.

Friday, December 16, 2011

DOMINGUEZ’S HOT STREAK SETS NYRA RECORD

From NYRA Communications Department 
In a streak that stretched over two days, Dominguez, the reigning Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top jockey, went 4-for-4 on Wednesday in races 5-8, and went 3-for-3 on Thursday in races 1, 2 and 4. Dominguez, the leading jockey on the NYRA circuit, also won race 6 on Thursday for his second straight four-win day before finishing off the board in races 7 and 8.

 

The 35-year-old Venezuelan-born reinsman had ridden six consecutive winners on February 7 and 8, 2009, sharing the previous NYRA record with Stewart Elliott (January 11-13, 2008), Jerry Bailey (September 17-22, 2005), Jeff Fell (June 18-19, 1980), Steve Cauthen (December 10-11, 1976), and Jorge Velasquez (July 9, 1981), who is the only jockey to have gone 6-for-6 on a single day at a NYRA racetrack.

 

It was the seventh time in 2011 Dominguez had ridden four winners on a single card; he had two five-win days, on January 8 and November 24, his birthday, and on June 5 at Belmont Park became the first jockey to win six races on a single NYRA card since Shaun Bridgmohan did so at the Big A on February 15, 1998.

 

At the close of racing on Thursday, Dominguez led all jockeys on the NYRA circuit with 313 victories and has clinched his third straight NYRA riding title.

 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pino nears goal of becoming one of racing's top 10 all-time winners

 
Sizing up the field of nine, the Ellicott City jockey thought Torcello was unlikely to bring him any closer to his dream of becoming one of horse racing's top ten all-time winners before he retires.

Oddsmakers backed up Pino's instincts, calculating the chestnut gelding's chances of winning at 15-1. Torcello's odds dropped slightly to 13-1 by post time, but he was still a long shot.

Nonetheless, Pino, dressed in turquoise silks with yellow polka dots, prepared for his 39,000th-plus career start on a muddy track Nov. 17, hoping to beat the odds no matter what.

"I always do what I can to get something out of a horse, but I really didn't think he could do it," he said, immediately after he rode Torcello to victory and made his 6,385th trip to the winner's circle. "But he warmed up really good, and he showed me he was going to go easy."

It's just like "Peen," as his industry friends call him, to give the horse credit, those friends say — even though the victory propelled him to 13th place on the all-time win list, breaking a tie he had held with Eddie Delahoussaye, a National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame jockey who retired in 2003.

"Peen is just so natural and so fun to watch," said Frank Saumell, clerk of scales for the Maryland Jockey Club, who had just added his congratulations to the chorus of well-wishers around Pino in the jockeys' quarters at the track.

The triumph didn't especially surprise Saumell, since pulling out wins when they're least expected is what great jockeys like Pino do.

"Everybody here admires him, they really do," he said. "He's one of the classiest people you will ever meet."

At age 50, Pino, who is half Italian and half Irish, is facing no small challenge in his bid to move up to 10th place on an exclusive roster that includes one of his idols: the late Willie Shoemaker, who is ranked third with 8,833 wins.

Pino is 86 wins away from passing Earlie Fires, who holds 10th place with 6,470 career wins. To reach that milestone, he must first surpass Larry Snyder's 6,388 wins and Sandy Hawley's 6,450 wins. All three jockeys have retired.

Number 1 on the all-time win list is Russell Baze, who is still active and has amassed more than 11,400 wins, surpassing his closest challenger by more than 1,800 victories.

"This game is up and down, but I have been fortunate to ride for all the top trainers around here throughout the years," said Pino, who rode Hard Spun to on-the-board finishes in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic. "It seems like every rider I pass is in the Hall of Fame."

On Nov. 7, 2007, Pino became the 15th jockey in North American racing history to achieve 6,000 career wins when he rode Pass Play, a horse trained by his brother Mike, at Laurel Park.

Lifelong love

Pino's lifelong love of riding dates back to his childhood in West Chester, Pa., where he rode horses and played sports with his older sister and two younger brothers.

"My Uncle Vic used to always tell me, 'You're gonna be a jockey,'" he recalled of the man who was actually his mother's uncle and worked as an exercise rider at a boarding farm.

His wife's father is a trainer and her sister is married to a jockey, so horse-lovers still surround him.

While Laurel Park is his current stamping ground, Pino apprenticed at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., home of the Belmont Stakes and the third stop in racing's Triple Crown. He came to Maryland at age 17 and won his first race in 1979 at Bowie Race Track.

He owned a 66-acre horse farm in Rising Sun for a couple of years before the stress became too much and he sold it.

While his 32 years of experience give him an edge, they don't diminish the inherent risks in horse racing.

"It's a dangerous game," said the Burleigh Manor resident, who is the father of three daughters with wife, Christina. "You're riding 40 miles per hour and so close together that any little mistake can be drastic. We all know that being closest to the inside is the fastest way home, but you can't just take a left turn to get there."

After the break from the starting gate, he said, a jockey's skills and instincts take over.

"It worries me if I think I know the characteristics of a horse and then something changes," he said.

Pino has suffered his share of injuries through the years — broken collarbone, fractured skull, cracked ribs and more — but has never been sidelined for long.

"I've been blessed to have a good career and I've always fought my way back," he said of his ability to recover more quickly after injury than doctors estimated he could.

The weight battle

Pino knows he is waging an off-track fight — one all jockeys face, but that becomes harder with age.

"I weigh the same as I did in ninth grade, but at 115 pounds I'm just about the heaviest (riding weight) I can be as a professional," he said.

The irony that someone so trim keeps Diet Coke in the refrigerator and can't indulge in pizza isn't lost on him. If he weren't a jockey, he would probably carry 140 to 150 pounds on his 5-foot, 5-inch frame, he estimated.

He eats fish and lean chicken, lifts weights and runs on a treadmill and around his neighborhood to keep fit, and it takes constant vigilance to maintain his ideal weight. But years of riding exact a toll, he said.

"You're using your whole body to encourage a horse and the adrenaline is pumping in the heat of the battle," he said. "It's very tiring. When you get off a horse you actually just about fall off."

Multiply that feeling three to five times a day on the average — but as many as nine on some days — and it's easy to see why it's been difficult to stay competitive for 32 years, he said.

John Faltynski, a racing official at Laurel Park who's known Pino since the beginning of the jockey's career, said he recognized his talents the first time he saw him ride.

"He gets the respect of every rider," he said. "They want to be like him and act like him, as well they should. He's very astute and he knows this business."

Still showing up

Pino realizes that he's fortunate to still be riding.

"A lot of jockeys don't make it this far; they just burn out," he said. "But I had obligations to fulfill and I decided I had to keep showing up."

His daughters — Danielle, 24, Victoria, 19, and Evana, 15 — never even rode ponies as children, he said, but enjoyed playing soccer instead. Evana is a sophomore at Centennial High School, which the older girls also attended, and all three went to Centennial Lane Elementary and Burleigh Manor Middle schools.

"Howard County has been a great place to raise a family, and that has made it easy to stay here," he said.

Lately, though, the year-round warm and sunny climate of Florida has been beckoning and Pino is thinking about retiring there to be near his wife's parents.

But first, there's the matter of seeing his name listed as one of the top 10 jockeys in history.

"I'm really hoping to make that quota and I'll do whatever it takes," Pino said, calling the prospect within reach, but still "mind-boggling."
 
"It's a goal of mine, so I can walk away and be satisfied with what I did."
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Talamo Named TT TODAY Jockey of the Week

The Starlet was Talamo’s third win at the highest level this season, going along with victories in the American Oaks Stakes (G1) on July 16 aboard Nereid and the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (G1) on June 11 aboard Acclamation. All three wins occurred at Hollywood Park.

Talamo, 21, is based in California after starting his professional career in 2007 at Fair Grounds. Prior to 2007, Talamo competed at a bush tracks in Louisiana and exercised horses at Folsom Training Center and Evangeline Downs.

Talamo won the 2007 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice jockey. He also starred in the reality television series ‘Jockeys’ in 2009 and appeared on ‘The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien’ to promote the show.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Deshawn Parker TT TODAY Jockey of the Week

Parker leads all jockeys by wins for the year through Tuesday with 379 victories, 54 more than second-place Ramon Dominguez. He had the most wins of any North American jockey in 2010 with 377 victories.

Parker’s most lucrative mount of the week was Landed On the Moon, who won a one-mile allowance race at Mountaineer Race Track on December 4.

Parker, 40, also piloted Rapid Redux to his record 20th straight victory on November 21.

“After the first couple of strides, Rapid Redux knew exactly what to do,” Parker said. “I can’t tell you how great a feeling it is to ride a great horse like this.”

Parker also is one of five finalists for Santa Anita Park’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, given to a rider whose career and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Jockeys’ Guild repeats its call to meet with CDI

CONTACT: Jockeys’ Guild (859) 523-JOCK (523-5625)

After hours, Cary B. Willis (502) 905-5860

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Jockeys’ Guild repeats its call to meet with CDI

 

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 7, 2011) – The national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild today promised to meet “any time and any place” in an attempt to resolve issues with Churchill Downs, Inc. Terry Meyocks said, “We are certainly willing to talk with CDI executives about any concerns they may have. We’ve been asking to meet with them since April.”

 

The Paulick Report, an online news resource focused on thoroughbred racing, published a lengthy letter Tuesday from CDI, which operates four major racetracks in the United States. CDI was responding to recent public complaints from the Jockeys’ Guild about CDI’s decision to discontinue its decades-long funding of Guild programs at the end of this month. CDI’s letter says the company will meet with the Guild when it receives information. Meyocks says he believes in openness and is more than willing to provide CDI with details, “if they really want to work toward a solution.”

 

Meyocks said CDI representatives told him in August it was not renewing when its current agreement expires on December 31. “We tried repeatedly to get CDI back to the table, but they said they would not meet,” said Meyocks. “In fact, Churchill’s President and COO Bill Carstanjen told me personally that CDI did not intend to contribute, the decision was final and would not change. So while they claim now that they want to talk, I’m certainly willing, but obviously skeptical.”

 

“If CDI is serious about wanting to talk, I will immediately recommend to the Jockeys’ Guild board of directors that we open our books to an independent financial audit to show exactly how our money is spent and where it comes from,” he said. “The Guild believes in total transparency.” At the same time, we’d like to know where CDI has spent the $2.4 million per year it claims to spend on safety issues.”

 

The Jockeys’ Guild is a professional organization representing some 950 professional jockeys in the U.S. – active, retired and disabled. Funded by a combination of jockey and racetrack contributions, the Guild provides a variety of benefits to its members, including temporary disability, accidental death & dismemberment insurance and life insurance. For some jockeys, it’s the only insurance they can afford. CDI racetracks, among others, have made contributions to the Guild to support its program of benefits since the late 1960s.  CDI’s contributions this year total about $330,000 at the four tracks. “Compare the $330,000 per year to the record revenue and profits they just announced, and you’ll see why their arguments don’t hold water,” said Meyocks.

 

CDI claims not all tracks contribute to the Guild, and that’s no secret, Meyocks says. However, an overwhelming number of the largest and midsized tracks have contributed to the Guild, all at the same rates as their counterparts. That includes all of the tracks classified as ‘A’ tracks by the Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the majority of the midsized tracks. Last month the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced it was extending its funding agreement with the Guild, and just prior to that, The Stronach Group renewed its partnership.

 

Even some of the smaller and less well-funded tracks, including Hawthorne, Arapahoe and Suffolk Downs, among others, have continued to contribute. Other small tracks have not made financial contributions because of financial difficulties. However, that’s not a problem with CDI, Meyocks says, because CDI just reported record profits.  Meyocks said over the coming year, the Guild intends to work toward funding from the smaller tracks that are not making contributions to the Guild to increase participation.

 

The Guild has paid out more than $4.1 million in benefits since 2007. According to Guild statistics from 2010, approximately one in five jockeys was injured badly enough that he or she was unable to ride, at least temporarily.

 

CDI’s letter to the Paulick Report also questions why racetracks should be responsible for contributions to the Guild, since “jockeys are independent contractors that racetracks don’t employ.”

 

Meyocks says that ignores the reality of the job. “It’s unbelievable to think that CDI suddenly wants to ‘reinvent the wheel’ after 40+ years, and now doesn’t believe it has any responsibility to jockeys. Jockeys have an incredibly risky job. And in contrast, not one CDI executive has an ambulance following them on the job. Jockeys don’t have the safety net that the CDI executives or many other people have at their jobs. With a median annual income of just $38,000, many of our member jockeys simply would not be able to afford the kind of insurance coverage that is needed.”

 

“Jockeys literally risk their lives every day on the track, and they deserve whatever measures we can employ to take care of them and their families in case of life-altering injuries or even death. While CDI looks at the spreadsheet, we look at the human stories of the recently injured jockeys such as Jorge Chavez and Jacky Martin. We feel a responsibility to those disabled jockeys, such as Ron Turcotte, Gary Birzer, Michael Martinez, Michael Straight, Tad Leggett and others. We cannot forget those who lost their lives while riding, such as Mark Villa who left a wife and young twins. That’s why we remain willing to meet with Bill Carstanjen at any time and at any place, assuming he’s serious about working with us. Our ultimate responsibility is to help active riders who get hurt. We have worked to educate the industry, the regulators, legislators and others, and will continue to do so.”

 

 

About the Guild

 

Jockeys’ Guild, Inc., the organization representing professional jockeys in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the United States, was founded in May 1940 and has approximately 950 members, including active, retired and disabled jockeys. The purpose is to protect jockeys, strive to achieve a safer racing environment, to obtain improved insurance and other benefits for members and to monitor developments in local, state and federal laws affecting the racing industry, and in particular, the jockeys. More information at www.jockeysguild.com and www.facebook.com/jockeysguild.

 

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Kieber Coa set to begin career as jockey

By Claire Novak/The Blood-Horse
Coa, 19, is the son of journeyman Eibar Coa. He is expected to arrive in Florida early next week from Panama, where he graduated from the Laffit Pincay Jr. Jockey School on Dec. 2.
Young Coa will ride the first race of his career at Presidente Remon Racetrack in Panama City on Dec. 8. He has two mounts on the card, both in debut events for 2011 graduates of the school. He’ll ride in Florida at Gulfstream Park the following week, but plans to continue on to Southern California shortly thereafter to launch his promising career at the Santa Anita meet that opens Dec. 26. Agent Joe Ferrer, who also holds the book of top rider Rafael Bejarano, will handle his business.
Photo by Claire Novak
“The kid was an exceptional athlete in high school, both in baseball and basketball,” said Ferrer. “He eventually got passed up because of his height, but he has talent. He has a great personality and is very bright; he’s fluent in both Spanish and English.
“I’ve seen films of him, and he looks very good. He was galloping in New York before he went to Panama, so he got a head start on these other guys. From what I’ve seen he looks very good on a horse.”
Coa was born in Venezuela but grew up in the U.S. from age 2 while his father was amassing 22 riding titles en route to victory in more than 4,000 races (including the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, gr. I, aboard Big Drama). The elder Coa, 40, was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down after fracturing his C-4 vertebra in a racing accident at Gulfstream on Feb. 18. In spite of being designated a quadriplegic with little hope for recovery, he beat the odds and is now walking on his own and progressing toward what he hopes will be a full recuperation.
“About a week after I got here, my dad had the accident,” the younger Coa said Dec. 6 at Presidente Remon. “I had to decide if this was still something I wanted to do. He called me from the hospital and said, ‘It’s your decision, I’ll support you whatever you decide.’ I grew up watching him ride all my life and always wanted to be a jockey. I didn’t want to give that up. For me, he was the biggest motivation.”
Coa said his father recommended that he attend the Panamanian jockey school because of its record of producing highly successful riders throughout history—from Manuel Ycaza and Braulio Baeza to Alex Solis and Cornelio Velasquez. Eddie Castro, Jose Lezacno, Fernando Jara, and Gabriel Saez are more recent graduates of the school.
“The first thing I said to him when he came here was, ‘Your dad is very famous and one of the best, but you have to do things for yourself,’ said Concepcion Barria, an instructor with the jockey school. “I told him, ‘Your father can only provide good advice for you; other than that you have to make your own way in the world.’ He never tried to rest on his father’s name. He worked hard. I know the boy is capable to do well in the United States. He’s very smart and learns very fast.”
Jason Shandler contributed to this story
Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Finger Lakes Jockey John Grabowski Retires

From Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Grabowski, 50, finished his 32-year career with 3,401 victories, including 41 stakes wins. He led the Finger Lakes jockey standings six times in his career and is one of only three riders to register more than 3,000 wins at Finger Lakes.

“I am still riding at a high level, but I feel like it’s time,” Grabowski told Daily Racing Form. “I’ve had a great career.” Grabowski, who finished the meet ranked sixth among Finger Lakes riders by wins with 85, said he plans to become a trainer, which he briefly pursued in 1992 and 1993, winning 18 races.

Monday, December 05, 2011

CHAVEZ SIDELINED AT LEAST FIVE MONTHS FOLLOWING SUNDAY SPILL AT AQUEDUCT

From NYRA Communications Department
 He will be sidelined at least five months, said his agent, David Grace.

“He’s doing OK,” said Grace. “He broke his collar bone and some ribs and fractured the vertebrae and they kept him overnight last night. He was in good spirits.”

Grace added that Chavez could be released from the hospital on Monday. 

In Sunday’s race, a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden contest for New York-bred fillies and mares, Chavez’s mount, Silver Mast, fell turning for home and dropped her rider. The 3-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast rolled over Chavez before getting to her feet and did not appear to be injured in the incident.

Chavez, a 50-year-old native of Peru, was the leading rider on the NYRA circuit from 1994-1999 and winner of the 1999 Eclipse Award as the nation’s Outstanding Jockey. Winner of the 2001 Kentucky Derby aboard Monarchos, Chavez also lists two Breeders’ Cup victories on his resume – the 1999 Distaff aboard Beautiful Pleasure and the 1999 Sprint aboard Artax. With 4,526 victories in North America, he is ranked 37th on the career win list according to statistics provided by Equibase. Chavez’s record on the NYRA circuit in 2011 is 22-25-38 from 297 starts, including an overnight stakes victory aboard Spa City Princess last February at Aqueduct. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

ALVARADO WINS FOUR; CHAVEZ STABLE AFTER SPILL

From NYRA Communications Department 

In the Damon Runyon, Swag Daddy raced in last behind a tightly packed field, swung four-wide into the stretch and surged late to win by a head.

 

“He broke a little bit slow and I just tried to save ground the first part,” said Alvarado. “It was a long race, and I wanted to save ground, but at the same time, I had to go outside because they told me that the horse doesn’t like to be inside too much. By the half-mile pole, everybody was all packed right there and I had to wait a little bit longer to go back and then make a move. He could have won the race more easily if I’d had a better trip and a better position, but he still ran an unbelievable race.”

 

Swag Daddy, a son of Scat Daddy, returned $5.50 and completed a mile and 70 yards in 1:43.90, earning $39,000 for owner Eric Fein.

 

Alvarado also captured the Sunday opener aboard Hoopskirt ($4.10), Race 5 aboard Cass’ Lady ($6.60) and Race 7 aboard American Buffalo ($6.70).

 

In the nightcap, a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden race for New York-bred fillies and mares, jockey Jorge Chavez was unseated when his mount, Silver Mast, fell turning for home. Chavez was transported to North Shore University Hospital in stable condition complaining of left shoulder pain, according to NYRA First Aid. Silver Mast stood after the incident and was walked off the track.

 

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Jockeys’ Guild takes battle with Churchill to Illinois

By Frank Angst/Thoroughbred Times
On Thursday, the Guild persuaded the Illinois Racing Board to delay a decision on renewing Churchill’s license to operate its profitable advance-deposit-wagering operation, TwinSpires.com, in the state pending a review. The board decided to collect information from involved parties and have its staff investigate the issue before renewing the license of any ADW operators in the state, which also includes Betfair’s Television Games Network and the Stronach Group’s XpressBet.com.

The racing board plans to review information and determine what authority it has to act on the issue before making a decision on December 20.

The Guild is concerned about Churchill Downs Inc.’s decision to discontinue contributions to jockey health and welfare insurance in 2012 at Arlington Park, in Illinois; Calder Race Course; Churchill Downs; and Fair Grounds. Churchill will pay $330,000 this year to assist in jockey life insurance, accidental death, and temporary disability benefits.

Last month, the California Horse Racing Board, a state that does not have a Churchill-owned track, agreed to review Churchill’s commitment to riders before approving its TwinSpires operation, or any ADW operation, in the state. Illinois will launch a similar review.

At Thursday’s Illinois Racing Board meeting, TwinSpires Vice President Brad Blackwell contended that Guild health and welfare payments should not be tied to a decision on licensing Churchill’s ADW. Blackwell argued that any negotiations between the Guild and Churchill tracks are a separate issue from its ADW operation.

Blackwell added that Churchill has supported jockey health and welfare by providing $1-million in on-track injury insurance at each of its four tracks, participating in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance, and contributing to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. Blackwell said Churchill pays about $1.8-million annually to these initiatives with total insurance costs for the four tracks of $777,000 and $1-million for the four tracks to meet standards and participate in the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

Blackwell said the insurance policies have paid out about $5-million to riders injured on the track since 2005 and participation in the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance helps assure rider safety.

“Churchill Downs certainly values and appreciates the contributions that jockeys make,” Blackwell said.

Jockeys’ Guild In-house Counsel Mindy Coleman said $1-million can be gone in three to four months for a rider who suffers serious spinal cord or head injuries. Guild riders, who have a median income of $38,000, contribute $4 a ride to the various health and welfare funds. In 2011, track contributions to these funds totaled about $1.4-million while riders contributed $900,000. Churchill payments account for 23.6% of track contributions this year.

Coleman said the Guild attempted to pursue private negotiations with Churchill on the matter but the track owner discontinued talks after a single meeting. Guild National Manager Terry Meyocks said regulators should look at the commitment to the industry of ADW owners before approving their business operations and he applauded the racing board’s decision to review the renewal request.

“As far as the Guild is concerned, CDI needs to show that it is a responsible company by working to do what is best for the industry and not just focus on what money it can make on ADWs,” Meyocks said. “I think that the [Illinois Racing Board’s] decision to delay approval of the licensing application sends another significant message to CDI.”

Blackwell pointed out that Churchill has not been informed what other tracks pay into jockey health and welfare and pointed out that many do not participate in the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

The Guild also wrote an opinion piece in the Florida Sun-Sentinel on Saturday, penned by Meyocks and Guild Chairman John Velazquez, pointing out that Stronach Group-owned Gulfstream Park makes payments to jockey health and welfare while Churchill-owned Calder does not.

Frank Angst is senior writer for Thoroughbred Times

Monday, December 05, 2011

CURATOLO WINS FOUR AT AQUEDUCT

From NYRA Communications Department

Curatolo, 19, swept races 2 through 5 on the Aqueduct card, with Awesome Arceno ($5.60), Brooklyn Red ($4.20), Warrior Marie ($8.20), and Schillerette ($13.40) providing the horsepower.

 

“It was great,” said Curatolo. “The horses were running well. I was relaxed, the horses were relaxed, and they responded. The trainers had them all ready to run. I just want to ride well and make the people happy.”

 

It was the second time in his young career that the native of France won four races on a card, having also done so May 21 at Belmont Park.

 

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