Kendrick Carmouche continues to rocket up the Belmont spring/summer meet leaderboard, entering Friday tied with Jose Lezcano for the most jockey wins with 15.
Through the meet's first 12 days, Carmouche already has doubled his 2018 graded stakes victory count, piloting Heavenhasmynikki in the Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 11 and the French-bred Olympico in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on May 4.
The 35-year-old native of Vinton, Louisiana is building off a strong Aqueduct spring meet in which he went 9-8-6 in 54 mounts, tying Eric Cancel for the fourth-most wins.
"Since I've been back, it's been very good," Carmouche said. "I've just been putting my head down and riding hard and making good decisions out there. The trainers and owners are putting me on decent horses where I can perform to my abilities, and I'm very thankful. My agent, Kevin [Bubser] and I are trying really hard. To be tied for leading jockey, I'm just thrilled."
Carmouche will look to continue his hot start on Saturday when he will be in the irons of the Chad Brown-trained Seek and Destroy in the Grade 3, $100,000 Soaring Softly for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs in the Widener turf.
Seek and Destroy, at 8-1 on the morning line, draw post 5 in the eight-horse field. Carmouche will be looking to win his second graded stakes of the meet for Brown, with the duo teaming for Olympico's three-length score on the soft inner turf earlier this month. That marked the first time a horse trained by Brown and ridden by Carmouche won a graded stakes since Goldy Espony in the 2015 Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Waya at Saratoga.
"It's always a plus when you're riding for one of the top trainers in the country and to add him to some of the other guys I ride for makes my business better," Carmouche said. "I'm never stressed out about riding for a guy like that. I've won races for him in Philadelphia and everywhere and I'm just glad for the chance now. I want to be one of the top jockeys in New York and I've proven over the years that I can compete at the highest levels. I'm just thrilled to have [Brown] on the team again."
Carmouche's run of success came after a six-month layoff to recover from a broken right leg suffered in a spill at Kentucky Downs on September 9. Riding Chattel in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint, Carmouche's horse clipped heels with Impact after the horse ducked out in front of him, unseating Carmouche.
Chattel suffered a fatal injury while Carmouche was sidelined six months, rehabbing his leg at his home in Delaware. He said the support he received, both medically and from his family and friends, helped him eventually get back to one of the most challenging circuits in the world for a jockey. It also allowed him to continue in a sport he's known all his life as the son of jockey Sylvester Carmouche, who won 1,348 races in just under 16,700 career mounts from 1978-2013.
"After six months being out, all the love that everyone gave me for six months and all the support from the doctors, my mom, my kids, my wife, my in-laws; all the people who stuck with me during that time, all the hard work they put in; I just want to get out there and keep working hard. I'm just loving the sport. It's the sport of kings, I was born into it, and I want to keep it going," said Carmouche.
Carmouche is a 2015 inductee into the Parx Hall of Fame, where he won seven riding titles, including four straight from 2008-11.
"A lot of owners, trainers, and a lot of jock's around the country kept calling me over this six months to see how I was doing. It makes me speechless," Carmouche said. "They didn't have to do that. But I guess the love that I've spread throughout my life and my career on the path to where I want to be today in New York, it goes to show you that if you treat everyone the same, there's a lot of respect."
Carmouche said it took time and multiple mounts after returning to racing on February 24 at Aqueduct to feel like he did before the injury. But he said the rehab process has helped improve his fitness regimen as he looks to make a bid for his first Belmont riding title.
"I would say three weeks, four weeks tops," Carmouche said about the timeline to feel like he did pre-injury. "It finally felt to the point where now I was leveling off and back to myself. I'm a different type of fit now. From being out for six months, I run more now to keep my leg strong, it's only going to get better from here. I'm a lot fitter and my weight is better. My mind is totally different from being off for six months. I realized I was riding with some of the top jocks in the country, and that's what motivated me more than anything. When you have God with you, you can overcome anything."