In the business world, there are countless stories about family-owned businesses transitioning between generations. In the racing industry, training mantles have been passed down between parent and child with tremendous success. But obstacles are plentiful when the son of an elite jockey chooses to pursue that same career path.
Thoroughbred jockey Jansen Melancon is a prime example. The 33-year-old rider is the son of one of the top riders in the country, Gerard Melancon. Known affectionately as Gee-Money, Gerard has won 5,048 career races and with his outgoing personality and bevy of top trainers in his hip pocket, seems destined to ride for many more years.
His son, Jansen, shipped his tack to Sam Houston Race Park in January and is currently tenth in the standings. He returns to action this week off a notable showing last weekend. He guided Gold Declaration to a driving runner-up finish at odds of 34-1 for trainer Terry Eoff on Friday, February 18. On the Texas Preview card, he scored an adroit stakes win aboard Chief Brady in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit. Melancon, riding for horseman Dallas Keen, found an opening on the rail and confidently navigated the 3-year-old to the wire. It’s difficult for members of the Sam Houston jockey colony to command attention with veterans Stewart Elliott and Ry Eikleberry winning races for top horsemen Steve Asmussen and Karl Broberg. But last weekend, racing fans in Houston and across the country, saw the talent of Jansen Melancon.
Jansen began riding in 2008 and has won 761 races from over 7,300 starts and purses of $14.2 million. Becoming a professional jockey was all he ever dreamed about, and he always had the support of his father.
“He never discouraged me, ever,” stated Jansen. “He always wanted me to be happy.”
But for many years, being the son of Gerard Melancon, created imposing obstacles. Annette Melancon, wife of Gerard, and mother to sons Jonas and Jansen, remembers it well.
“People would tell Jansen that he had big shoes to fill or call him ‘little G’ referencing the well-known tag of “Gee Money,” she recalled. “It was difficult for him.”
Jansen had a tough time with it, but soldiered on as he made the rounds, picking up mounts for a number of horsemen.
“When I first got going, Joey Foster was one of the trainers who stuck his neck out for me,” he said. “Throughout my career, I’ve never ridden first call for a barn; I’ve always had mounts for many horsemen, and I appreciate each of them.”
Jansen faced challenges for many years; there were wins, but he was far from an overnight success. Alcohol played too much of a role in his life and he chose to face his addiction.
“I have been sober for two years now and have never felt better,” he explained.
Jansen always had the support from his parents and his wife, Brooke. They live just a subdivision away from them in Scott, Louisiana, with their 6-year-old son, Emmitt.
Gerard Melancon watches pretty much all of Jansen’s races and was thrilled with his three-bagger here on January 15.
“That was a great night for Jansen,” said his proud dad. “He’s always had a hard time riding under me in Louisiana. Hopefully he will pick up some owners and trainers because he has so much talent and he just needs opportunities!”
Jansen is in agreement with Gerard on that front.
“A lot of the trainers knew me as a kid,” said Jansen. “The comparisons to my dad were ongoing, but riding in a different circuit, I am Jansen, not G’s son.”
On Saturday, February 19, Gerard won the finale at Delta Downs aboard Frank the Mayor for trainer Keith Charles. That evening, he and Annette settled into their recliners to watch Jansen ride the Texas Preview Night card at Sam Houston Race Park. Jansen piloted Chief Brady in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit, who had won his debut in January for trainer Dallas Keen. He was stepping up against in stakes company, but Jansen settled the 3-year-old colt on the backstretch before finding room on the rail. The son of Bradester responded gamely and drew off to a three-length victory at odds, rewarding his fans with a $13.20 win payout.
"He's never had dirt in his face, but took it well,” said Jansen. "He was moving nicely and dragging me along; I saw the rail open and took the opportunity."
Keen had no hesitation is giving Melancon the return call.
“Jansen is a talented rider,” stated Keen. “He shows up in the mornings and listens when I tell him about what the horses like and do not like. He won by six lengths on Chief Brady in his debut and made an impressive move up the rail in the Jim’s Orbit.”
In addition to impressing Keen and racing fans last Saturday, Melancon drew rave reviews from his parents.
“Gerard was whooping and hollering watching Jansen win that stakes,” said Annette. “It was exciting; we were very proud of him!”
Jansen has ridden against his father many times in Louisiana and is destined for repeat duels in the future. His approach is that they are just two jockeys trying to cross the finish line first.
“When I am in the starting gate, it doesn’t matter who I am riding against,” said Jansen. “It’s just me and the horse trying to win the race.”
He will ride at Sam Houston Race Park until the 2022 Thoroughbred season wraps on Saturday, April 9. Jansen and his agent, Bubba Wood have several options open about his next stop.
“I feel I have never worked a day in my life,” he explained. “It’s still fun. There’s no freer feeling than being on the back of the horse.”
About Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston. Owned by Penn National Gaming. Inc., the racetrack, which opened in 1994, offers a variety of attractions including a Suite Level featuring luxurious suites overlooking the racetrack, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and the Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming live racing, shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.