The decision of veteran jockey Julien Leparoux to make the journey to Belmont Park just after the close of the spring/summer meet at Churchill Downs proved to be a wise one. His heady ride aboard longshot Classic Causeway in the Grade I Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational earned Jockey of the Week honors. The award, which is voted on by a panel of racing experts, honors jockeys who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 1050 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.
Trainer Ken McPeek gave a leg up to Leparoux on Classic Causeway who was making his turf debut just two weeks after the three-year-old colt’s third place finish in the Gr. III Ohio Derby.
Breaking from post four in the field of 12, Classic Causeway led by a head over European runner Royal Patronage and the Todd Pletcher-trained Grand Sonata. Classic Causeway never looked back, holding a two-length lead at the eighth pole as a wall of rivals took aim and tried in vain to overtake the duo. Final time for mile and one-quarter was 1:59.99 with Classic Causeway rewarding his backers with a $55.50 payoff. The win was Leparoux’s 50th career Grade I and eleventh graded stakes win at Belmont Park.
“The plan was to go to the lead,” said Leparoux. “The only time I was a little worried was in the first turn when Joel (Rosario on Royal Patronage) was kind of head-to-head with me. When he took back, my horse just got to cruising and was happy to be on the lead. I was getting him to relax nicely and switch off. It was a good run for him. He was actually feeling pretty fresh today. It was Kenny’s idea to wheel him back on the grass, and it paid off today for sure.”
Leparoux is the 2006 Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Apprentice and the 2009 Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Jockey, one of only four jockeys to win both awards. He became just the fourth jockey to win 500 races at Keeneland in 2021 and is Keeneland’s leading active jockey with numerous leading rider titles. On June 4, 2022 Leparoux became the fifth rider to win 1,000 races at Churchill Downs. Leparoux, a native of France, will ride full time at Saratoga when the meet opens on July 14.
Other nominees for Jockey of the Week were Florent Geroux with two stakes wins at Horseshoe Indianapolis, Brain Hernandez, Jr. with two stakes wins, Paco Lopez who led all jockeys in wins with 10 and Irad Ortiz, Jr. who won the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational.