Industry Profile: Leading NY Apprentice Jockey Jamie Torres

Jockey Jaime Torres won 37 races on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) in 2023 to lead all apprentice riders, posting a record of 411-37-50-50 for purse earnings in excess of $2.6 million. Luis Rivera, Jr. won 27 races to finish second in the NYRA apprentice rider standings.

Torres, who was represented locally by Hall of Famer Angel Cordero, Jr., became a journeyman in October and is now based at Fair Grounds Race Course where Liz Morris has his book.

“New York is one of the toughest circuits in the country and there are a lot of experienced jockeys there. I learned so much from them and from Angel Cordero, who was my right hand and teaching me and leading me the whole meet. I feel very blessed to have had all those opportunities and I learned from it a lot. I would love to go back one day,” Torres said.

Torres, a 24-year-old native of Puerto Rico, was late in arriving to the sport but has proven to be a quick study after a visit to Hipodromo Camarero in December 2019.

“No one in my family is related to this sport. I remember one day I was at my mom’s home just changing the channels and I saw the races in Puerto Rico and I had never seen anything like that – only in the movies,” Torres said. “I went to the races the next day – that was December 15, 2019. I saw the races and fell in love with it. I decided then to ask for more information about how to get into it.”

Torres spent six months training as an exercise rider at the jockey school in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida and taking out his exercise rider license to work for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. at Palm Meadows Training Center.

Jockey Jamie Torres“I worked for Saffie Joseph for 10 months and he helped me with everything,” Torres said. “His team taught me how to exercise horses and when I told Saffie I was going to try and get my license, he gave me three horses to break from the gate and get that license. A lot of the horses I exercised for him were winning and doing really good. I really appreciate the opportunity that he gave me.”

Torres secured his first win on September 17, 2022 at Gulfstream Park, guiding Takestwotowiggle to a 13-1 gate-to-wire upset. He began riding at Aqueduct Racetrack in January where he won the bulk of his races on the NYRA circuit, scoring 24 times at the Big A topped by an allowance score in April with the Carlos Martin-trained Lady Milagro, who went on to win the Autumn Days here in November.

Torres, who captured six races at Belmont Park, won seven races at the Saratoga Race Course meet, including a pair of maiden special weights with MyRacehorse’s Seize the Grey for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and with Leslie’s Loot for trainer James Chapman, who co-owns the Fast Anna filly with Stuart Tsujimoto.

“I remember every moment and every win I had in New York, but the first win for D. Wayne Lukas with Seize the Grey was very special. The kind of trainer he is – he’s a legend,” Torres said. “I remember Angel Cordero told me to visit his barn just to introduce me and, for me, that was a moment I will never forget. I didn’t know I was going to ride for him and then one week I saw Seize the Grey was one of my commitments. I thought, ‘Wow. I can’t believe I’m going to ride for him.’

“And then I saw I was going to also ride for MyRacehose and that made me very happy,” continued Torres. “When I first started to know about this sport it was the same year they won the Kentucky Derby with Authentic. For it to end like that with a win, that was very special.”

Torres, who finished second in the Grade 2 Herb Moelis Saratoga Special with the Lukas-trained Market Street, said winning a race in Saratoga is an experience like no other.

“It was the best feeling. The fans give you a lot of support and they make you feel really good. When the kids ask you for a picture or to sign their book, that’s very special,” Torres said.

Torres rode in Kentucky after the Spa meet ended but he reunited with Leslie’s Loot at the Fair Grounds to notch his first career stakes win in the Letellier Memorial on December 23 as part of a lucrative day that also saw Torres win the Richard R. Scherer Memorial with the Michelle Lovell-trained Just Might.

“Wow, what a moment,” Torres recalled. “I remember saying to my father that I was just coming here to do what I love – with no pressure and following instructions. I gave it 100 percent and thank God it finished like that. I really thank James Chapman and Michelle Lovell for the opportunities.”

Torres said the relationships and learning experiences developed in New York have helped shape his career which is on an upward trajectory as he currently sits sixth in the Fair Grounds jockey standings with 14 wins.

“I feel very blessed for everything that is going on in my career. I never thought it was going to be that quick,” Torres said. “Joe Sharp and his owners have really helped me and supported me to achieve all my goals. Tom Morley and Ray Handal are here at Fair Grounds and I feel very blessed when I ride for them. They’re all very nice people and saw me growing up in this business.”

Torres, who said he hopes to return to Saratoga this summer, will look to add to his stakes totals on Saturday at Fair Grounds when he pilots the Lovell-conditioned Redifined in the Nelson J. Menard Memorial as he continues to chase his racing dreams.

“I want to win a meet somewhere and just keep learning and make the most of the opportunities people are giving me. I appreciate all of them. One day, I would like to become one of the best jockeys in the country,” Torres said.

source: NYRA.com

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Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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