The Young Jockey You Need to Know for New York Racing

The apprentice jockey, who rode his first mount in June 2021, closed out his 2022 campaign as the leading apprentice rider on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit and finished in ninth-place in the overall jockeys standings. Jose Gomez, 22, posted a NYRA record of 917-98-95-117 with total purse earnings of $5,803,684.

“It all came by surprise. I didn’t expect to start out here in New York,” said Gomez. “I’m thankful for all the trainers, everybody who is a part of the team, and all the people who taught me and gave me a chance to learn even before I started riding.”

the Big A race horseGomez celebrated three stakes victories on the NYRA circuit, earning two starter stakes coups on the March 26 New York Claiming Championship card and a breakout score in the NYSSS Statue of Liberty aboard Golden Rocket in August at Saratoga Race Course, the first black type stakes victory of his career.

Gomez, who was born in Muskegon, M.I., moved to Pennsylvania when he was a child and spent much of his youth at Penn National Race Course, where his mother groomed horses and his father was an exercise rider. It was there that Gomez fell in love with horses and the sport.

“My mom would take me to the barn with her when I was seven and I would dump the buckets and the wheelbarrows and all that,” said Gomez. “I saw all the hard work my mom would put in and it just really spoke to me. I just have it in my blood.”

After learning the basics of riding aboard his childhood Shetland pony named Lucky, Gomez worked his way up to thoroughbreds with trainer Richard Lugovich and began galloping young horses for him. Gomez recounted several of the trainers and mentors that helped him grow to where he is now.

“Lucky taught me riding is a balance and that it’s not a battle between you and them,” said Gomez. “I started getting on thoroughbreds with Lugovich and then I started breaking babies with Jose Flores and my love of horses grew from there. I was at Arlington Park for a little before they closed and then went to Ocala and worked for Nick de Meric. I finally wound up in New Jersey with Skip Einhorn and then Kelly Breen.”

Gomez is represented by agent Angel Cordero, Jr., the Hall of Famer who won over 7,000 races, five Triple Crown events and over $164 million in purses.

Gomez said having such a legendary jockey as an agent has been a privilege.

“I want to thank Angel and Kelly Breen, who introduced him to me,” said Gomez. “Angel taught me a lot and I’m thankful for that. It gives me confidence to learn from someone like him. The biggest thing he’s taught me is to come out of the gate running and to get early position.”

This summer, Gomez rode his first Saratoga meet, posting a record of 128-11-15-11 and over $927,000 in earnings. Gomez said he has enjoyed the challenge of working and learning in the most competitive jockey colony in the country.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to Saratoga or not, but Angel told me if I want to be good, I’ve got to go where the big guys go,” said Gomez. “We went and it was a lot of work, but I’m grateful for the wins I had up there and the learning experience.”

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in upstate New York

Gomez said one of the highlights of his year at NYRA was riding two winners for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas at Saratoga.

“Riding for ‘Coach’ was special,” said Gomez. “I won two races for him and that was a great feeling. Angel rode for him a lot, and now I’ve ridden for him. It’s surreal. I was a little nervous when I found out I was riding for him, but I just gave it my best effort at the end of the day.”

Beyond his NYRA record, Gomez posted an overall record of 1,312-152-163-156 in 2022, and it is likely his name appear will appear on the ballots of Eclipse Award voters as he eyes a chance at the prestigious Champion Apprentice title.

“It’s been a great year for many apprentices – Jeiron Barbosa in Maryland and Vicente Del-Cid in Louisiana are great riders,” said Gomez. “Whoever wins, wins, and I’m just happy to be mentioned in the conversation.”

Finalists for the Eclipse Awards will be announced Saturday at 11:30 a.m. with the 52nd annual Eclipse Award winners’ ceremony to be held Thursday, January 26 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Among Gomez’s upcoming mounts at the Big A are stakes engagements on Saturday aboard Valenzan Day [post 3, 10-1] in the $150,000 Jerome for sophomores and Forewarned [post 1, 20-1] in the $150,000 Queens County for older horses. The former race will award the top-five finishers 10-4-3-2-1 qualifying points, respectively, towards the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on the First Saturday in May.

“I’ve galloped Valenzan Day and it’s nice to ride him,” Gomez said. “Hopefully, we get lucky. Just seeing my name on the overnight for a race like the Jerome is a good feeling.”

Gomez has already started the year off on the right foot, guiding O’Trouble to victory in a New Year’s Day claiming event at the Big A for trainer Antonio Arriaga. Gomez said his main goals in 2023 are to continue learning and improving with each mount.

“O’Trouble is my boy and I love him,” said Gomez, with a laugh. “I’m just hoping to keep going and learning – to try to win, to get better, and to make a name for myself.”


A New Name in the Jockey Colony to Know

Press Release

Apprentice Weston Hamilton, the youngest son of multiple graded-stakes winning journeyman Steve ‘Cowboy’ Hamilton, picked up his first two professional wins with his only mounts of the day Monday at Laurel Park.

The 19-year-old shares the Laurel jock’s room with his dad, a winner of more than 1,300 career races who returned to the irons last year following a decade’s absence in part to help raise his sons, including older brother Garrett.

Hamilton had ridden in three amateur races, winning a seven-furlong claiming event on My Uncle Al for trainer Patricia Farro Nov. 5 at Parx, before making his pro debut with a runner-up finish on Durango Girl Dec. 2 at Laurel. His first win came in his 10th professional mount.

“I feel great. That was the best feeling ever,” Hamilton said after guiding David Carter’s I Just Wanna Win ($8.60) to a neck victory over favored Have Hope in Monday’s fifth race, a $17,000 claiming event for fillies and mares 3 and up. The Pat McGill-trained 5-year-old mare ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:05.98 over a fast main track.

Steve Hamilton, sixth in the current fall meet standings with 23 victories, finished another three lengths back in fourth aboard 4-year-old filly Include a Check, the program favorite.

“I saw the light at the end and saw we had an open shot and went on with him. We had a lot of horse under us so we finished up good. I’m really happy,” Hamilton said. “I was thinking we were going to make it. I got up next to my dad, he was outside of me, and he said, ‘Go on with him.’ Sure enough we went on with him and we had a good race.”

Hamilton, a 10-pound apprentice, picked up his second winner with Sola Dei Gloria Stable’s Stella Nova ($14.40) in Race 7, a $25,000 starter allowance for females 3 and up. Despite dropping his whip and briefly losing the lead in mid-stretch, Hamilton persisted on the 3-year-old filly and got her to the wire a neck ahead of Lemon Lover in 1:05.46 for 5 ½ furlongs.

“I knew we had a good horse. I looked at the program and there’s been some pretty good rides. She’s made the lead and never looked back a few times, so I knew we were on a good, fast horse,” Hamilton said. “I wasn’t trying to worry about it too much. I just stayed calm and rode my race.”

“He did a good job,” winning trainer and former jockey Hugh McMahon said. “He didn’t need the stick. He used his hands and kept it coordinated and kept it going and he prevailed.”