Industry Profile: Drayden Van Dyke

23-year-old jockey Drayden Van Dyke recently met with Santa Anita’s Zoe Cadman and Alexis Garske for observations from one of So-Cal’s brightest young stars, well on his way to becoming one of racing’s signature riders.

Much has been made of the mentors who have guided you, but what have you learned on your own?

“I’ve definitely had to learn some things first-hand. You have to make some of your own mistakes that teach a lesson you couldn’t be told. That’s the kind of stuff you have to learn on your own.”

What’ one of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made?

“Not showing up for workers when I was an apprentice. I was working with Tom Proctor and had rented a house with Mike Smith in Del Mar. It was my first summer and I was excited. I had spent a lot but unfortunately, I had to stay in the tack room for a week as punishment.

“At least I could see the moon from my bed (laughing).”

Favorite racehorse of all time?

“There are a lot of them but definitely Justify is up there for me. To be involved in the history that he made and to be able to break his maiden and work him is really cool to me.”

Have you ever wanted to play another sport?

“I would love to play basketball, if I had the size, definitely. Second behind that would be golf. I don’t have a handicap but I shoot in the mid-80’s.

“Even when I play for fun, I like to be competitive. I’ll play for fun but the fun goes away and I’m definitely trying to win. I enjoy it, but I’m definitely always trying.”

Beer or wine?

“Wine. Definitely.”

Cardi B or Nicki Minaj?

“(Laughs) Well, who won the fight the other day?”

Football or Baseball?

“Football.”

What did you eat last night?

“Scrambled eggs with avocado and broccoli. Yes, eggs for dinner. I love eggs.”

Are there other jobs in racing that look interesting or that you could see yourself doing one day?

“I think I’d enjoy TV. Maybe as an analyst. Similar to what Jerry Bailey is doing and what Gary did. I think I would enjoy doing something like that.”

What’s a dream day off for you?

“Not waking up to a phone call, sleeping in and waking up naturally. Just taking my time, having some coffee and not really making any plans.”

What’s a little-known, fun fact about yourself?

“I like rap music. I’ll memorize entire songs so when I go out and we’re dancing I can get into it and rap along (laughing).

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

“I’d like to have dinner with my dad one more time.”

What gets you out of bed that early every day?

“Love of the game definitely but also fear of missing out. I always feel like I’m missing something if I’m away for more than just one day. I don’t like to be away more than that. I don’t want to miss a new horse coming along.

“Also, the feeling of winning a race and breezing really nice horses is very addicting for me.”

Do you have any pets?

“I do, Gucci, is my mini German-Australian Shepard. He just turned two and he’s like a little human. He was just a little fur ball when I got him.”

Gucci? Why that particular name?

“I’m a Gucci guy. I mostly like their shoes and watches. The clothes are still a little out of my price range and size, but I like to mess around with the accessories.

“I wasn’t really into fashion when I was growing up in Kentucky and Arkansas. One, I didn’t have the money. And two, I didn’t know of the brand back then. I got into all of that when I came to California and was around Mike (Smith.)”

That’s a great segway into talking about ‘Money Clip’ – your first winner. Take us through that first ride. (Money Clip broke his maiden at Hollywood Park on Nov. 11, 2013, under Van Dyke).

“Gary Stevens was originally supposed to ride that horse for Tom Proctor. I was living in Tom’s tack room and just hanging around the barn. It had rained so they took it off the turf and moved it to the Polytrack.

“Tom called Gary and said, ‘Why don’t you stay home? I don’t want you comin’ out and having to get wet. I’ll put the bug boy on. The horse needs a race anyway, he’s not ready.’ So that’s how I got my chance to ride, and I won.

“Tom is more of an old school-type trainer, as his father Willard was, and they usually give a horse a few races to mature. He schools them the right way and always looks toward the future. My instructions were to take him back and make one run. I was told, ‘If he finishes well, so be it. If not, we’ll get ‘em next time.’

“He made a run but I didn’t do much. I was green and shocked at what was going on. I just got up in the knick of time.

“I watched the replay the other day and I thought, ‘Man, Drayden, do something! I didn’t do much of anything. I was just thinking come on wire, come on wire.’

“After winning, I definitely got ‘initiated.’ I was caked with eggs, ice water, powder, you name it. Everything you get when you win your first race. But it was a little different for me. I had to hurry up, take a shower and get back to cool the horse out.

“I think I gained other trainers respect by seeing me do that and watching how Proctor brought me along the right way.”

Talk about Proctor and his impact on you.

Trainer Tom Proctor gives Van Dyke a leg up in the Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita Park on September 29.

“He’s definitely kept me grounded and still keeps me grounded. I recently rode for him at Kentucky Downs and did something he told me not to do and he let me know. He told me I did it wrong. I’m very lucky to have him.”

Fast forward to getting on Justify in the mornings. What were your initial thoughts of him?

“Obviously, he’s talented but what really stood out to me was Bob’s reaction when I first worked him. Bob just said, ‘Wow, that’s a serious horse right there.’

“I kept working him and he was just doing things effortlessly. We were just crushing every horse we worked with and I wasn’t moving on him. He was barely even trying.

“I was really looking forward to riding him in the afternoon and breaking his maiden, which I did, and I was very lucky to be involved with him.”

How did it feel getting taken off Justify, even though it was for Mike? Bittersweet?

“It was. But, there’s nothing I can do and that’s just the business. You just have to keep smiling and keep working hard. That’s what I’ve done and I was rewarded with being leading rider at Del Mar this summer.

“I was happy to see Justify win the Triple Crown and I wouldn’t have wanted it for anyone more than Mike, so it was great to be there. I even helped his mom get to the Winner’s Circle. She was having trouble getting there, and security wouldn’t let her in, but we got her in. I didn’t, but I was there to see it, so that was really, really cool.”

Did it fuel your fire? Did you think, ‘I’ll get my shot’?

“Of course. A lot of people have horses continually coming in so Justify won’t be the last Triple Crown horse. He might be actually, I mean whoever really knows, but there are plenty of horses coming in, so hopefully, I can be there to ride them.”

What do you do for fun? Did you have any fun this summer?

“I have fun! I was really busy this summer, though. I think I had two mornings off the entire meet. I was keeping straight so no, I didn’t go out much. I was riding about seven or eight a day and working about six each morning. I’m working serious horses and very expensive horses, so I respect that.

“After the last day, I had a good time and went out with my friends.”

With so many good trainers putting you on good horses and you and your agent, Brad Pegram, known for picking your spots, did you have an inkling that Del Mar would be as successful as it was?

“It’s funny because my agent and Flavien Prat’s agent, Derek Lawson, have a bit of a rivalry and they’ll go back ‘n’ forth. There’s a bit of a rivalry between me and Flavien as well so we were both a little like, ‘We’re coming for you. We’re loaded so be ready!’

“We had a lot of good horses, a lot of 2-year-olds, so I was looking forward to having a good meet.

“Flavien doesn’t always say much but if he does it’s always after a race and he gets on you for a move or something. But, he’s a friend of mine, we play golf together. He’s a fierce competitor. He makes me ride better and I’m sure I help him ride a better race sometimes as well.

“I wish there were other riders who had that same level of competitiveness, it makes you ride better. I like it, I love it.”

How big of an accomplishment was earning the leading riding title by five at Del Mar?

“It was a big accomplishment for sure. I’ve been leading rider at Los Alamitos a couple of times but not all the big riders are there, trying their hardest. To get it at Del Mar, when everyone is trying to win everything they can, is huge for me and my agent. I’ll never forget it.

Has anything changed since winning the title, or the seven races in one day?

“I feel like I’m really starting to do more things now. The types of races I’m winning, the number of races I’m winning. Even Mike and Gary haven’t won seven in a day. Winning the title on top of that meant a lot.

“I’m getting a fan base now. Even at the coffee shop the other day I was recognized, it was cool.

“It makes me stay on track. The better I do, the more opportunities I get and the better I do. I get in a zone. That momentum helps me to do even better.”

Do you find yourself thinking even more about your late father with your recent success?

“The day I won seven races, yes. On the gallop out, I looked up and talked to him for a minute. I was hoping he saw it. I wish he was around to see it now because he was seeing how well I was doing when I started and I still had no clue what I was doing.

“Now that I’m riding at the top of my level I wish he was a part of it, for a lot of reasons. I know he’s still watching and still proud of me, though.”

Van Dyke points out a few of his accomplishments, including a 2014 Eclipse Award honoring him as the nation’s Outstanding Apprentice.

So many names come to mind that have helped you on your path, is it especially nice to consult with them all for more than just riding advice?

“That fact really helped me after my dad passed away. Without them, I would have been more of a wreck and maybe even now still. Who knows what direction I would have gone in or what could have happened to me?

“Mike and Gary especially were there for me, and they’re still always there for me. I can call them any time. They’re my best friends. I golf with them, hang out with them, work out together. I don’t only see them as my mentors but as my friends. I’m really, really lucky.

“I can go to them for anything. As I got older and grew some hair on my chin, I didn’t know how to shave. I asked Gary what to do and he just said, ‘Come here. I’ll show you.’ He got me a razor and some cream and showed me how. It stuck with me and I think those moments have meant a lot to him, too.”

Favorite racetrack?

“I love the history of Santa Anita. I used to watch Seabiscuit three times a week. Santa Anita was like a character since so much was filmed here. I couldn’t believe I was here when I arrived. The mountains…I was struck by it.”

What are you looking forward to most this meet?

“Hopefully keeping my streak going, my ‘hotness.’ Hopefully winning a lot of races and stakes races and I’m really looking forward to riding at Breeders’ Cup.”

Some of Drayden’s mentors and their thoughts on him:

Bob Baffert:

“I was watching him before he got hurt. I was looking for new talent and told his agent that he’s got a lot of potential. I watched him come up under Proctor and loved the fact that he really made Drayden appreciate everything. He learned to love the horse first and that’s so important when you become a horseman. That’s what really caught my eye.

“He’s little, he’s light and horses run for him. He was patient and I saw him getting stronger.

“When he started working horses for me I liked that he didn’t mind wearing a radio. Some guys don’t like that. I really think that Proctor created a great foundation.

“I’ve always told him that you’ll learn from the good horses because they’ll get there with or without you. He’s handled some high-pressure situations. That’s the hardest part. It’s easy to ride a horse that’s 10-1 but when they’re 2-5, everyone’s expecting a win. You become a target and he’s learned to cope with that.

“He listens, he’s learning. He’s a student of the game. I’ll give him pointers. He’ll get off a horse that’s not even mine and I’ll tell him, ‘You could have done this or that,’ and he listens. He’ll take it in. He wants to be the man, the go-to guy and he’s going to get there. He’s got a good head on his shoulders.

“I was really happy to see him be leading rider at Del Mar, I knew it meant a lot to him.

“Mike Smith has been a big help and Drayden really looks up to him. What I really like is that he’s competitive. He’s not going to do something crazy, or impede someone because he wants to win himself, I like that. He loves the horse, he really does, and I can tell. It makes a difference and it’s pretty cool.”

Gary Stevens:

“He’s a great athlete and he’s always been a great athlete. He’s always wanted to learn and he continues to want to learn.

“You’ll see some guys get to a point where they just stop improving but Drayden improves every day. He’s turned into a student of the game. He loves the game and he loves what he’s doing. That’s what you’ve got to be to be successful.

“I’m proud of him. He’s like another son to me. He’s got myself, Mike Smith, Tom Proctor, he’s got a big support group that always stands behind him. The thing I’m most proud of is that he hasn’t let it go to his head. He’s respectful of his elders and he’s kind of a throw back. He’s always confident but he’s not cocky and that’s cool.

“It’s nice to have someone young that listens and wants to learn. There’s so many who you’ll try and help and they don’t want it. They think they know it all and that’s understandable being young. But Drayden, his ears and eyes are always wide open.”

Brad Pegram:

“There are definitely similarities between my two jocks, in addition to differences. Their dedication to staying fit to ride, their work ethic, and their mental approach. Drayden has learned all Mike’s good habits.

“Mike has taught Drayden how to be the ultimate professional and how to be best prepared to ride. He’s learned a lot but he’s also open to learning and he listens. He’s a student of the game, just as Mike is still. Mike is still learning and will talk to riders that are retired about different races so, yeah, Drayden is taking all of that in.

“They make my job very easy. They’re both ultimate professionals so it makes it very easy on me.

“I’ve always noticed Drayden’s talent. I admire Tom for the way he brought him up and the way he taught him. It was awesome to watch.

“He’s a genuinely good kid. In a great way, he hasn’t changed. He’s a very mellow, humble guy.”

Mike Smith:

“I’ve seen him grow up, been through the growing pains with him. To watch him get over that hump and to see him really focus in on his career and watch him ride right now, it’s great. He’s riding with so much confidence. He’s not a teenager anymore and he knows what he wants. He’s just getting better and better and it’s a lot of fun for me to watch. It makes me proud.

“To be riding extremely well, at the top of the level, and the competition he’s riding against isn’t easy, makes me a very proud older brother.

“I think his work ethic comes from Mr. Tom Proctor. They instilled all of that in him and it’s so important. The work isn’t over until you get to my age and then maybe you can back off a little.

“He does a good job in the morning and teaches them well, gets along with them. And again, a lot of that comes from getting to work for Proctor back at the farm. The rest of it is just learning from riding. I truly believe that you don’t get really good at riding until you’re in your thirties. To see him come along now, just give him another 10 years. It’s incredible.

“I remember I was told that when I was his age and I thought I was riding on top of the world. But it is so true and you learn so much, about how to handle yourself as well. A lot of not only representing yourself but also the sport comes later in life.

“I’m extremely grateful I’m not coming up in this era of everyone seeing everything you do. I think he’s done a pretty good job with it.

“He still has a lot to learn of course but he knows it. He truly understands that. This game can humble you very fast and to just stay even keel.

“The great thing about this sport is that even when things aren’t doing that well, they’ll always come around.”

Source: Santa Anita

Industry Profile: Jockey Harry Hernandez

It’s been a competitive jockey colony at Arlington International Racecourse so far this meet due to the addition of a few new faces in the jocks room. One of those is Harry Hernandez, who has enjoyed a solid beginning of the 2018 meet with six victories in 29 mounts.

Hernandez, 21, is currently tied for fourth in the standings with Sophie Doyle, who also is riding her first full season at the Chicagoland oval. He has finished in the money at a rate of 48%.

“I’m really excited and I’m really focused on my job,” Hernandez said. “Just trying to stay focused on winning races. I thank God and thank my agent [Ben Allen] and the owners for the opportunities that they have been giving me. I’m just trying to show off my experience.

Hernandez began his riding career in his native Puerto Rico and attended the Escuela Vocacional Hipica, graduating in the same class as leading riders Jose Ortiz, Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Eric Cancel.

Arlington Park racetrack“That school is such a nice school,” Hernandez said. “Before you graduate they make sure that you’re a hard worker and that you’re professional and respectful. Most importantly, they make sure you’re watching your weight because that’s the most important. They teach you how to gallop, teach you how to position. It’s awesome.”

Upon moving to the United States, Hernandez began riding at Finger Lakes in New York where he was consistently finishing in the top of the jockey standings.

“When I graduated I wanted to start riding in Puerto Rico since that’s where I’m from and that’s where my family is from,” Hernandez said. “But I always have wanted to come to the United States. This is where the good money is, it’s where the good owners and trainers are and you’ll learn more riding with good jockeys. This is where you learn more. I always wanted to ride in the United States and make a name for myself here.”

Check out other AGOS Jockey Profiles

It was good friend and accomplished rider Jose Ortiz, however, that gave him some encouragement to give Arlington a try this summer.

“I want to thank God for giving me these opportunities with the trainers and the owners,” Hernandez said. “My family always have supported me. I want to thank my really good friends, especially Jose Ortiz. He was the one who called me up and said ‘Hey, [Ben Allen] is a good agent’. He told me to go try it out.”

Source: Press Release

A Look at Jockey Jose Vargas, Jr.

‘I want to do that.’ It looked like fun.”

Seeing some of his jockey school classmates already having made an impact on the American racing scene, Jorge A.

jockey riding a horse race

Vargas Jr. is doing what he can to make a mark of his own.

Vargas, 23, leads Laurel Park’s current winter-spring meet standings with 35 wins and $1,158,229 in purse earnings from 160 starters. With 30 seconds and 29 thirds, his top-three strike rate of 59 percent is also a meet best. [Note he has since padded these stats]

On March 5, Vargas won four races at Laurel, one of nine multiple-win days he has enjoyed since making Maryland his primary home at the start of 2018.

A native of Puerto Rico, Vargas attended the country’s famed Escuela Vocacional Hipica, a riding academy that has produced Hall of Famer John Velazquez and brothers Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz among others.

Also in Vargas’ class were Victor Carrasco, the Maryland-based Eclipse Award-winning apprentice of 2013, and Jevian Toledo, the state’s overall leading rider in 2015 and 2017 and second in 2016. So, too, was Manny Franco, the leading rider in New York this winter.

“It was a pretty good class,” Vargas said.

Vargas was raised around the racetrack, the son and grandson of trainers. He first got on horses at age 11 or 12 and it wasn’t long before he knew he wanted to make riding horses his living. “My dad and my grandpa [Salvatore Vargas] were trainers in Puerto Rico, so it was always in the family,” Vargas said. “Going to the barns every day with my dad, he’d be doing something and when he wasn’t looking I’d jump on a horse.

“I grew up seeing my dad and watching him training and when I saw the jockeys I thought, ‘That’s something different.’ Growing up I was a groom and I learned all that, but I looked at the jockeys and said, ‘I want to do that.’ It looked like fun.”

After winning a dozen races in Puerto Rico, Vargas made his way to the U.S., where his first mount was also his first winner, Randy Allen-trained Caymus Girl on March 17, 2013, at Parx. Other than brief stints in New York and California, the latter in the summer of 2014, he remained a mainstay at Parx and Penn National.

Vargas had been considering a move to Maryland before the jockey colony was depleted by injuries to such top riders as Carrasco, Toledo, Trevor McCarthy and Horacio Karamanos. While Carrasco remains on the comeback trail from a broken leg suffered last fall at Delaware Park, Toledo returned March 9 and Karamanos followed a week later.

McCarthy, Maryland’s two-time overall riding champion, returned in January but moved his tack to New York. Vargas contacted McCarthy’s former agent, Scott Silver, and the two have forged a successful partnership. Silver also represents Maryland’s Irish jockey Feargal Lynch.

“There was an opening with Scotty and we got together and he offered me the chance. He said he had plenty of business in Maryland and he told me I had the talent so I took a shot. We’re doing good so far, thank God. I’m very thankful,” Vargas said. “So far, he’s done amazing. He’s an awesome person, very professional. I can’t ask for anything more.”

Vargas has enjoyed success riding for Kieron Magee, Maryland’s leading trainer from 2014 to 2016, who shared meet titles at Laurel winter-spring and the Preakness Meet at Pimlico in 2017.

On Dec. 9 at Laurel, Vargas won three races, two of them for Magee, including the Howard M. Bender Memorial aboard Struth. The same day he captured the Willa On the Move with Ms. Locust Point, who he would later ride to victory in last month’s G2 Barbara Fritchie.

Vargas’ other Graded-stakes win came in the 2017 G3 American St. Leger at Arlington Park aboard Postulation.

“I used to use him [Vargas] over at Parx quite a bit. I had a rider supposed to come in from out of town to ride a few horses for me before Christmas and he no-showed, and Jorge was here that day,” Magee said. “I called his agent and they rode all four and won two, one being a stake. Then he called me asked me what did I think and I said, ‘Come here and you can ride the barn.’

“He’s just a nice, nice kid. Look at the smile on his face. He comes by the barn and he’s fun to have around. He’s strong, too. You watch him come up beside somebody through the lane and they’re screwed because he just outrides them. I’m thrilled to have him here. It’s always good to start off on a roll, and what a way to start. Hopefully he can finish this thing off. He’s got some good out-of-town barns that come in here and use him, too.”

With the winter-spring meet running through May 6, Vargas hasn’t given much thought to the riding title. Apprentice Wes Hamilton, youngest son of Maryland’s Steve ‘Cowboy’ Hamilton, has won five of his last ten starts, including a four-win day March 17, to climb into second place in the standings with 26 wins.

“I’m just going for the moment,” Vargas said. “We all have some goals, but we’re just riding for the moment and wherever it takes you, it takes you. Just enjoy it.”

Kentucky Derby or 2000 Guineas: Which Classic Will Ryan Moore Ride in Come May 5?

“The Kentucky Derby is a race on my bucket list, but we’ll have to see what’s best to do closer to the time.”

If you’re a horse racing fan and haven’t already circled May 5 as a date in your diary, then here’s a brief and gentle reminder why you should.

On one side of the Atlantic, the first Classic of the British and Irish flat season takes place at Newmarket, with the 2000 Guineas centre stage. In the Bluegrass State, meanwhile, Churchill Downs hosts the Kentucky Derby – the culmination of a two-week racing festival in Louisville.

Ryan Moore by Ogiyoshisan

The all-conquering stable of master Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore owners take aim at valuable and prestigious races all over the world these days. For evidence of that, see Mendelssohn’s 18-lengths-plus romp in the UAE Derby as the colt left the field in his wake on the dirt under Ryan Moore at Meydan.

Such globetrotting exploits – Mendelssohn also landed the Juvenile Turf race at the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on his previous start and final one of last season – present connections with a problem. A nice one to have to be sure, but Moore cannot ride both the ante-post Kentucky Derby fancy and either Saxon Warrior or Gustav Klimt in the 2000 Guineas.

What would you do? Well, current odds suggests Moore will be getting the leg up Stateside rather than riding at Newmarket. He’s odds-on with leading British and Irish bookmakers for Churchill Downs.

A big factor behind that short price are words from the jockey himself. Speaking after Mendelssohn bolted up in the United Arab Emirates, Moore said: “The Kentucky Derby is a race on my bucket list, but we’ll have to see what’s best to do closer to the time.”

Given Mendelssohn is clear 5/1 favorite in the latest horse racing betting with bet365 on the Kentucky Derby, it might well be the perfect opportunity to tick that ambition off. Connections certainly appear willing to go to the USA.

Having ridden two of the last three 2000 Guineas winners in Gleneagles and Churchill, Moore could be forgiven for letting someone else have a go. In the meantime, American horse racing fans will get to see him riding across Kentucky at Lexington track Keeneland.

Derby 2017 by LunchboxLarry

Moore piloted the Todd Pletcher trained colt Marconi in the Blue Grass Stakes – a recognized Kentucky Derby trial – on April 7. Pletcher called in a favor from Coolmore as that day also contained big races throughout the USA, notably in New York and California. [Moore’s mount finished off the board].

Taking this ride Stateside just a few weeks before the Kentucky Derby may be the biggest hint yet that Moore will be there on May 5 aboard Mendelssohn. Pletcher was keen to downplay the significance of booking the jockey, though, adding it had been arranged before the big Meydan win.

Although trainer and rider team up with Marconi at Keeneland, they could be competing against one another come the Kentucky Derby if Moore is on Medelssohn. Pletcher has a number of contenders for this year’s renewal of the richest Group 1 prize in the United States including market principal Audible.

And what of the 2000 Guineas hopes? Well, in Moore’s stead O’Brien can always call upon son Donnacha or Seamie Heffernan to ride Newmarket Classic contenders Saxon Warrior and Gustav Klimt.

Jockey Christophe Soumillon sets new European mark with 306 winners

jockey riding a horse raceTwo-time Arc de Triomphe winning jockey Christophe Soumillon set a new European mark for winners in a calendar year with 306 on Thursday. The 36-year-old Belgian-born France-based star achieved both his goals this year of winning a ninth French jockeys title and breaking Pierre-Charles Boudot’s record of 300 winners set in 2016. Soumillon rode almost daily… [Read more…]

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.”

Puerto Rico’s Ortiz Brothers Light Up Horse Racing

Puerto Rico’s Ortiz Brothers, Irad and Jose,  Light Up Horse Racing

The New Yorker Full coverage

Source: Puerto Rico’s Ortiz Brothers Light Up Horse Racing

Apprentice Jock Caroline Quast Gaining a Reputation for Longshot Winners

Three jumps from the wire in Friday’s first race, jockey Caroline Quast looked like she had her third victory out of five mounts at Ellis Park. She wound up third, losing by less than three-quarters of a length. But what the heck? The Oklahoma-bred OU Make Me Happy was 45-1 and by far the longest shot in the field.

Source: Apprentice Quast Gaining A Reputation For Longshot Winners At Ellis

Jockey Stevens ‘Doing Well’ after Hip Surgery, Returns to the Saddle Mid-February

jockey riding a horse raceLooking fresh and fit as he recuperates from surgery last Dec. 21 for replacement of his left hip, Gary Stevens was on hand at Clockers’ Corner last Saturday morning, counting down the time until he can resume his Hall of Fame career. “I’m doing well,” Stevens said. “I’m rehabbing every day, back on my Equicizer which I’ve been riding for about 10 days now.

Source: Stevens ‘Doing Well’ After Hip Surgery, Back In The Saddle Mid-February

The Case for Perry Ouzts

Why this Legendary Midwest Rider should be in the Hall of Fame

by Ed Meyer

How many things have you done 48,413 times in your lifetime?  Toss out sleeping, eating, blinking and smiling and count again. Perry Wayne Ouzts’ name is being tossed around for the 2017 Hall of Fame.   To date he has 6,628 wins, 6,283 place finishes, and 5,973 show finishes. That has him 18,883 times in the money (top 3), and with over $41,816,149 in purses to his credit and a career win percentage of 14% and 39% (ITM), he is currently the 11th all-time leading rider for wins. It’s hard to imagine doing something so many times with such success. In Perry’s words from the “Ironman” documentary: “I’m gonna’ ride this train until they throw me off.”

On July 7, 1954, Perry Wayne Ouzts was born in Lepanto, Arkansas.  He was primarily raised in Rivervale with his cousins Earlie and Jackie Fires.   Earlie is in the Hall of Fame, and Jackie’s career was cut short as his body was crushed during a race, leaving him paralyzed.   Perry took his tack to Beulah Park in Grove City, Ohio where his storied career began with his first winner aboard Rablu in 1973.   There’s been many miles since that day in March, but the man has remained pretty much the same. He’s mainly ridden on the smaller circuits of Beulah, Latonia (now Turfway Park), River Downs (now Belterra Park), and occasional ventures to Mountaineer and Thistledown in Cleveland.

The smaller circuits don’t draw the attention as the marquee ovals and you’ll be hard pressed to set money winning records.  Perry rode pretty much in his own backyard as he raised his family with his wife Toni who also works in the industry for trainer Bill Connelly.  In his own words: ” I just love to win races.”   The jockey starts his day at 5:30 a.m. and you’ll know he’s there when he pulls up on his motorcycle dressed in his black leather chaps and helmet. They call him “the man in black” on the backside.   He is a competitor with fire in his blood who still works horses in the morning like the all-time greats of yester-year.   “You get such a rush when you win a horse race. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cheapest of the day or $200,000; you get that same rush.”  Not bad for a 17-year-old kid who left home for the first time seven days after graduating high school.   Back then, Perry set out for Chicago to learn how to start breaking horses and work in the mornings.  He was in awe of the sport and it gripped him immediately. He knew he would ride horses someday, but couldn’t believe they were going to pay him to ride race horses.

Perry Outz John Engelhardt photo Perry has won a total of 30 riding titles in his 42 years of competition. But don’t etch that figure in stone as he currently leads the jockey standings at Belterra Park, and the meet doesn’t end until October 12, 2016.   “The first two or three years I was winning races left and right but I didn’t know what I was doing,” explained Ouzts. “I didn’t really catch on until my third year.”

According to many trainers, he could have ridden anywhere in the country and competed with anyone. But he chose the smaller circuits close to where he called home in Hebron, Kentucky.  He still works eight or more horses in the morning and rides in the afternoon. Perry feels many of the younger riders don’t understand that’s the way you get your mounts. Work in the morning, ride in the afternoon.  After that he goes back and helps his wife muck stalls and feed. After 30-plus years of marriage, something must be working.   “It ain’t always in life you can find someone you can get along with that well. I’m going to keep her and do everything I can to try and help her.”

Perry Ouzts is a man of few words. He lets his riding do the talking and, with that being the case, he’s said a great deal.   His enthusiasm to get up every morning and give his all is not a common effort found in racing anymore. He’s healthy, he’s happy, and can be a real motivation for the younger riders in the room.  Perry chose to stay close to the people who were loyal to him and he’s loyal to them. That has been a recipe for success he won’t regret.

I watched ride him ride in on his Harley one morning and he greeted me.  I extended my hand and he reached over and gave me a big squeeze with the biggest smile. He asked if I would mind taking a picture of him in front of his motorcycle with his phone.   “Take another one, I’ll send that one to my wife.”  On the way out that day I ran into Perry in the same place. He had two wins that day, and I congratulated him on his victories.  “Ed, I thought I had the third one rounding the turn, but he got a little tired down the lane.”  That’s the stuff that makes him special. He’s appreciated by fans, owners, and trainers, and would rather try twice as hard next time than make an excuse today.  Baseball had Lou Gehrig, the NFL relished the sweetness of Walter Payton, and racing has Perry Ouzts. He isn’t planning on hanging it up anytime soon. In his own words: ” I’m gonna ride this train until they throw me off.”

 

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