Desormeaux Quest To Be Leading Cajun Takes Him To Golden Gate Fields

On Jan. 1, Kent Desormeaux entered his 34th year of race riding with over 6,000 career victories. Desormeaux recently shipped his tack to Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif., rode two races and indicated he would like to ride at the Bayside track for an extended period of time. He will be represented by agent J.R. Pegram.

A native of Louisiana, Desormeuax is the second winningest Cajun jockey in history. Eddie Delahoussaye, who like Desormeaux is an inductee in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., posted 6,384 wins throughout a remarkable career that spanned over four decades. Desormeaux has guided 6,031 winners and needs 354 more to pass Delahoussaye as the all-time winningest Cajun jockey.

Desormeaux is a three-time Kentucky Derby winner. He won the 1998 edition aboard Real Quiet, finished first two years later atop Fusaichi Pegasus, and was the regular rider for 2008 victor Big Brown. Desormeaux has also won three Preakness Stakes (in 1998, 2008, 2016) and was victorious in the 2009 Belmont Stakes with Summer Bird. He is a six-time Breeders Cup winner, too, and has amassed career purse earnings of $285,608,407.

As Desormeaux approaches his 50th birthday on Feb. 27, however, his production has slowed. While still a teenager, Desormeaux set an all-time record for single-season wins in 1989 when he rode 597 winners – a record that still stands. In 2019, riding with limited opportunities at his longtime base in Southern California – where racing dates were cut and field sizes were reduced –  he won just 36 races. A move in November to Fair Grounds in his native Louisiana yielded only three wins from 69 mounts, so he’s moving his tack to Northern California in hopes of putting together bigger numbers.

“A couple of leading trainers [at Golden Gate] said they would ride me if I came here,” said Desormeuax. “I’m giving it a shot. I’m all in.”

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Talamo Moves Tack To Arkansas/Kentucky Circuit

The Southern California invasion is underway at Oaklawn and among the big names already on the grounds in advance of the Jan. 24 opening is jockey Joe Talamo.

Talamo’s resume includes an Eclipse Award as the country’s top apprentice jockey in 2007, a Breeders’ Cup triumph in 2009 and 2,003 victories and more than $100 million in purse earnings in his career through Tuesday, with the bulk of that success coming in Southern California, where he rode regularly for more than a decade before announcing in November that he was relocating to the Midwest.

“It was a big decision,” Talamo said during training hours Monday morning. “At the same time, I think there’s a lot more opportunity out here, as far as riding more and possibly winning more, hopefully. It was a hard decision, but kind of an easy one at the same time.”

Talamo had more than 1,000 mounts annually in 2007-2014, including a career-high 1,472 in 2007 and 1,247 in 2013. But mirroring the shrinking horse population in Southern California, and an accompanying decline in field sizes, Talamo rode only 547 horses last year, fewest since his first year to ride professionally in 2006.

“I just turned 30, so I know I’m getting older, but I still feel like I have a lot of good years left in me,” said Talamo, who grew up in suburban New Orleans. “And again, it’s nobody’s fault, really. The horse population out there just, every year, seems to kind of dwindle down a little more and more. Like I said, I still feel like I have lot more in the tank, so I felt like making the move out here would keep the momentum going.

“The way things are out here, the purse money is incredible. The horse population is incredible. Everything seems in growth mode right now. I thought if there is a time to do it, I thought it would definitely be a good time.”

No winter racing venue in the country has higher purses than Oaklawn and purses are also skyrocketing in Kentucky, where Talamo said he plans to be based the remainder of the year. Talamo said his family is also now in Hot Springs. The jockey is married to the former Elizabeth Ellis, the daughter of Southern California-based trainer Ron Ellis, and has two young children.

“It’s pretty much a 100 percent move,” Talamo said. “I kept my house in California, just to rent it out. We’re in with both feet, pretty much. I would love to buy a house in Hot Springs. When we get to Kentucky, we’ll look for a house and that’s pretty much going to be the circuit – Oaklawn and then Kentucky after that.”

High-percentage trainer Brad Cox is expected to be one of Talamo’s biggest clients at Oaklawn, but the jockey said he won’t be choosey, particularly when it comes to volume, adding he has been working horses “for a little bit of everyone” since arriving Jan. 6 in Hot Springs.

“The more the merrier, absolutely,” Talamo said. “Trust me, I’m one of those guys that if it’s a $5,000 claimer or a $1 million race, I’m going out there with the same mindset – just try and win.”

Talamo’s new agent is Jake Romans, the son of nationally prominent trainer Dale Romans. The jockey has had only six career mounts in Hot Springs.

“I’m just excited for something new,” Talamo said. “Change can be good.”

Other jockeys with strong Southern California roots scheduled to ride at the 2020 Oaklawn meet are Martin Garcia and Tyler Baze. Southern California-based trainers John Sadler, Peter Miller and Phil D’Amato had horses on the grounds Wednesday morning. Sadler had 21 horses arrive in Hot Springs Tuesday. Horses for another Southern California-based trainer, Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, were being flown to Arkansas Wednesday.

“I think there’s five or six guys from California with strings here and I’ve been in touch with them,” Talamo said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll ride a little bit for them. But again, hopefully, we can spread the wealth out. I’ll ride a little bit for everybody and hopefully win a little bit for everyone.”

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Jockey McMahon Earns Milestone Victory

C.J. McMahon earned his 1,000th career win Jan. 1 at Delta Downs.

 

Multiple graded stakes-winning jockey C.J. McMahon celebrated the new year with a milestone win Jan. 1 at Delta Downs.  Riding 3-5 favorite Cavallotto in the fourth race Wednesday, McMahon delivered a front-running score in the one-mile claiming event to secure the 1,000th victory of his career. Cavallotto is trained by Karl Broberg, who in 2019 finished as the leading conditioner by wins in North America for the sixth straight season.

Broberg regularly calls on McMahon and in 2019 the pair teamed to win 132 races from 489 starts, including a victory in the Bluebonnet Stakes with Ima Discreet Lady in April at Lone Star Park.

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Nominations Ongoing For Randy Romero Pure Courage Award

Nominations accepted through Jan. 15, with a presentation to be made March 21.

Following the death of Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero this past summer at 61, supporters in his native Louisiana are keeping his legacy alive at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans. Besides the track naming a race after the famed jockey—the Feb. 1 Randy P. Romero Memorial Stakes—a group of nine friends have created the Randy Romero Pure Courage Award to honor a North American jockey who, like Romero, battled back from injury and adversity to achieve success.

The recipient of the award will receive a bronze trophy in a presentation at Fair Grounds on Louisiana Derby Day March 21, organizer Rick Mocklin said.

Romero, a winner of 4,294 races and $75.2 million in earnings over a career from 1973-99, was the regular rider of such elite distaffers as Go For Wand and Personal Ensign, with whom he teamed to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in 1988 to finish an unbeaten career. He won 122 graded stakes and riding titles at 10 tracks, including Belmont Park, Arlington Park, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, and Fair Grounds.

He managed to do this despite a slew of injuries that shortened his career and left him fighting pain for much of the second half of his life. Among these injuries was a near-fatal sauna explosion at Oaklawn Park that burned 60% of his body in 1983, after which he contracted hepatitis C from blood transfusions during skin graph operations. He returned to riding 14 months after the Oaklawn accident.

The 1990s brought more physical setbacks, including when Go For Wand was fatally injured in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Romero crashed to the ground, breaking eight ribs and a bone in his shoulder. He finished riding later that decade, with Mocklin acting as his agent for a couple of those years.

“He went through so many things that 10 riders might not go through in their career, but Randy was always looking to ride again,” Mocklin said. “No matter what the injury was, he was looking when he could ride again and get back in the saddle.”

The goal of the Randy Romero Pure Courage Award is to honor a rider who shows the same kind of determination.

Mocklin said the nine people organizing the award—which include trainer Dallas Stewart and Kentucky restaurateur Tommy Walters—are funding the trophy’s purchase and will vote to determine the winner. To be eligible, a rider needs to be nominated before the committee’s Jan. 15 deadline, with nominations made to Mocklin at 504-382-9787 or via email to info@shantellaneriefoundation.com.

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Talamo Hits 2,000-Win Milestone Aboard Glatt Trainee Rizzi’s Honor At Los Alamitos

More than 13 years after he collected the first win of his career in his native Louisiana, jockey Joe Talamo picked up his 2,000th  victory with Rizzi’s Honors in Thursday’s fifth race at Los Alamitos in Cypress, Calif.

The 3-5 favorite against five opponents in the $20,351 starter allowance, the 6-year-old With Distinction mare pressed the issue while wide early, but kicked clear inside the final eighth to win by four lengths for owners Lee Drummond and Joe Riso and trainer Mark Glatt.

Talamo, who will turn 30 Jan. 12, was joined in the winner’s circle by his wife Elizabeth and his two young sons Dominic and Vincent, longtime agent Scotty McClellan and several of his fellow riders.

“She’s such a neat mare, she always tries hard,” said Talamo. “I felt pretty confident down the lane she was going to win.

“Besides (Glatt), there are so many owners and trainers to thank that gave me the opportunities that led to this milestone. I’m so grateful.

“Scotty and I have been together for about 13 years so it was pretty special to have him here today. It’s hard to believe I’ve been riding this long.”

Talamo, who is going to ride in California through Jan. 5 before he begins competing at Oaklawn Park, which starts its meet Jan. 24, earned his initial victory July 7, 2006, aboard Well Heavens Sake at Louisiana Downs. His 1,000th win came April 5, 2012, at Santa Anita aboard Splendid Fortune for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Rizzi’s Honors, who paid $3.20, $2.20 and $2.10, has now won five of 25 and earned $134,359. It was her second win in five attempts at Los Alamitos.

Fracas, a 6-1 shot, was second and returned $4.60 and $2.40 while finishing a half-length in front of 7-2 second choice Rattle. The show price on Rattle was $2.40.

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Robby Albarado to Return to Saddle at Kentucky Downs

Louisiana native, Robby Albarado, who suffered a fractured wrist in a June 23 spill at Churchill Downs, will resume riding races Aug. 31 on the opening-day card of the Runhappy Meet at Kentucky Downs. Albarado has the mount on the Wayne Catalano-trained Well Spent in the $500,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies. The jockey will ride Sunday at Ellis Park.

Albarado,  who was the regular rider of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft  and 2007-08 Horse of the Year Curlin said, “I’ll be ready this weekend, but I want to make sure I’m really ready for when Churchill Downs starts. The wrist is good. This is the longest I’ve ever been out with an injury; it’s been 10 weeks. And it wasn’t the fracture. I had a fracture, but it healed right up after four weeks. It’s the ligaments in your hand. But for the most part, it feels good.

“I got on a horse at my farm two weeks ago, galloped him a couple of days in a row and said, ‘Man, I’m ready to go to the track and work horses.’ And it felt good. That’s all you need: to get on horses to get ready. It doesn’t matter what you do at the gym or exercise therapy. There’s nothing better than getting on horses.”

Albarado has won 5,185 races and $218 million in purses in a career that began in 1990.

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Mena, Clark Suffer Multiple Fractures In Spill At Fair Grounds

A three-horse spill in Thursday’s eighth race at Fair Grounds Race Course & slots injured a pair of riders. Kerwin Clark was aboard ill-fated Ellashoo when the 4-year-old filly broke down nearing the five-sixteenth’s pole, setting off a chain reaction that resulted a pair of other horses falling – A Fashion Affair (Miguel Mena) and Queen Bernardina (Gabriel Saez).

Clark complained of pain in his neck, jaw and ribs and Miguel Mena, who entered the day as Fair Grounds leading rider at the meet with 55 victories, suffered an injury to his right ankle. Both were transported to University Medical Center of New Orleans for further evaluation.

Mena was diagnosed with multiple fractures in his right ankle and heel, according to drf.com. The jockey could miss as much as six months because of the injury.

Clark suffered a collapsed lung, a broken jaw, and at least one broken rib, per his agent, Charles Ashy Jr.

Saez got up under his own power and rode the next race. Ellashoo had to be put down. Trainer Bret Calhoun reported that his Queen Bernardina “appears to be fine”. Andrew Valenzuela, trainer of A Fashion Affair, was unable to be reached.

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Jamie Theriot Plans Tack Shift to Mauritius

Jockey will ride for two-time champion trainer Ramapatee Gujadhur.

 

In more than 20 years of riding races, jockey Jamie Theriot has had some incredible experiences. Perhaps the best experience is awaiting him following the conclusion of the winter meet at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, when he moves to the Southern Hemisphere to ride full-time at Champ de Mars Racecourse in Port Louis, Mauritius.

Theriot, 38, will ride for Ramapatee Gujadhur, the champion trainer on the island off of South Africa in 2012 and 2015.

“I’m very excited and it’s very humbling to get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go experience something like this,” Theriot said. “(Ramapatee Gujadhur) is on the same level as Chad Brown here in the United States. His operation is nothing but family. It came from his father to him and his sons are involved, but one is a lawyer and one is a doctor. I’m going to be around some great people.”

Theriot explained how the opportunity was presented to him.

“The trainer and (Lane’s End Farm owner) Bill Farish are really good friends, from what I understand,” Theriot said. “Bill Farish sent (jockey) Robby Albarado an email and said, ‘Try to find us a good American rider,’ and Robby talked to me about it, called Bill, and told him, ‘Jamie would go.’ So they mentioned my name to the guy and he looked up my stats and he said, ‘I want him.'”

The plan for Theriot is to ride in Mauritius for seven months and return to the United States to possibly ride at Fair Grounds.

“It works out perfect;” Theriot said. “I’ll leave at the end of the meet and be back in November for Fair Grounds, if I want to ride (or) if I want to take off. It will be (emotional) leaving everyone here and going there, (but) it’s not right around the corner. I know I’m not going there for years. I’m going for seven and a half months and back. (Gujadhur) said something about riding the jockey challenge while I’m there. It could open up opportunities in other areas and you never know what’s waiting.

“I’ll ride one day a week, all turf racing. This man is taking very, very good care of me, and I’ll be bringing my boys and put them in school down there. I’ll have to ride the other way, which is something that I’m going to get to experience. I think it’s just like riding a bike. … After I work a couple of horses going the wrong way and change a couple of tactics here and there, I think that I’ll be fine.”

Theriot is just four wins shy of reaching the 2,500 mark. He has been based at numerous circuits across the United States and has won riding titles at Evangeline Downs (2001) and Oaklawn Park (2003). His career highlights include victories in the 2010 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) aboard Dubai Majesty and the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2T) on Chamberlain Bridge, both for trainer Bret Calhoun.

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Louisiana Native Talamo Among Finalists for George Woolf Award

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Five finalists for one of American racing’s most prestigious honors, the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, have been announced, with the winner to be revealed in February following a vote of jockeys nationwide.

Jockeys Alex Birzer, Javier Castellano, Jose Ferrer, Rodney Prescott and Joe Talamo are the finalists for the prestigious trophy that has been presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950.

One of the most coveted awards in all of racing, the Woolf Award, which can only be won once, is presented to a different jockey each year and it recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing. The trophy is a replica of the life-sized statue of legendary jockey George Woolf, which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.

Woolf, who died at the age of 35 following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946, was regarded as one of the top big-money riders of his era. Known affectionately as “The Iceman,” he was revered by his colleagues, members of the media and fans across America as a fierce competitor and consummate professional who was at his best when the stakes were high.

The 2018 Woolf ballot, which will be distributed to active jockeys across the country, features five highly regarded riders who have plied their trade with honor and distinction.

A native of Hutchinson, Kansas, Alex Birzer was born Oct. 2, 1973. A rock-solid fixture in the nation’s heartland, Birzer first came to prominence at the now-shuttered Woodlands outside Kansas City, Kansas, where he was a four-time leading rider. Also a four-time kingpin at Prairie Meadows, just outside Des Moines, Iowa, Birzer notched his 3,000th career win at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas on Feb. 26 of this year. He’s also had top-five performances at Oaklawn and at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

A superstar by any accounting, Javier Castellano has been America’s leading money-winning rider for the past four years and, dating back to 2013, he has won four consecutive Eclipse Awards as America’s Champion Jockey. The son of a jockey, Castellano was born Oct. 23, 1977 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. A winner of this year’s Preakness Stakes aboard Cloud Computing, Castellano burst upon the national stage by winning the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Ghostzapper at Lone Star Park. Inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame this past August, Castellano’s 2015 single season purse earnings of $28.1 million stands as a North American record. He currently has more than 4,800 career victories.

Born March 31, 1964 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jose Ferrer has been a mainstay on the eastern seaboard dating back to 1983, when he made his American debut at Calder Race Course in south Florida. With nearly 4,200 wins to his credit, Ferrer is a proponent of the power of positive thinking and views each day as a God-given opportunity to contribute to a sport that has provided him a magnificent career. Second in the standings this past summer at Monmouth Park, Ferrer is back in action at Tampa Bay Downs following serious injuries that resulted from a spill at Delaware Park in September.

Born March 8, 1974 in Portland, Indiana, Rodney Prescott began galloping horses upon graduation from high school. After a stint as a groom, he broke his maiden at age 20 at River Downs, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Fittingly, Prescott is Hoosier Park’s all-time leading rider and it was at Hoosier that he notched his 2,000 career win on Oct. 18, 2006. Win number 3,000 came at northern Kentucky’s Turfway Park on Dec. 27, 2012.

America’s Eclipse Award-winning Apprentice Jockey in 2007, Joe Talamo is a perennial Top 10 jockey on the tough Southern California circuit, which he joined in the spring of 2007. Born Jan. 12, 1990, in Marrero, Louisiana, near New Orleans, Talamo has established himself as one of the country’s top young riders and he goes out of his way to accommodate media and racing fans. With more than 1,800 career wins, that include a large number of graded stakes, Talamo figures to be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.

For more information on the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, please visit the online media guide at www.http://www.santaanita.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/LATC17 MG web-final.pdf (page 9).

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Brian Hernandez Jr. Hits Churchill Downs Milestone

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Brian Hernandez Jr. registered his 500th Churchill Downs win on Thanksgiving Day

 

Louisiana native, Brian Hernandez Jr. became the 14th jockey in Churchill Downs history to ride 500 winners at the home of the Kentucky Derby when the 32-year-old won the seventh race on Thanksgiving Day aboard Rock Shandy for trainer Jordan Blair.

“It’s great to have my family here with me for this,” Hernandez said. “I’m thankful for all of the trainers and owners who have supported me throughout my career so far.”

Hernandez, who began riding professionally in 2003, won his first race at Churchill Downs aboard Machine to Tower on May 27, 2004. Overall, the native of Lafayette, La., has won 1,729 races and his mounts have amassed more than $63.8 million from 12,629 starts during a 15-year riding career.

He won the Eclipse Award in 2004 as the nation’s champion apprentice jockey. In 2012, Hernandez won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita aboard Fort Larned for his biggest career win.
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