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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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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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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The ‘Cajun Connection’ At Del Mar Has Tales To Tell

by | 08.11.2017 | 1:27pm

Kent Desormeaux, Joe Talamo, and Jamie Theriot

Cajun: An ethnic group mainly living in southwest Louisiana consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles (French-speakers from what now is Nova Scotia) who have exerted an enormous impact on the state’s music, food and culture – Wikipedia

Anyone who follows U.S. racing knows about the Cajuns and their imprint on the game. The horsemen who have come out of the bayou and swamp areas centering on Lafayette, Louisiana have dominated racing in that state and rippled out to touch racing locales all around the country.

This is especially so when it comes to race riders. For many years now the phrase “Cajun jockey” has been comparable to, say, Kenyan marathon runner or Canadian hockey player. Ten times the Kentucky Derby has been won by a Cajun rider. Five times racing’s Hall of Fame has beckoned a Cajun jock.

A quick scan of a general Cajun jockey roster would include names such as Albarado, Ardoin, Avant, Bernis, Borel, Borque, Broussard, Carmouche, Delahoussaye, Delhomme, Guerin, Guidry, Hernandez, Jr., Lanerie, Meche, Melancon, Perret, Perrodin, Romero, Sellers and Sibille.

You can add three more names to that list and take them right off this year’s Del Mar jockey roster: Kent Desormeaux, Jamie Theriot and Joe Talamo.

Befitting their Cajun roots, their names have a lovely rhythm to them: “De-sor-mo,” “Therry-O” and “Tal-ah-mo.” If you mix in some fiddle, concertina and accordion, no doubt you could come up with a Zydeco tune that would have folks up and dancing.

And what the trio of Del Mar horsebackers has in common is starting their schooling – even before they started their careers — in “the bushes,” the series of backwoods, unregulated and unshackled racetracks that flourished in southwest Louisiana from roughly the 1930s through the 1990s. They often were “bullrings” with rails (mostly) all the way around and starting gates for the beginnings; they sometimes were simply straights with rails down the middle for lanes and cow pastures for pulling up in. They featured mostly four-legged equines, primarily Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, though mules, Appaloosas, Shetland ponies, dogs and other sorts of four- and two-legged beasts and men that were capable of being matched up and bet on were occasionally employed.

They were all wild and wooly tailgating heavens filled with crawfish, gumbo, bar-b-q and other sorts of Louisiana treats cooking away; kingdoms filled with six-packs and kegs; man-on-man betting parlors (“I got $20 on the 2, you can have all the rest.”) where serious money regularly changed hands, and, in Cajun fashion, the tracks often were family-run. Besides all that, they also were among the great training grounds in all of sports.

Desormeaux, one of the most successful jockeys of our time who can brag of Hall of Fame credentials, three trips to the winner’s circle in the Kentucky Derby and nearly 6,000 winning rides on “legitimate” racetracks, just lights up in a smile when he’s asked about “the bushes.”

“Oh, man,” says the 47-year-old native of Maurice (10 miles southwest of Lafayette), “you’re talking about some seriously good memories now. I’ve got some stories to tell about those days.”

Theriot, 38, hails from Breaux Bridge (nine miles northeast of Lafayette), and took to riding in match races very early. “I was eight years old when I rode in my first match,” the rider says with a straight face. Yes, he said eight.

Shadwell Farm

Talamo, the 27-year-old “kid” of the bunch, was born in Marrero, just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, which is about 135 miles east of Lafayette. “But I’ve got Cajun on both sides of the family,” he says. “Cajun and Sicilian. How scary is that?”

Though they came at it in different decades, they all went to Bushes School – Desormeaux when “bush racing” was in full swing; Theriot right at the very end of the “bush” era, and Talamo when one of the more famous “bush” tracks – the Quarter Pole in Rayne (18 miles west of Lafayette) – was reopened as a training center in the early 2000s and they ran “schooling” races for teenagers who wanted to be race riders.

“You know,” notes the vibrant Desormeaux, “I rode about a hundred races in ‘the bushes’ before I rode my first ‘real’ race. When I first rode at Evangeline (Downs in Opelousas, about 25 miles north of Lafayette) in 1986, they gave me a 10-pound bug. I thought I was stealing. I was full of confidence and knew I was ready.”

It didn’t take him long to show it. He went from Evangeline to Louisiana Downs to Maryland and a run of riding victories that have yet to be matched. He won 450 races in 1987 (and an Eclipse as the nation’s top apprentice); 474 races in 1988, and 598 in 1989 (and another Eclipse as the nation’s leading rider). His 598 victories in a year is the best ever recorded.

But back to Theriot and riding match races at the age of eight. For real?

“You bet,” says the long (5′ 7”) and wiry reinsman who has won nearly 2,500 races in 22 years in the “big time.” “My daddy (Harold) was a trainer; had about 60 head of horses back then. I first learned on Quarter Horses; really liked riding them. First match race I rode was on a Quarter. I was eight and weighed about 45 pounds at the time; they put me in against an adult. I beat him.”

That was the beginning; then it became a regular happening. “Every weekend,” Theriot recalled. “So much fun; so exciting looking forward to it. Three hundred or four hundred people yelling, shouting, cheering. The environment was so special. The people; the food. Bar-b-q. Oh, yes. It was all so good.”

Especially for a third grader.

Talamo wasn’t riding match races at eight, but he grew up with a horse in his backyard and was up on horseback not long after he learned to walk. He was galloping horses at 12 and riding “schooling” races at 14.

“I was 14 and riding in races at the Quarter Pole against Cody Meche, Randall Toups and David Borque,” he remembered. “We were all 14 or 15. I won a race on a horse named Marie Laveau (New Orleans’ famous voodoo queen). Boy, that was special. I was wearing a pair of jockey pants that Robby Albarado gave me. My father bet $20 to win on me. I got a roast beef po’ boy (sandwich). I felt like I’d won a Triple Crown race.”

Talamo had just finished 10th grade and got his jockey license and spent the summer riding at Louisiana Downs (in Bossier City, about 200 miles northwest of Lafayette). He’d promised his folks he was going back to school in September (“One of the great selling jobs of all time,” he says.) But he got hot at the end of the meet, rode that on into a hotter streak that saw him win the riding title (over Albarado) at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and get a call from Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel to come ride in California. More than 1,700 wins and $92-million in purses later, he’s a Southern California fixture.

One of Desormeaux’s favorite “bushes” tales deals with a mostly Quarter Horse named Skunk Em Up.

“Had some Appaloosa in him and the spots came up over his knee, so they couldn’t call him a Quarter Horse,” he reminisced. “But he was fast, really fast. I weighed about 90 pounds at the time and his trainer, Dale White, had me ride him in match races in Louisiana. He was down for good money — $5,000, $10,000. We went three times, won all three. Then he set up another match in Mississippi. I rode in the van in the back with the horse, feeding him hay all the way over. We went like a shot there, too, and won that one. That was it, though. The game was up. Nobody would take him on after that.”

Among the great stories coming out of “the bushes” were sagas of “catch weight” races (you can put anyone or anything you want on a horse’s back – the lighter, obviously, the better). A classic example was when a chicken was tied on as the “rider,” an extraordinary bit of horsemanship made famous by a bit in the 1978 movie “Casey’s Shadow.”

Did our trio ride in any chicken races?

Talamo did not, but the other two did.

“Oh, yeah,” said Desormeaux. “I rode against chickens. I even remember a match race where both horses had chickens on their back.”

Theriot did it just once. Who, he was asked, won?

The rider lowered his head, then fessed up: “The chicken.”

For those so inclined, days in “the bushes” and fine tales of Cajun racing are well told in the 2008 book “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” by New York-based turf writer Ed McNamara. It’s a good read with a fine feel for a special place and its special people for anyone wanting to learn more about a most colorful and unique subject.

For those wanting an insightful thought from a man who was right in the middle of it all, here’s this from Desormeaux:

“You know, until Chris (Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron) started his jockey school in the last few years in Kentucky, this country really didn’t have a national one. Lots of other places do – Puerto Rico, Panama, South America. That’s a big advantage for a young rider. But in Louisiana – in “the bushes” – we had our own riding school. We learned lots of lessons and had lots of fun. In a lot of ways, you couldn’t have asked for a better one.”

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