The group of nine friends from Louisiana that launched the Randy Romero Pure Courage Award this year to honor the Racing Hall of Fame rider who died in 2019, as well as current jockeys who overcome adversity, announced their first winner Feb. 20: Miguel Mena.
Mena battled back from severe injuries suffered in a spill March 18, 2018, at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, where he suffered multiple fractures in his right heel and ankle. At the time, he was the meet’s leading rider. He returned to riding later that year and earned a pair of grade 3 wins in 2019 at Keeneland, guiding Bobby’s Wicked One to victory in the Commonwealth Stakes and Peace Achieved to a score in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes. Organizers noted that Mena prevailed in a close vote that included finalists Tim Thornton, Victor Espinoza, and Kendrick Carmouche.
The Pure Courage Award will be presented between races at Fair Grounds March 21, which is Louisiana Derby Day. The trophy is being designed by Steve Gibson of Gibson Artworks, and the presentation will be made by Dan Schneider; his wife, Annie; and their daughter, Kristi. The Schneiders are the focus of the highly acclaimed documentary “The Pharmacist.”
Romero, a winner of 4,294 races and $75.2 million in earnings 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 complete an unbeaten career. He won 122 graded stakes and riding titles at 10 tracks.
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 email@example.com.
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has announced that 56 stakes worth a combined $7.13 million will be offered during the upcoming 2019-20 racing season, which is set to begin Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28.
“We are proud to once again continue our growth and support of the thoroughbred racing industry with our purse allocations and this diverse and dynamic stakes schedule” said Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots president Doug Shipley. “We look forward to our 148th racing season and the continuation of bringing many of the best horsemen and jockeys from around the world to enjoy the high caliber racing at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.”
The “Louisiana Derby Day” card on March 21 will feature eight stakes worth a total of $2.425 million, including the 107th running of the Grade 2 $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby for 3-year-olds.
Previously run over nine furlongs on dirt, the distance of Louisiana Derby has been extended to 1 3/16th miles. The third and final local prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the race is worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers. Run at 1 1/16 miles, the 52nd running of the G2 $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies offers the same number of points en route to the G1 $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks.
“We’ve also lengthened the Lecomte from 1 mile and 70 yards to 1 1/16 miles and the Risen Star from 1 1/16 miles to nine furlongs,” said Fair Grounds’ racing secretary Scott Jones. “The Lecomte has always been a popular early season prep for the horsemen and we wanted to provide the horses a longer run into the first turn. The elongated distances of the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby will help differentiate our races from the other Kentucky Derby preps. We consulted with key participants from recent years, and they were in favor of the slight alterations.”
We are proud to once again note 2019 has been a banner year for 3-year-olds who campaigned at Fair Grounds:
G2 Risen Star runner-up Country House, who was also fourth in the Louisiana Derby, was the adjudicated winner of the G1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
G3 Lecomte and G2 Risen Star winner War of Will won the G1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
Serengeti Empress and Liora, the one-two finishers in the G2 Rachel Alexandra, also ran first and second in the G1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
Street Band, winner of the G2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, won the G3 Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand and the G1 Cotillion at Parx.
G3 Lecomte runner-up Hog Creek Hustle, who also competed in the G2Risen Star and G1Louisiana Derby won the G1 Woody Stephens at Belmont.
Mr. Money, who competed in both the G2 Risen Star and G1 Louisiana Derby, rattled off four consecutive G3 victories prior to finishing second in the G1 Pennsylvania Derby.
A pair of nine furlong, high-impact stakes for older horses are also scheduled on the Louisiana Derby Day program – the G2 $400,000 New Orleans Classic and the G2 $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes, to be run over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. In addition, four undercard stakes are slated for the lucrative card, including the $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass and a trio of Louisiana-bred events – the $75,000 Costa Rising Stakes, a 5½-furlong turf sprint, the $75,000 Crescent City Derby for 3-year-old males at 1 1/16 miles and the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks for females at 1 mile and 70 yards.
On January 18, the “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day presented by Hotel Monteleone” features a pair of key 3-year-old events — the G3 $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, now run at 1 1/16 miles, and the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes for fillies at 1 mile and 70 yards. The top four finishers in each race receive 10-4-2-1 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively.
Four stakes for older horses will also be presented on the January 18 program — the $125,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes at 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the $100,000 Louisiana Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at six furlongs and the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass.
On February 15, “Louisiana Derby Preview Day presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln” features a pair of key 3-year-old stakes — the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln, now run at 1 1/8 miles, and the Grade II $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes presented by Fasig-Tipton, increased by $100,000 for this year’s renewal, for fillies to be contested over 1 1/16 miles. The top four finishers receive 40-20-10-5 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively.
The Rachel Alexandra has produced the last two Kentucky Oaks winners in Monomoy Girl (2018) and Serengeti Empress (2019) and 2014 winner Untapable also took down the Run for the Lilies. The Fair Grounds is hopeful the Rachel Alexandra will soon achieve the Grade 1 status is deserves.
Four stakes for older horses will also be presented on the February 15 program — the G3 $200,000 Mineshaft Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the G3 $150,000 Fair Grounds Stakes for at nine furlongs on turf, the $100,000 Colonel Power Stakes at 5½ furlongs on turf and the $100,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
The December 21 “Santa Super Saturday presented by Coca-Cola” card offers a six-pack of $75,000 stakes. Four of the races are for older horses — the Tenacious Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards, the Bonapaw Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs on turf, the Blushing K.D. for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf, and the Buddy Diliberto Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf. The other two are six furlong events for juveniles – the Sugar Bowl Stakes for the boys and the Letellier Memorial Stakes for the girls.
Louisiana Champions Day presented by Acadian Ambulance will be held on December 14. With the races run over various divisions and distances on both dirt and turf, the program features ten stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds. Each Louisiana Champions Day is worth $100,000 with the exception of the Louisiana Champions Day Classic, which carries a $150,000 purse.
Named in honor of the Hall of Fame jockey who passed away in August, The Randy P. Romero Memorial Overnight Stakes (formerly Captain Maestri) will be run on February 1 (3-year-olds, one mile on turf).
Named in honor of the longtime horse racing reporter and author who passed away in July, The Bob Fortus Memorial Stakes (formerly the Tiffany Lass) will be run on December 26 (fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 mile 70 yards on dirt)
Stakes races named last racing season in honor of the late Thoroughbred owner and New Orleans icon Tom Benson, who owned the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, and Shantel Lanerie, the late wife of long-time jockey Corey Lanerie and the inspiration for the Shantel Lanerie Breast Cancer Foundation, also remain on the schedule on March 21 and February 8 respectively.
Take note that the open undercard stakes on “Road to Derby Kickoff”, “Louisiana Derby Preview Day” and “Louisiana Derby Day” as well as the Thanksgiving Day Classic will now be run for $100,000, up from $75,000. In addition, Fair Grounds has eliminated handicap conditions for stakes races. These races will now be weighted under allowance conditions.
The 80-day, 2019-20 Fair Grounds racing season run conclude Sunday, March 29. Regular post time will be 12:30 p.m. CT. The exceptions are Louisiana Derby Day (March 21 at 11 a.m. CT), “Twilight Racing” (December 7 and January 25 at 3 p.m. CT) and “Starlight Racing” (March 13 and 27 at 5 p.m. CT).
“On the heels of a banner 2018-19 season, we’re excited to offer another outstanding stakes program to horsemen and fans,” said Fair Grounds’ racing secretary Scott Jones. “Our biggest days are direct feeders into the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and the recent results of the horses who have participated with us in New Orleans speak for themselves. This year will be no exception. We are equally excited to see an enhancement in purse money for some of our stakes and we are confident that the program and our day to day racing product we will be well supported by our horsemen.”
Randy Romero, the strong-willed Louisiana jockey who parlayed “Ragin’ Cajun” fearlessness as a bush-track phenom into a Hall-of-Fame career highlighted by a gentlemanly demeanor and dramatic victories aboard championship distaffers, died the night of August 28, according to published reports. He was 61 years old.
Romero’s deft, sure-handed horsebacking skills were eclipsed only by his reputation for having rock-solid spiritual faith in the face of numerous on- and off-track adversities. For decades he courageously battled liver and kidney troubles. In mid-June of 2019 Romero disclosed that he was receiving hospice care after doctors deemed him too weak to undergo further surgeries.
Jockey Randy Romero, elected to racing’s Hall of Fame in 2010, said last weekend he is hospice care but is at home in Lafayette, La., where a brother is staying with him and helping with his care.
“I’m very sick but I haven’t given up,” he said by phone. Romero, 62, said doctors told him he is not strong enough to undergo the surgery necessary to remove tumors that were discovered in 2015. He said his pain is being managed and hospice is allowing him to undergo dialysis three times weekly at a facility close to his home, a procedure he has done for some 15 years.
The Public is Invited to Vote for Additional Members Beginning June 15
Bossier City, LA – Harrah’s Louisiana Downs is pleased to announce the formation of its first Racing Hall of Fame. It will serve as an opportunity to honor the achievements of horse owners, trainers, jockeys, horses and property contributors who have played pivotal roles in the rich history of Harrah’s Louisiana Downs.
A committee was formed earlier this year and selected individuals and racing champions for its first class. The Racing Hall of Fame Induction and Celebration will be held on Saturday, July 13, 2019. In addition, officials will open the voting for additional inductees to loyal racing fans so they will share in the selection of members to the Racing Hall of Fame. Beginning on Saturday, June 15, the general public will have the opportunity to cast a vote for those who have made a lasting impact over the years at the racetrack. Fans can cast their vote online, with the deadline on Saturday, June 29.
The Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Racing Hall of Fame Committee has voted the following recipients into the Racing Hall of Fame.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Owner
John Franks – John Franks was the leading owner at Louisiana Downs for 18 years and much of the track’s success can be attributed to him. Franks was an Eclipse Award winning owner and his homebred Answer Lively was honored as 1998 Two-Year Colt of the Year.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Trainer
Frank L. Brothers – Winner of nearly 800 races at Louisiana Downs and nine consecutive training titles from 1980 – 1988. Brothers is the all-time leader in Stakes victories with 127. Louisiana Downs named a stakes race in his honor in 2019.
C.W. Walker – The track’s second all-time leading trainer with 820 wins. A mainstay at Louisiana Downs he was best known for his prowess with claiming horses but also had 16 stakes winners. He was the leading trainer in 1977.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Contributor
Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. – Instrumental in the early development of Louisiana Downs as one of the first owners. The track was a success from the start, setting numerous national records for handle and attendance throughout the 1970’s and ’80’s under his oversight.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Jockey
Ronald Ardoin – A resident of Haughton, Louisiana, Ardoin is the all-time winningest jockey at Louisiana Downs. He made history as the 16th jockey nationally to have 5,000 wins when he rode Heart of an Angel to victory at Louisiana Downs.
Larry Snyder – Legendary Jockey with a 35-year riding career. Loved by fans at Louisiana Downs and Oaklawn Park, Larry worked as a steward at the track after retiring from the saddle in 1994.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Horses
Sunday Silence – The Super Derby Winner in 1989 in the same year that he was named Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Male. He was winner of The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Breeder’s Cup Classic. Sunday Silence was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1996.
Free Spirits Joy – Louisiana-bred winner of the Super Derby in 1991. He made 29 Louisiana starts and 3 at Remington Park. He died at the age at 27 in 2015.
Beginning on Saturday, June 15, racing fans will be able to cast a vote by clicking on the following link: http://shout.lt/bQZNV. Voters can select ONE of the following nominees in each category.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Trainer
Bobby Barnett – A three-time Louisiana Downs training title champion (1991, 1994, 1997) and trainer of 2004 Super Derby winner, Fantasticat. He was the primary trainer for John Franks. Winner of nearly 500 races locally.
Cole Norman – Won eight consecutive Louisiana Downs training titles from 1998 – 2005. He set a record for most training wins in a season in 2002 with 125 victories. All-time leading trainer in terms of wins with 825.
Jack Van Berg -Won his lone Louisiana Downs training title in 1976. He conditioned two Super Derby winners: Gate Dancer in 1984 and Alysheba in 1987.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Jockey
Calvin Borel – A three-time leading jockey at Louisiana Downs (1991, 1992, 1994) and winner of over 1200 races locally. Borel is a nationally prominent rider with multiple Kentucky Derby wins.
Randy Romero – A two-time leading rider at Louisiana Downs (1979 and 1980) with nearly 600 wins at the racetrack. Romero was nationally prominent with numerous Grade I victories.
Angelo Trosclair – Louisiana Downs leading jockey in 1976. He won more than 1300 races during his career that spanned multiple decades at Louisiana Racetracks.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Contributor
Pat Pope – The longest tenured Racing Secretary at Louisiana Downs. He also served as Racing Secretary at numerous tracks including currently at Oaklawn and Belmont Park.
Tom Sweeney – Longtime General Manager at Louisiana Downs including the early days of the racetrack. Sweeney was at the forefront of the inclusion of video poker and improved gaming at Louisiana Downs.
David Vance – Served as the Vice President of Operations for Debartolo Companies. Vance spent a decade at Louisiana Downs before moving to Remington Park in Oklahoma.
LAD Racing Hall of Fame Horses
Alysheba – Won the Super Derby in 1987 after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Alysheba was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1993.
Happy Ticket – Louisiana bred that broke her maiden at Louisiana Downs. She went on to win the Ballerina at Saratoga and was named Louisiana Downs Horse of the Year in 2004.
Shishkabob – A Louisiana Downs legend winning numerous races over the course of his long career. Shishkabob has a statue in his honor outside the entrance to the track.
Tiznow – Won the Super Derby in 2000 and was named Louisiana Downs Horse of the Year. Tiznow won two Breeders’ Cup Classics and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2009.
“The history of Harrah’s Louisiana Downs is truly remarkable,” said Eric Halstrom, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Vice President of Operations “We wanted to honor the many exceptional racing champions and people who have contributed both to the history of our racetrack and made an impact on the national racing industry. Of course, we have a tremendously loyal fan base and felt that they deserved a voice in selecting some of the inductees into the inaugural Racing Hall of Fame.”
About Harrah’s Louisiana Downs
Located near Shreveport in Bossier City, Louisiana, Louisiana Downs opened in 1974 and was purchased by Caesars Entertainment in December, 2002. With annual Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing seasons, the track is committed to presenting the highest quality racing programs paired with its 150,000 square foot entertainment complex offering casino gambling, dining and plasma screen televisions for sports and simulcast racing.
A new health condition has caused Hall of Fame Jockey Randy Romero to be removed from the list of recipients for a transplanted kidney and liver, something he likely needs to sustain his life for a long period of time.
The new health condition started during his trip to the June 10 Belmont Stakes as a celebrity jockey guest. Romero, 59, is one of the rare persons who has undergone dialysis three times weekly for over 12 years. Besides being particularly tiring, it requires a port placed under the skin, in his case on an arm, so he doesn’t need a thick needle stick for every session. The port ruptured while in New York and he wound up in a Garden City hospital Emergency Room. Doctors stemmed the bleeding, stitched and bandaged the arm, and he otherwise said he had a good time.
But during his drive back from the airport to the home of his brother, John Romero, in Lafayette, La., he hit another auto from the rear, totaling his car. With no one injured, he made it to John’s home and was upstairs in his room awaiting dinner and napping. The port ruptured, this time so violently he bled out and became unconscious.
“My mom (Joyce) came to get me for dinner and found me in a pool of blood,” he said. “She saved my life. I wound up in Intensive Care and my blood pressure was like 40 over 20. I nearly bled to death. They had to give me four liters of blood.”
Romero was placed on a ventilator to assist his breathing and was unconscious and in critical condition for over a week. The ventilator was successfully removed but he was hospitalized until early last week.
During a career that included 4,294 victories and purse earnings of over $75 million, Romero broke over 20 bones, suffered third degree burns over 40 percent of his body in a bizarre “hot box” fire, developed Hepatitis C from tainted blood transfusions following the accident, has one kidney and has undergone over 30 surgeries. But the latest injury may be the most serious because he will have to get strong enough to get back on the donor list.
“I’ve been through a lot,” he said. “But I still believe in God and I’m not giving up. I believe in prayer and I know a lot of people out there are praying for me. “