Jockeys Melancon, Batista Organize Relief Supplies For Hurricane Harvey Refugees

by Paulick Report Staff

Jockeys Gerard Melancon and Alexis Batista worked together to organize a relief effort for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey last week, according to the Daily Racing Form. The riders gathered more than 50 cases of water and a stash of diapers to a shelter in Lake Charles, La. which has taken in Texas residents fleeing the flooding from the storm.

Melancon said the project was a combined effort of riders at Louisiana Downs, along with their valets and chaplain Dwight Brown.

Also on Wednesday, NTRA Charities announced it would donate more than $5,000 to the Penn National Gaming Foundation, which is helping Sam Houston Race Park employees affected by the storm.

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.”

Setback Jeopardizes Hall Of Fame Jockey Romero’s Chances For Organ Transplants

by | 07.09.2017 | 10:48pm

Paulick Report

Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero

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. “

Desormeaux Splits With Pegram, Hires Nelson Arroyo As New Agent

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux has parted ways with agent J.R. Pegram and teamed up with agent Nelson Arroyo, it was announced Monday. Desormeaux, who has been represented by Pegram since March 2016, was also previously represented by the agent in 2012 and 2013 while riding in New York.

“I’ve worked with Pegram a few times over the years and he’s done a good job for me,” Desormeaux said. “We have different views on managing my future, and as a result I thought it best to part ways. Nelson has done a great job as an agent and I am looking forward to him carrying my book.”

Desormeaux, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, is ranked sixth all-time in jockey earnings with $272,913,629, and has 5,856 wins from over 30,000 career starts. He has won seven Triple Crown races, including three Kentucky Derbies, three Preakness Stakes and the Belmont once.

After a second-place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby aboard the Keith Desormeaux-trained Exaggerator, the pair went on to capture the Preakness Stakes, finishing 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. He went on to pilot the colt to victory in the $1 million Haskell Invitational last July.

“Before I became a jockey my father encouraged me to watch and learn from Cordero, Pincay, Velazquez and Desormeaux,” Arroyo said. “I never imagined I’d be representing a Hall of Fame jockey and to be representing Kent, along with my brother Norberto, in Southern California is a dream come true.”

Desormeaux is currently riding at the Santa Anita Park meeting where he is fifth in the jockey standings. He rode three winners on the card there Sunday, including the Fran’s Valentine Stakes aboard Moonless Sky.

Hernandez Rides Four Winners At Churchill

by | 05.14.2017

Brian Hernandez Jr. won four races for four different trainers on Saturday’s card (5-13-17) at Churchill Downs, starting with the early double aboard Tarpy’s Surprise ($8) for Dale Romans in Race 1 and Miss Cobblestone ($15.60) for Bernie Flint in Race 2. He entered the winner’s enclosure once again for Ian Wilkes with Fifth Title ($12.60) in Race 5, then gave trainer Tim Glyshaw his 400th career victory in Race 7 with Louies Flower ($12.40).

Hernandez has now brought his victory total to 11 through the first nine days of the 38-day Spring Meet.

“It was a great day,” Hernandez said. “It’s always fun to get on a roll like that. Hopefully we can keep the streak going.”

 

Final Jockey Assignments Confirmed In 2017 Run For The Roses: Includes Three Louisiana Natives

by | 04.30.2017 | 3:05pm

Always Dreaming works under the Twin Spires with John Velazquez aboard.

The last of the Kentucky Derby riding assignments was confirmed on Sunday morning, and the current field of 20 is all booked up for Saturday’s Run for the Roses. The most recent addition is that of jockey Channing Hill aboard Fast and Accurate for trainer Mike Maker; Hill breezed the colt at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning, then announced the decision later in the morning on Twitter.

Tyler Gaffalione will be aboard the Todd Pletcher-trained Patch for Calumet Farm, it was also announced on Twitter Sunday morning. Pletcher’s other riders were announced over the past few weeks, with John Velazquez scheduled to team with Always Dreaming and Jose Ortiz to pilot Tapwrit.

Trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed his final Derby reinsmen on Saturday, naming Ricardo Santana to ride Untrapped and Corey Lanerie to ride Lookin at Lee. Florent Geroux had previously been named to ride Hence.

Late last week, trainer Dale Romans named Luis Saez as the replacement rider for the injured Robby Albarado aboard J Boys Echo.

 

Here is the full list of expected Kentucky Derby contenders and their riders, as of Sunday afternoon:

  • Always Dreaming (John Velazquez)
  • Battle of Midway (Flavien Prat)
  • Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux)
  • Fast and Accurate (Channing Hill)
  • Girvin (Mike Smith)
  • Gormley (Victor Espinoza)
  • Gunnevera (Javier Castellano)
  • Hence (Florent Geroux)
  • Irap (Mario Gutierrez)
  • Irish War Cry (Rajiv Maragh)
  • J Boys Echo (Luis Saez)
  • Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie)
  • McCraken (Brian Hernandez Jr.)
  • Patch (Tyler Gaffalione)
  • Practical Joke (Joel Rosario)
  • Sonneteer (Kent Desormeaux)
  • State of Honor (Jose Lezcano)
  • Tapwrit (Jose Ortiz)
  • Thunder Snow (Ire) (Christophe Soumillon)
  • Untrapped (Ricardo Santana Jr.).

Next up in order of preference: Royal Mo (Gary Stevens)

Albarado Fractures Lower Leg, Off J Boys Echo in Derby

Albarado Fractures Lower Leg, Off J Boys Echo in Derby
Photo: Coady Photgraphy

Robby Albarado

Jockey Robby Albarado sustained a fracture of his lower left tibia and fibula after falling from Chiltern Street at the beginning of the eighth race at Keeneland April 23 and will be off mounts for approximately three to four weeks, including Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) hopeful J Boys Echo, agent Rob Ebanks said.

The 5-year-old horse stumbled at the start of the 5 1/2-furlong race on turf unseating Albarado, who was immdiately attended to on the track. After being taken to first aid at Keeneland, he was then transported to UK Chandler Hospital.

In an official statement, Keeneland medical director Dr. Barry Schumer said: “Robby’s horse stumbled at the start of the race and Robby was thrown to the ground. He braced himself. He suffered an injury to his left ankle. He is being transported to UK Chandler Hospital (at the University of Kentucky in Lexington) for X-rays and further evaluation.”

Albarado underwent surgery April 24 at UK Chandler Hospital and had a rod and two pins inserted in his lower left leg, per Ebanks.

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Louisiana Native Hernandez Opts To Stick With McCraken in the Kentucky Derby

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Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. is the regular rider for a pair of 3-year-old colts with enough points to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, and knew he would have to choose which to ride if both came through their final prep races without issue. According to drf.com, Hernandez ultimately made the decision to stick with the Ian Wilkes-trained McCraken, despite the son of Ghostzapper’s third-place finish in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes.

“It was a really, really tough decision because both trainers and owners have been extremely loyal to me throughout the year,” Hernandez told The Courier-Journal. “It was one of those decisions that took a whole lot of time and a whole lot of talking with my agent. And we went with McCraken.”

That left Girvin, winner of both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby, without a rider for the first Saturday in May. Despite several light-hearted rumors that trainer Joe Sharp’s wife, the famed female jockey Rosie Napravnik, might come out of retirement to ride the son of Tale of Ekati, the mount will go to Hall of Famer Mike Smith (Napravnik intends to stay retired, according to her Twitter account).

 

Both McCraken and Girvin have only lost once in their respective careers, but McCraken is more likely to be one of the top choices for the Derby because of relatively slow finish times in Girvin’s Fair Grounds efforts. Take nothing away from Girvin: the lightly-raced colt has done nothing wrong and just keeps improving with each start.

That said, McCraken’s third-place effort in the Blue Grass may have some fans questioning their belief in the previously undefeated star. Based on Wilkes’ record, including derby winners Unbridled and Street Sense (during which time he served as assistant to trainer Carl Nafzger) and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, a sub-par effort prior to the big dance is nothing to be concerned about. Both Unbridled and Street Sense lost in the Blue Grass before winning the Derby, and Fort Larned finished third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup before winning the Classic.

Shaun Bridgmohan Lands Career Win 3,000

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan joined an elite group on Saturday, April 1st, at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The 37-year-old Spanish Town, Jamaica, native earned his 3,000th victory when   guiding Allied Racing Stable’s Brad Cox-trained Inveniam Viam to victory in the day’s first race.

Bridgmohan earned his first win in August of 1997 at Calder Race Course and has ridden the likes of Grade I horses PyroNoble BirdRoom ServiceJ. B.’s ThunderMajesticperfectionKodiak KowboyPeeping TomBrutally FrankEvening AttireAlexander TangoVolponiMidnight LuteGiant Oak,Appealing Zophieand Student Council. Bridgmohan has won 93 graded stakes, including 16 at the Grade I level

In 1998, Bridgmohan won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey and in 2014 was second in the Kentucky Derby with Commanding Curve, while also placing in Breeders’ Cup race four times. In his career he boasts just above a 15% strike rate, while finishing in the money 42% of the time, with career earnings approaching $126 million.

“This one feels really good,” Bridgmohan said. “Especially to do it for a trainer I’ve had a really great meet with. To get to that point means a lot. The day started off good and hopefully it carries through.”

Louisiana Natives Albarado, Perret Among Finalists for National Museum of Racing’s 2017 Hall of Fame

Five jockeys, three trainers, and three racehorses comprise 11 finalists on the National Museum of Racing’s 2017 Hall of Fame ballot, as selected by the Museum’s Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.

The finalists are jockeys Robby Albarado, Javier Castellano, Victor Espinoza, Garrett Gomez, and Craig Perret; trainers Mark Casse, John Shirreffs, and David Whiteley; and racehorses Gio Ponti  Goldikova, and Kona Gold.

Albarado, Castellano, Casse, Shirreffs, Gio Ponti, and Goldikova are first-time finalists.

Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. A maximum of four candidates with the highest vote totals—provided they receive majority approval (50.1%) of the voting panel—will be elected to the Hall of Fame. The results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced April 24.

The induction ceremony will be at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Aug. 4 at 10:30 a.m. This year’s ceremony will be open to the public and is free to attend.

Lafayette native Robby Albarado, 43, began riding at the age of 10 and progressed to riding at bush tracks  by the age of 12. After turning professional, he earned his first official win at Evangeline Downsin 1990. He has won 5,026 races to date with purse earnings of more than $206 million in a career that began in 1990. The regular rider of two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame inductee Curlin  , as well as Horse of the Year Mineshaft  , Albarado has won 202 graded stakes in his career, including three Breeders’ Cup races and the 2007 Preakness Stakes (G1).

Craig Perret, 66, who was born in New Orleans, began riding horses at age five and by seven was riding quarter horses in match races. At age fifteen he began his career in thoroughbred racing and in 1967 was the leading apprentice jockey in the United States in terms of money won. He  has won 4,415 races with purse earnings of more than $113 million in a career that spanned from 1967-05. The Eclipse Award winner for outstanding jockey in 1990, Perret won the Belmont Stakes (G1) in 1987 with Bet Twice by 14 lengths, denying Alysheba the Triple Crown. Three years later, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled. He won four Breeders’ Cup races and totaled 208 graded stakes wins.

Chaired by Edward L. Bowen, the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee is comprised of Bowen, Cot Campbell, Tim Capps, Steven Crist, Tracy Gantz-White, Teresa Genaro, Jane Goldstein, Steve Haskin, Jay Hovdey, Tom Law, Leverett Miller, Neil Milbert, Bill Nack, Jay Privman, John Sparkman, and John von Stade.

The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s nominating committee from a total of 86 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants, and racing fans.

To be eligible, trainers must have been licensed for 25 years, while jockeys must have been licensed for 20 years. Thoroughbreds are required to be retired for five calendar years before becoming eligible. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. The 20- and 25-year requirements for jockeys and trainers, respectively, may be waived, at the discretion of the Museum’s Executive Committee. Candidates not active within the past 25 years are eligible through the Historic Review process.