BALTIMORE, MD 04-10-2009 --- Eight of the nation’s top jockeys, including Eclipse Award winners Kent Desormeaux, Edgar Prado, Garrett Gomez and John Velazquez, will square off in the inaugural Jockey Challenge at Pimlico Race Course on May 15,
the day before the $1 million Preakness® Stakes (Grade I), the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The Maryland Jockey Club teamed up with the Jockeys’ Guild for the event and will make a $5,000 contribution to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
The jockey with the most points at the end of a four-race competition will be crowned champion. Riding assignments are determined by a drawing Sunday, May 10, and jockeys receive points for finishing first (12 points), second (6), third (4) and fourth (3) in each race. The champion jockey will earn $14,000. Other prize money: $10,000 (second); $8,000 (third) and $3,500 (fourth through eighth).
“We wanted to provide some added spark to the Black-Eyed Susan card and jockey promotions have been popular with fans throughout the years,” said Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Tom Chuckas. “Thanks to Terry Meyocks at the Jockeys’ Guild we have attracted some of the biggest names in the business to our inaugural event.”
The riders will also participate in an autograph session that morning in the Pimlico grandstand with a special souvenir poster to be made available.
“The jockeys look forward to working with the Maryland Jockey Club to present a special day of racing for the fans,” said Meyocks, National Manager of the Jockeys’ Guild. “With an autograph session in addition to the competition on the track, fans will be able to meet their favorite riders. Thanks to MJC’s contribution to help disabled riders, the event is a win for racing, the fans and riders who have suffered life-changing injuries. Events like the Jockey Challenge provide additional color to an already outstanding weekend of racing.”
The jockeys are, in alphabetical order:
Rafael Bejarano-The 26-year-old led all North American jockeys with 455 victories in 2004, just two years after relocating from his native Peru. Bejarano, who was second in 2005 Belmont Stakes with Andromeda’s Hero, won six races at Santa Anita in just his second visit to the famed track. He has more than 1,900 career victories.
Kent Desormeaux-The Hall of Famer burst onto the scene while riding in Maryland in the late 1980’s. The 39-year-old won a record 599 races in 1989, earning the first of two Eclipse Awards for outstanding jockey (also won in 1992). Desormeaux has five Triple Crown victories on his resume, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard both Real Quiet (1998) and Big Brown (2008). He is one of 24 riders with more than 5,000 career winners and has finished first or second in the Preakness five times.
Ramon Dominguez-The 32-year-old led the nation in wins in 2001 (431) while riding in Maryland. Dominguez won a career high 453 two years later and has won more than 3,600 races since March 1996. He earned his first Grade I victory aboard A Huevo in the 2003 De Francis Dash at Laurel Park and also won the Grade I Pimlico Special with Invasor three years later. He has ridden in the Preakness seven of the last eight years, including a second place finish aboard Scrappy T in 2005.
Garrett Gomez-The two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner has topped the North American leading jockeys’ earnings list for three consecutive years. The 37-year-old, who is still looking for his first Triple Crown victory, took four Breeders’ Cup World Championship races in 2008. In 2007, he won a record 75 stakes races. A year earlier he rode four stakes winners during Preakness weekend for trainer Todd Pletcher. Gomez has more than 3,100 career first place finishes.
Julien Leparoux-The 25-year-old finished a record-setting apprentice year in 2006 as the nation’s leading rider (based on wins) with 403 with earnings of $12.5 million, the most ever by a bug rider. Since then he has multiple riding titles at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. He finished second in last year’s Preakness aboard Macho Again and is quickly approaching 1,000 career victories.
Mario Pino-The 47-year-old ranks 15th on the all-time win list with more than 6,100 career winners. Pino is Maryland’s all-time winningest jockey with more than 4,900 victories at Pimlico and Laurel Park. He had a breakout year in 2007 as the regular rider aboard Hard Spun, which included second place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a third in Preakness Stakes. He has won 200 races 12 times in his career that began in 1979.
Edgar Prado-The 2006 Eclipse Award winner won 24 riding titles at Pimlico and Laurel Park during the 1990’s before moving his tack to New York. The 41-year-old won the 2006 Kentucky Derby aboard Barbaro and has a pair of Belmont Stakes wins-Sarava (2002) and Birdstone (2004) but has failed to win Maryland’s signature race in 11 tries. Prado, who was elected to Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2008, ranks 14th on the all-time win list with more than 6,200 victories.
John Velazquez-The two-time Eclipse Award winner (2004 and 2005) has won or shared 20 riding titles in New York and was the top rider in the nation’s deepest colony for four consecutive years (2001-2004). The 37-year-old partnered with his main client, Todd Pletcher, to win the 2007 Belmont Stakes with the filly Rags For Riches. Velazquez has more than 4,000 career victories in a career that began in his native Puerto Rico in 1988.
CAREER STATISTICS THROUGH APRIL 9, 2009
The eight riders have combined for 31,247 career winners with earnings of more than $1.1 billion. Six rank in the top 30 on the all-time earnings list. Seven currently reside in the top 12 for 2009 earnings.