Veteran Riders Combined for Seven State Championships in Nine Years
BALTIMORE – A fearsome foursome of Maryland’s top jockeys, who have combined to win 30 individual meet titles and seven of the state’s last nine overall riding championships, are lined up to strut their stuff on the biggest stage of all.
Trevor McCarthy, Jevian Toledo, Sheldon Russell and Horacio Karamanos have all secured mounts in the 145th Preakness Stakes (G1) Saturday, Oct. 3, being presented this year as the final jewel in a refashioned Triple Crown and the first Triple Crown race to serve as a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
The $1 million Preakness is among a spectacular weekend Oct. 1-3 featuring 16 stakes, nine graded, worth $3.35 million in purses including the 96th renewal of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and 50th edition of the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3), each contested this year on the Preakness undercard.
“We’ve got a good shot to win, the local riders,” Karamanos said. “There’s four of us. We have a good group. There are a lot of good riders in Maryland. It’s good competition.”
Karamanos is the winningest rider among the group with 2,266 victories since arriving in the U.S. in 2000 from his native Argentina, where he won more than 1,500 races. He has the assignment on John Fanelli, Cash is King, LC Racing, Paul Braverman and Team Hanley’s Ny Traffic.
The veteran Karamanos has won six meet titles in Maryland including three at Pimlico (2003, 2010, 2017) as well as the Laurel Park summer stand that ended Sept. 19. He is the only one of the four local riders to be making his Triple Crown race debut.
“This is my opportunity now. I feel really good, man,” Karamanos said. “This is my home, Maryland.”
Karamanos landed full-time in Maryland in 2002 and tied a Laurel Park record with seven winners on a single card that October. The winner of multiple riding titles at Colonial Downs in neighboring Virginia who has ex-rider Frank Douglas as his agent, he won the $100,000 Twixt Sept. 5 aboard Wicked Awesome. His mounts have earned more than $60 million in career purses.
In Ny Traffic, Karamanos will climb aboard a horse that raced close to the pace in the Kentucky Derby (G1) Sept. 5 before tiring to eighth behind Authentic, exiting the race with a cut on his left front ankle. Beaten a nose by Authentic in the Haskell (G1) July 18, Ny Traffic also finished second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Matt Winn (G3) this year.
“This is a nice horse. I watched his last two races. He ran good when he finished second at Monmouth,” Karamanos, 47, said. “In Kentucky the horse broke out a little bit and then sit second and third. He ran evenly to the wire, but the race was so fast. He’s a good-trying horse. You never know. I think we have a good shot. He’s a nice-looking horse, too.”
McCarthy, 26, will be aboard William H. Lawrence’s Liveyourbeastlife, the Jim Dandy (G2) runner-up Sept. 5 at Saratoga for trainer Jorge Abreu. The Delaware native and Laurel resident will become the sixth different rider in nine starts on the sophomore son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper.
The Preakness will be the first Triple Crown race for Liveyourbeastlife and second for McCarthy, who finished eighth behind 2015 Triple Crown winner with Bodhisattva on his 21st birthday. This year’s Preakness comes four weeks after Authentic upset favored Tiz the Law in the Kentucky Derby (G1) Sept. 5.
“We have some really good horses, some fresh horses, my horse being a fresh horse,” McCarthy said. “Authentic really put up a super race last time and he beat a really good horse, so he’s going to be pretty tough. I’m just looking forward to getting the opportunity and doing my best, and getting the best trip possible.”
Represented by agent Scotty Silver, McCarthy was Maryland’s leading rider in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019 and owns 12 individual meet titles including six of the last eight since moving his tack back to Maryland full-time in fall 2018 after a stint in New York. Overall, he owns 1,537 wins and nearly $51 million in purses earned with 18 graded-stakes victories.
“If my horse shows up and has a good trip, I’ll be happy. I’ll be happy with him, I’m pretty sure,” McCarthy said. “He should give me a great effort and I’m really looking forward to riding him. I think that last eighth [of a mile] is really going to suit him. I can’t wait.”
Toledo, 24, will get a leg up on Grupo Seven C Stable’s Jesus’ Team, who became the first Preakness horse to arrive at Pimlico Sunday following the short van ride from trainer Jose D’Angelo’s barn at Monmouth Park.
It will be Toledo’s second time riding in a Triple Crown race, having finished ninth with Awesome Speed in the 2016 Preakness. Maryland’s champion rider in 2015 and 2017, Toledo owns 1,027 career wins and more than $31 million in purse earnings since his first domestic victory at Pimlico in June 2013.
Toledo and Russell are both represented by agent Marty Leonard.
“I’m really excited. It’s the second chance that I got to ride the Preakness and I feel really blessed,” Toledo said. “I have a lot of help lately in my career and my agent does a really, really good job. He hustled to have a mount in the Preakness and we got it done, so that’s pretty cool.”
A native of Puerto Rico, where he won more than 30 races before coming to the U.S., Toledo has won five individual meet titles in Maryland and two career graded-stakes, the 2014 Charles Town Oaks (G3) with Miss Behaviour and 2018 Arlington Handicap (G3) with Divisidero.
Jesus’ Team, named after the owner’s son, will see familiar faces in the Preakness. He ran fourth to Authentic in the Haskell, second to Pneumatic in the Aug. 15 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park and third in the Jim Dandy, less than a length behind runner-up Liveyourbeastlife.
“I never got to meet the trainer,” Toledo said. “He liked the way I ride. I watched all the replays of the horse and he’s a nice horse. He tries every time. He always hits the board in these tough races. With luck, anything can happen. Hopefully we can get it done.”
Russell, a seven-time meet champion in Maryland who led the state in wins in 2011, has been named to ride Calumet Farm’s Excession, one of three horses pointing to the Preakness trained by two-time winner and Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen.
“At first I was hearing little whispers about it, but as it progressed it started to get a bit louder,” Russell said. “I’m just trying to take it all in. I’m very grateful for the opportunity that Steve’s giving me.”
Russell, 33, finished 10th on Concealed Identity in the 2011 Preakness. In his only other Triple Crown mount, he was 14th in the 2012 Derby aboard Done Talking, trained by Laurel Park-based Hamilton Smith.
“We’ve got a couple days before the race so I’ll try to do the best homework I can on the horse. Then it’s just trying to get a clean trip and try to get the horse to run for me on such a big day,” Russell said. “I’m excited. I’m over the moon. These are the opportunities you dream about.”
Eight shy of 1,400 career wins with more than $38 million in purses earned, Russell, like McCarthy, Toledo and Karamanos, is still in search of his first Grade 1 triumph. He has won four Grade 3 stakes, the last coming with Doctor J Dub in the 2016 Turf Monster at Parx.
Russell returned to riding on the Sept. 24 opening day program at Pimlico for the first time since breaking his wrist July 16 in a gate mishap at Delaware Park. He was leading Laurel’s summer meet standings at the time of his injury.
“Coming off the layoff and everything, it was not something I was thinking about. I’m just very grateful,” he said. “I can understand it being one of the top three riders but from being on the shelf, I couldn’t ask for a better thing. It makes me feel very good. It makes me feel very excited. I’ve got a couple days here up until that big one so we’ll be ready next Saturday, put it that way.”