It’s that time of year again….FINALLY!!! Welcome to the first of six write-ups on our home track: OAKLAWN PARK. In this series we will cover the jockeys, trainers, older males, older females, 3-year-old fillies, and of course the 3-year-old colts. Who will become the next superstar at Oaklawn? We can’t wait to find out, and I’m sure you can’t either! Today we are previewing twenty jockey’s that are sure to impact the 2014 meeting.
Ricardo Santana Jr.
What a meeting last year for Santana! The super young and talented jockey had done well in previous years at Oaklawn, but EXPLODED last year winning the racing title by an eye-popping twenty-four races. Winning seventy races at Oaklawn is almost unheard of, and this year he could definitely do it again. He’ll have the power of top trainer Steve Asmussen on his side once again which is always a key ingredient to success. This is an up and coming super star who is only going to get better with age!
Perhaps no jockey was more consistent than Alex Birzer in 2013. Birzer finished a solid third at Oaklawn, then was second at Prairie Meadows, and rounded out 2013 by finishing tied for third at Remington. Even though he didn’t win a meet title, he did have a career high in wins and earnings in 2013. At Oaklawn last year he rode many horse for Jamie Ness and Midwest Thoroughbreds, but this year Midwest horses will be with Roger Bruggerman and Chris Richard. If Birzer still gets those mounts the wins will keep coming.
Luis finished fifth in last year’s Oaklawn standings, and looked to be on his way to another great year until injury forced him to miss most of the spring and summer races. He did return for the Remington Park meet, and as usual was strong there finishing a close second in the standings. Quinonez brings an incredible amount of experience to Oaklawn, and rides for some of the top barns on the grounds year in and year out.
Nobody dominated the Midwest and Southwest circuits like Cliff Berry in 2011 and 2012, but he was unable to win a meet title in 2013. However, don’t let that get you down on him. He was still a solid second at Lone Star Park, and was third at Remington Park. Look for him to improve on his fifth place finish last year at Oaklawn as this guy is as experienced as they come.
You can’t talk about Midwest jockeys without mentioning Terry Thompson. He’s been a Hot Springs fixture for years, and last year he once again had a nice meet finishing sixth. Rumor has it trainer Chris Richard is loaded for the upcoming meet, and that could move Thompson up the ladder even more considering he is usually Richard’s go to jockey. Thompson is known as a speed rider, which is something Richard also likes. He might be sitting on a very big meet.
This will be a very interesting addition to the Oaklawn jockey colony. Seemingly every year Oaklawn attracts new talent, and Castanon is the one who fits under that category this year. He’s most well-known for riding Shackleford to victory in the Preankess, but in the last four years his business and win percentage has declined. He’ll look to Oaklawn as a “jump-start” to 2014. His name alone could get him into some of the top barns on the back stretch.
It seems like he’s often forgotten about, but Joe Johnson is consistently in the mix every year at Oaklawn. Last year he made his biggest impact when he flawlessly rode On Fire Baby to a wire to wire victory in the tracks second biggest race: The Apple Blossom. You can bet Johnson will be the go to jockey for trainer “Red Dog” Hartlage once again, and will also ride a few longshot winners for other trainers.
This guy is becoming known at Oaklawn for winning big three-year old races. In recent years he’s captured the Arkansas Derby twice with Line of David and Archarcharch, and last year he won the Smarty Jones and Rebel Stakes aboard Will Take Charge. His connection with D Wayne Lukas always gives him the opportunity to get aboard some very talented prospects, and this year will be no different. Look for Court to have mounts in all the big three-year old races.
Speed is this guy’s game! Nobody has more of a “speed rider” reputation than David Mello. Those tactics are best on display at Prairie Meadows where the track always favors speed, but his riding can also produce results elsewhere. He’s another guy that often rides for Chris Richard, so that is obviously a positive.
Ocampo has success anywhere he goes, and is what I like to consider a “top of the second flight” kind of guy at Oaklawn Park. He’s known for his patient come from behind style, and usually works with some of the top barns at the track. He comes into Oaklawn off a another decent outing at Hawthorne where he finished fourth in the standings.
This jockey needs no introduction! The recent Hall of Fame inductee is a fan favorite, and is one of the staples of Oaklawn Park. Calvin’s last two seasons have been plagued with injury and inconsistency, but he’s finally healthy once again and working out horses currently at Oaklawn. This is his time of year to shine, and you can bet he’ll be looking for his next Kentucky Derby horse.
Rosemary Homeister Jr.
Homeister tried out Oaklawn last year, and had moderate success winning twelve percent of her races and finishing twelfth in the standings. She had decent results in both Arlington and Hawthorne during the summer and fall, although 2013 was not one of her strongest.
This could be an up and coming rider to keep an eye on. Franklin was fourteenth in the standings last year at Oaklawn, but impressed a few trainers with his strong rides. After leaving Oaklawn he was tremendously successful at Indiana Downs, where he won the meet’s riding title, winning 158 races. He’ll return to Oaklawn this year riding that momentum, and should only get better and better results.
This will probably be the jockey The Dudes root for the most, as he usually is the go to rider for our favorite trainer Kelly Von Hemel. Corbett never blows you away with numbers at Oaklawn, but he always seems to find his way to the winners circle in the big races. Last year he guided Get Happy Mister to a win in the Northern Spur Stakes, and also had important mounts on Alsvid and Cruzette.
Lebron quietly finished seventh in the Oaklawn Standings last year, and went on to solid numbers throughout the 2013 season. His Kentucky racing experience is always attractive to prospective trainers.
Could this be the 2014 version of Ricardo Santana Jr.? He has the same agent, and he comes into this meeting off a wildly impressive meet at Remington Park where he won the jockey title. He rides a lot of horses for owner Danny Caldwell, who has informed the dudes that “he will be better prepared” for Oaklawn Park this year. If Caldwell decides to use Vazquez at Oaklawn, that will automatically put him in the mix for big things. The sky is the limit for this rider.
The rider of the great Afleet Alex….enough said! Jeremy Rose returns to Oaklawn where he once won the meet title, and has been riding for a lot of different outfits in the mornings as he tries to work his way back with some of the top barns. Rose won at a eighteen percent clip in 2013, and like many others he will be looking to “jump start” his year with a big Oaklawn meeting.
Invading from the Mid-Atlantic area, this one could be a decent addition to the colony. Navarro brings five years of experience with him to Hot Springs and has finished each of his five seasons above a 13% win rate. He made his biggest impact at Delaware Park in 2013 where he finished sixth in the jockey standings. That should benefit him as a lot of Oaklawn trainers run at Delaware.
Eurico Rosa da Silva
Another great addition to the Oaklawn jockey colony! Da Silva is a top jockey in Canada, and just finished off a second place finish at the Woodbine meeting, winning at a 22% clip. When it came to earnings he actually ranked highest on the Woodbine list. He comes in to ride for trainer Mark Casse, who has a string at the track for the first time. With da Silva’s ability, you’d have to think Casse won’t be the only one that uses him.
Hernandez comes to Oaklawn with momentum on his side, and also has the services of legendary jockey agent Harry “The Hat” Hacek to his credit. Hacek comes to Oaklawn fresh off retirement, and Hernandez comes in fresh off a strong second place finish in the standings at Hawthorne Park. Obviously the competition will be steeper at Oaklawn, but if Hacek can get this young jockey enough mounts he’s sure to make an impact. Up and coming rider that could steal a few races…