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Apprentice Riders Look To Carry On Tradition
LAUREL, MD. 11-06-13---Maryland has long been the scene where apprentice riders thrive with jockeys such as Chris McCarron, Kent Desormeaux and Rosie Napravnik kicking off their successful careers at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park.
Four of the top six riders in the Laurel Park fall standings are first-year riders with Trevor McCarthy (23 wins) and Victor Carrasco (22) battling for the top spot. In addition, Jevian Toledo (14) and Chelsey Keiser (13) are enjoying productive meets.
McCarthy, the son of former rider Mike McCarthy, finished second in the Laurel winter standings and won six races during opening week at Pimlico before breaking his left leg during training, forcing the 19-year-old to miss nearly five months.
McCarthy won a career-best four races on January 1, February 27 and October 12 and has 17 multiple-win afternoons this year. He rode his first stakes winner on February 16, guiding Concealed Identity to victory in the John B. Campbell Stakes.
“I started in Philly last fall (Parx Racing) and I didn’t think I was going to make it. It took me 70 mounts to get my first winner,” said McCarthy, who ranks 80th in North America with 108 victories. “When I came down here I started getting some live mounts and we were rolling (ranked 12th nationally in wins at the time of the injury). The injury was unfortunate because it knocked me out of consideration for the Eclipse Award, which is something I have dreamed about since I was a little kid. Things are starting to pick up but it took a while to get my confidence back. But like my dad says there were plenty of great riders who weren’t even close to winning the Eclipse so I am just trying to improve every day.”
Maryland-based apprentice riders have captured nine of the 42 Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Apprentice with McCarron (1974), Ronnie Franklin (1978), Alberto Delgado (1982), Allen Stacy (1986), Desormeaux (1987), Mike Luzzi (1989), Mark Johnston (1990), Jeremy Rose (2001) and Ryan Fogelsonger (2002) all being honored. The last dominating apprentice in the state was Napravnik, who won 279 races during her bug year (2005-2006).
Carrasco ranks second in North America among bug riders with 164 victories and is a good bet to be one of the three finalists for the Eclipse Award. After arriving in Maryland from Florida in April, the 21-year-old tied for second in the Pimlico standings and then finished as the runner-up at Delaware Park.
“Just being there would be great but winning the Eclipse would be amazing,” said Carrasco, who trails only south Florida-based Edgard Zayas (172 wins). “Edgard and I come from the same riding school in Puerto Rico so we’ll see what happens the rest of the year. Juan Vazquez has given me a chance to ride a lot of good horses. I pick one jockey each place I ride and try to learn from there. Here it is Luis Garcia. When I came to Pimlico from Florida he would teach me on the Equicizer every day. He is a tall rider like me and I like his style so he has been a mentor.”
Toledo also arrived in the mid-Atlantic in the spring. The 19-year-old from Puerto Rico visited the winners’ circle four times at Laurel on October 3 and had started to ride first call for top trainer Jamie Ness.
Keiser, who earned her first career victory at Laurel in late March, has proven to be a good value for bettors with her winners averaging $22.85. The 21-year-old has ridden Regal Nurse to victories for a pair of barns and has teamed with trainer Ann Merryman for five scores, including Tooth N Claw in the Maryland Million Starter Handicap.
“That was a great experience. He was the first horse I ever rode for Ann and we just clicked. I was confident that day,” Keiser said. “As a bug you get a chance to ride at a lot of places and I have learned a great deal everywhere. Things started to click at Colonial (where she finished fourth in the standings). I learned how to ride the turf and now love it. My first winner there was $85 on opening day and things went from there. I was able to ride a lot and that helped tremendously.”
Keiser, Carrasco and McCarthy rode winners on Wednesday’s nine-race card.
About Laurel Park
Laurel Park is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida and is one of North America's top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world's largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; Xpressbet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets. The Stronach Group is also a major producer of televised horse racing programming through its HRTV cable and satellite network and is North America's premier supplier of virtual online horse racing games, as well as a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry.