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How 18-Year-Old Charlie Marquez Became Maryland’s Leading Rider
Story and Slideshow
LAUREL, MD – Idle time is something rare for Charlie Marquez these days. When the teenage riding sensation somehow managed a three-hour break between mounts over closing weekend of historic Pimlico Race Course’s Preakness Meet, he took the opportunity to shut off his cell phone and turn off his mind.
The respite was short-lived. Maryland Jockey Club clerk of scales Frank Saumell, asked to summon Marquez during his downtime, walked briskly toward the back of the jockeys’ room, perched high above the Pimlico winner’s circle.
“Charlie!” Saumell called out. “Charlie! … Marquez!” he repeated, his voice rising each time.
Slowly, a head poked out above a row of white-painted cabinets. It is Marquez, his dark hair tussled from a quick nap on the bench in front of his locker stall. He slipped a pair of black slides over his socks and made his way out into the sunlight on the porch outside.
Sitting on a chair overlooking the main track, Marquez’s thoughts go back a dozen years to a time when he watched the horses go by from a much different perspective.
“I always wanted to be a jockey,” Marquez said. “I came to the track a bunch when I was young. I came to Pimlico with my mom and on Preakness Day we used to walk over here with my brother.
“I used to go in the morning with her when she used to gallop for Mary Eppler and when she used to work for Jose Corrales at Laurel. I’d go in the morning and sit by the rail and fantasize. Now I’m doing it.”
And doing it well. Marquez, who turned 18 in late January, finished his first full professional season as Maryland’s leading apprentice rider of 2020 with 58 wins. Various circumstances – a global pandemic that paused racing in the state for 2 ½ months in the spring, a trial run on the New York circuit and a wrist injury that shelved him another four weeks in the fall – kept Marquez from the Eclipse Award conversation.
Success has carried into this year. He earned his first career meet title at Pimlico, a four-month stand that saw him finish with a nine-win cushion. Entering Laurel Park’s calendar year-ending fall meet that begins Sept. 9, Marquez has won more races than any rider in Maryland with 76. He’s hoping to continue his success come Thursday when Laurel Park’s fall meet opens.
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Words: Phil Janack
Photography: Jerry Dzierwinski