Jockey Stewart Elliott, winner of the 2004 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) aboard Smarty Jones, is moving his tack to Kentucky.
Elliott, 49, began his career in 1981 at age 16 and has practiced his trade mainly on the Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic circuits, where he is the winningest rider in the history of Parx Racing (formerly Philadelphia Park). He confirmed his plans to join the Kentucky circuit March 19.
Elliott has two mounts at Turfway Park March 22—Coastline in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) and Stormy Novel in the Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III). He has three mounts March 24 at Parx, where he ranks fourth in the current meet standings, but plans to return to Kentucky March 26 in preparation for the Keeneland season that opens April 4.
Retired rider Nelson Arroyo, who formerly handled the business of Victor Lebron, Gabriel Saez, and brother Norberto Arroyo Jr., will have Elliott's book.
"My wife's family is from Kentucky and we were going to move there eventually," Elliott explained. "When Nelson called and asked me to think about coming, I figured it would be something good because we were going to head that way anyway. I've shipped in and out of Kentucky, but I've always been based on the East Coast."
Arroyo, 33, retired from riding in 2010 after breaking his back in a racing spill. He managed Lebron's book when the jockey won riding titles at Turfway for the winter/spring meet of 2012 and the fall meet that year as well, and helped his brother get his license back in Kentucky after serving time in prison for drug charges in 2009.
Norberto Arroyo, currently riding at Oaklawn Park
, has been a solid presence at Turfway since then, where he won the 2012 holiday meet and 2013 winter/spring meet.
"I've always looked at Stewart as one of the greatest jockeys I've ever been around; I rode with him, John Velazquez, Jerry Bailey...I've ridden with a lot of people who are really good at what they do," Nelson Arroyo said. "I was looking for somebody to bring here, and his style is very unique. He's making a really big change; he's been thinking about coming to Kentucky for a long time and he's finally making the move, and I think he's going to do great here."
The duo's plan calls for Elliott to ride at Keeneland and Churchill Downs
, potentially head to New York's Saratoga Race Course
in the summer, and return to Keeneland and Churchill for the fall meets before shipping to Florida for the winter.
"He's a grade I-winning rider, and at Parx he hasn't been able to find another Smarty Jones," Arroyo said. "He's going to ride the 24th and 25th at Parx, and then he's going to drive down to Kentucky on the 26th and stay here to start working at Keeneland, and I'm going to concentrate on just him."
Elliott, who has ridden 4,617 winners in his career, is looking forward to the new circuit.
"There's a lot of good horses and a lot of big races in Kentucky," he said.