Jockey Julien Leparoux said Feb. 16 he will move his tack to New York this spring, in time for the Belmont Park meet.
Based in Kentucky since launching his career in 2006, 28-year-old Leparoux is a nine-time leading rider at Churchill Downs who has also earned six titles at Keeneland.
“I wanted to have a new challenge and try something different,” Leparoux said. “Obviously racing in New York this year is going to be very strong thanks to the money from the casino. A lot of Kentucky trainers are going to have more horses there—Kenny McPeek, Eddie Kenneally, Dale Romans, and Steve Asmussen, to name a few. I think it will be a good experience.”
Purses in New York increased this year because of video lottery terminal revenue at Aqueduct. Churchill’s racing calendar has been reduced to a four-day race week and a 2012 spring meet that ends July 1 instead of July 4.
Currently at Gulfstream Park, Leparoux is preparing to ride leading Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contender Union Rags in the Feb. 26 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). He said the move to Belmont, which opens April 30, after the Derby is by no means a complete abandonment of the Kentucky circuit.
“I’ll be at Keeneland in April, just try Belmont right away after the Derby, then go straight to Saratoga (July 20),” Leparoux said. “When it comes to the winter, I’ll be at Gulfstream like usual. I’m probably going to do a lot of traveling.
“I hope I can do good up there. We’ll see what happens.”
Leparoux, who recently proposed to Shea Mitchell, daughter of California-based trainer Mike Mitchell, will also travel between Belmont and Keeneland in the fall and may spend a few weeks at Churchill’s fall meet before Aqueduct opens and after Belmont closes for the year. The native of Senlis, France, has 1,591 wins in North America and more than $81.2 million in purse earnings heading into the Feb. 16 card at Gulfstream, according to Equibase.