(Maryland Jockey Club release)
Kent Desormeaux, one of Maryland’s all-time leading riders and a two-time winner of the Preakness (gr. I), took home the $14,000 first prize in the inaugural Pimlico Jockey Challenge May 15. Desormeaux’s winning formula was achieved with a win in the fifth race and thirds in the third and 10th races.
The Hall of Fame jockey, who won the Preakness aboard Big Brown last May and Real Quiet in 1998, finished third in the last of four races among eight of the nation’s leading riders, but he earned four points in the race that pushed his total to 22, enough to edge Javier Castellano (20). Garrett Gomez finished third with 18 points.
Fourteen points were awarded for a win, six for a second, four for a third, and three for a fourth-place finish in the four designated races. Julien Leparoux won the 10th race finale aboard Avie’s Tale on the turf to finish fourth with 17 points, followed by Ramon Dominguez (16), Mario Pino (9), Mike Smith (3), and Rafael Bejarano (3).
“I actually had butterflies going into the starting gate (for race 10),” said Desormeaux, who will ride longshot Tone It Down in the May 16 Preakness. “I’ve ridden in a lot of these contests around the world, but I’ve never won one before. It’s good to be home with all my friends in Maryland.”
Desormeaux, who won five riding titles at Pimlico during the 1980s, set an all-time record when he rode 599 winners in 1989 to earn his second of three Eclipse Awards. He led the nation in victories in 1987, 1988, and 1989 when he was based at Pimlico and Laurel Park.
Castellano’s second-place finish aboard Streetscape in the seventh race gave him a two-point lead (20-18) over both Gomez (who won with odds-on Bright Gem) and Desormeaux entering the final race.
Desormeaux took the lead after two races by winning the fifth with Mike Trombetta’s front-running favorite Bette to Win. That gave him 18 points after the first two heats. Dominguez picked up six points for second with Pissarro, followed by Gomez aboard Magamoo. And a Cherry Tree and Bejarano managed fourth in the allowance sprint.
Castellano took the third race and 14 points aboard Tweebie for trainer Dale Capuano. Desormeaux was third on Riddles and Rhymes.
The Challenge featured the top four riders in the country based upon earnings, two Hall of Famers, and two Eclipse Award-winning riders. Castellano won $10,000 for finishing second and Gomez took home $8,000 for third. Going into the competition, the eight riders have combined to win more than 28,000 races and $1 billion in purses.
The Maryland Jockey Club, which teamed with the Jockeys’ Guild for this event, is making a $5,000 donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The jockeys participated in a morning autograph session and posed for a special souvenir poster.
“The event is a win-win for racing, the fans, and riders who have suffered life-threatening injuries,” said Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild.