Ray Sibille, who rode 4,264 winners in a 35-year career before his retirement last July, is the winner of the 2005 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, Santa Anita Park announced Sunday.Sibille, 52, becomes the 56th winner of the award, which has been presented annually since 1950 in honor of one of the greatest Thoroughbred jockeys in history. Sibille will receive the Woolf Award in a winner's circle ceremony in March.The Woolf Award honors riders whose careers and personal character reflect positively on themselves and the sport of Thoroughbred racing and is prized as one of racing's most prestigious accolades. Since 1985, jockeys nationwide have voted to determine the winner.Former Woolf Award winners Laffit Pincay Jr. and Chris McCarron tallied this year's ballots and then called Sibille at his home in Sunset, La., with the news."It's quite an honor, and I guess this puts me up there in the major leagues," Sibille said. "It's great to be recognized by your fellow riders."Sibille, who has overcome a severe stuttering disorder, was one of the most popular riders in the jockeys' room, regardless of where he rode."Ray Sibille has one of the best senses of humor I've ever seen," McCarron said. "As a rider, the thing that really struck me about Ray was how much he loved his work. Some guys enjoy being jockeys, and for some it's just a job. Ray loved being a jockey."
Sibille was nominated for the 2005 Woolf Award along with Rick Wilson, David Flores, Casey Lambert, and Richard Migliore.
Born in Sunset, La., on Sept. 13, 1952, Sibille, rode his first winner at Evangeline Downs in 1968 and moved on to the Chicago circuit in 1973, winning numerous riding titles at Sportsman's Park, Hawthorne, and Arlington Park. He then rode in Southern California from 1981-93 and captured some of the circuit's biggest events, including the 1988 San Juan Capistrano Handicap on Great Communicator and the 1981 Yellow Ribbon Stakes on Castilla.
It was aboard Great Communicator that Sibille achieved his greatest triumph, a front-running score in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. Sibille announced his retirement on July 21 and was honored later that week at Arlington Park, where he ranks fourth all-time with 931 wins. Hip replacement surgery due to Sciatica was the major factor in his decision to retire.He and his wife of 34 years, Dot, moved back to Sunset following his retirement. They have one son, Keary, who works as a jockey's agent. Sibille was a 31-year member of the Jockey's Guild and was on its board of directors. He has also worked with the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund to assist injured and disabled riders and the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation for at-risk kids.