(MJC press release)
Chris McCarron and Kent Desormeaux became household names when riding in Maryland, but turned into national stars after moving to the Southern California circuit. Ryan Fogelsonger will try to add his name to the Hall of Fame list when he leaves Maryland after the Laurel Park summer meet ends on August 22 for points west.
"I've been talking to Chris McCarron and when a guy with that much power calls you have to listen," said Fogelsonger, the reigning Eclipse Award-winning apprentice who ranks third in the nation with 211 wins and earnings of more than $3.8 million. "I have a lot of momentum right now and this is the time to strike. People are asking me why? I say 'why not'? While my name is hot I have to give it a try."
After taking two months to win five races and officially begin his apprenticeship the Silver Spring (MD) native took off in the second half of 2002, winning more races than any other rider in the nation (244) and capturing both the Pimlico summer/fall meet and Laurel Park fall meet titles. Fogelsonger led all bug riders in victories (267), earnings ($4,489,311) and winning percentage (22%), while riding in a colony that featured six of the top 25 riders in the country based on wins. He garnered 80% of the votes for the Eclipse Award, becoming the ninth based Maryland jockey to win the award.
"It seems like I'm climbing a mountain and just when I think I've reached the top something else happens," added Fogelsonger. "I have truly enjoyed my time in Maryland, but it is time to keep climbing and try to accomplish this goal."
Fogelsonger finished his apprentice year in late May with 419 wins, adding the Laurel winter meet and Pimlico spring meet riding titles to his resume. He earned his first classic mount in the Preakness Stakes®, finishing eighth aboard Cherokee's Boy and also competed in the NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship in June. In the last year the Southern California colony has lost McCarron, Laffitt Pincay and Eddie Delahoussaye to retirement.
"One of the main reasons for the move is the retirements and one of them is calling and asking me to come," explained the 22-year old who recently won the Colonial Downs meet as a journeyman. "They might be looking for a new face. Chris is the general manager at Santa Anita and knows all the owners and trainers. He can help get my feet in the door but it will be my job to ride to the best of my abilities."
Michelle Barsotti, who handled Mark Johnston's book during his three-month stint in Southern California this spring, will be Fogelsonger's agent.
"This is the perfect time for Ryan to go," said Johnston, who has 3,053 career victories. "He is a hot commodity and is riding with a lot of confidence. When you make a move like this you have to have momentum and he has it. They know him out there, he was on the cover of Blood-Horse. He's got a good agent in Michelle. She's a hard worker, knows the game and everybody likes her."
After serving a seven-day suspension, Fogelsonger will begin his West Coast career at the Pomona Fair meet at Fairplex on September 12 and then move his tack to Santa Anita for the Oak Tree meet.
"When Ryan told me about the move last night I told him it will be tough," added Johnston. "The short fields make it hard to get started and he needs to give it time. He isn't going to go in and take over. It is a hard thing to accept when you are used to winning but you just have to work hard. Ryan's a hard worker. He's been on top of this colony for almost a year and hasn't stopped working. Now is the right time for him to give this a try."