Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. had a busy year in 2004. Not only did the 19-year-old Lafayette, La., native finish his senior year of high school, but he also won his first riding title in his first full year of racing.
Hernandez, a son of Delta Downs jockey Brian Hernandez Sr., had a standout year, leading the nation's apprentices in victories with 243 wins from 1,466 starts. His mounts earned $4.4 million. As a result, Hernandez won the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice jockey.
The young apprentice began his career in November 2003 at Delta Downs. He attended high school during the day, and rode at night. After picking up his diploma May 22, Hernandez headed to Churchill Downs, where he rode for a few weeks before returning to his home state to claim his first riding title at Evangeline Downs with 99 wins from 431 starts.
Hernandez won four stakes at as many racetracks in 2004, with his richest win coming aboard Smooth Bid in the $75,000 Remington MEC Mile Stakes Nov. 21. The half-length win gave Steve Asmussen his 500th victory on the year.
Hernandez took home stakes wins at Delta Downs and Churchill Downs, and won the Dec. 31 Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds, the last day with his bug.