Apprentice jockey Joe Musarro, 17, earned his first career win Feb. 22 when he guided Heavenly Surprise to a 5 1/2-length score in Turfway Park’s seventh race, a claiming event for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
Breaking from post six in the field of seven, Heavenly Surprise jumped immediately to the lead, was taken back by Musarro to race in third, and then regained the lead at the top of the turn before easily drawing away in the stretch. The mare finished the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:07.08 and paid $9.20 as the 7-2 second choice.
Heavenly Surprise is trained by German Vasquez Sr., who as a jockey in the early 1980s was aboard the first winner saddled by Musarro’s father, Jamie, a trainer based at Thistledown.
“I worked as a groom and galloped horses for my dad starting when I turned 16, and I did that for about a year and a half,” said the younger Musarro. “But in Ohio you have to be 18 to ride races, so I came here [to Kentucky]. As soon as I knew I could make weight, I knew I wanted to ride.”
Musarro was named on his first mount Feb. 14. Heavenly Surprise was his seventh mount.
Musarro grew up around horses both at Thistledown and at the family’s small farm in Hudson, Ohio, near Cleveland, where he learned to break horses. His parents met at Thistledown in 1971 when Jamie Musarro came to work for the late trainer Ray Crossen, first as a groom and later as Crossen’s assistant. Mary Jo Crossen, the trainer’s daughter and later Jamie’s wife and Joe’s mother, galloped horses for the stable.