(Woodbine press release)
Retired jockey Robert King, who has worn many different hats throughout his enduring horse racing career, was named the 2009 recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award May 30.
Born May 14, 1964 in Ottawa, Ontario, King notched his first riding win on Nov. 6, 1982, before switching to the training ranks in the 1990s. He returned to ride in 2005, hanging up his tack three years later to take on the role as national secretary-manager of the Jockeys’ Benefit Association of Canada.
Of all his accomplishments, which include back-to-back Sovereign Awards as Canada’s top apprentice in 1983-84 as well as four consecutive Ontario meet titles (1983 Woodbine Autumn, 1983 Greenwood Autumn, 1984 Greenwood Spring and 1984 Woodbine Summer), King lists the Gomez Award as among his most cherished.
“I’m quite humbled to receive this great honor,” said King. “To have your name associated with such a great rider and great competitor leaves you lost for words. I’ve always considered myself very fortunate to be part of such a great sport and this makes it even more special.”
The coveted Gomez Award is given to the person, Canadian-born, Canadian-raised or regular rider in the country for more than five years, who has made significant contributions to the sport.
Presented annually on Woodbine Oaks day (June 7 this year) at Woodbine, the award is in memory of one of the sport's most heralded and revered performers. The Cuban-born Gomez died of complications after a three-horse accident in the 1980 Canadian Oaks.
“When you look at the list of people who have won this award in the past, it really puts things into perspective,” said King.
King recorded 1,349 wins, including 37 stakes, over his riding career. One of his most memorable victories came when he piloted Don’t Trust Me to an upset score over Canada’s 1992 Horse of the Year, Benburb, in the 1993 Fair Play Breeders’ Cup.
As a conditioner, King saddled 29 winners, three of which were in stakes races.
King displayed his competitive edge upon his return to the saddle, taking back-to-back Fort Erie jockey titles, including a 106-win season in 2007, 33 victories ahead of his nearest competitor. The prior year he recorded 111 wins, 29 ahead of his closest rival.
Now, King handles the reins of the JBAC, a non-profit corporation that assists and represents jockeys as a group across the country.
“It’s a privilege to be able to work together with a great group of athletes,” said King. “Although I haven’t been in the role a long time, I’ve truly enjoyed it.”
Previous Gomez honorees are Ron Turcotte, Johnny Longden, Sandy Hawley, Don MacBeth, Chris Rogers, Jeff Fell, Lloyd Duffy, Hugo Dittfach, Robin Platts, Larry Attard, Don Seymour, David Gall, Richard Grubb, Irwin Driedger, David Clark, Jim McKnight, Chris Loseth, Richard Dos Ramos, Robert Landry, Francine Villeneuve, Sam Krasner, John LeBlanc Sr., George Ho Sang and last year’s recipient, Jack Lauzon.