Jose Santos Award-winning Jockey
Thursday March 29, 2007 at Noon (ET)
Jockey Jose Santos, currently recovering from injiuries suffered in an early February spill at Aqueduct, is this week's guest on Talkin' Horses.
A native of Chile and the son of a jockey, Santos was among South America's top jockeys when he made the 1984 move to the U.S. and began a North American riding career that has included successful stints in Florida, New York, and California.
Highlights of Jose's career include such milestones as individual meet titles at Saratoga, Belmont, Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Hialeah, and Calder and winning rides in seven Breeders' Cup events (Manila: 1986 Turf; Success Express: 1987 Juvenile; Steinlen: 1989 Mile; Fly So Free: 1990 Juvenile; Meadow Star: 1990 Juvenile Fillies; Chief Bearhart: 1997 Turf; Volponi: 2002 Classic) and all three Triple Crown races (Funny Cide: 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes; Lemon Drop Kid: 1999 Belmont Stakes),
In addition to four consecutive national money titles and New York Turf Writers' Association Eddie Arcaro Awards as Outstanding Jockey (1986-89), Jose has been honored with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award from the Jockeys' Guild. ESPN's ESPY Award as outstanding jockey of 2003, the 2003 Red Smith "Good Guy" Award by the New York Turf Writers Association, and the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey of 1988.
Hallandale Beach, FL:
Jose, I was so sorry to hear about your spill, hope you are doing OK and make it back to riding winners soon! How are you doing? What stage of rehab are you in? Bill Hirsch
Thank you, Bill. I am doing well. The doctors have me in a brace that I wear all the time. I can take it off when I go to sleep and am lying down. I go back for an MRI on April 30 to see how the healing process is going at which time the doctor will make a decision what will happen with my riding career
Belmont Park, New York:
Jose, all of us at the Kiaran McLaughlin Team are thinking of you. Hope you’re healing well!! Looking forward to seeing you again. Thanks for all the great rides!! Artie & Khalila
Thanks Artie and Khalila. I hope to see you soon! I am rooting for Kiaran, Invasor and all of you in this weekend’s Dubai World Cup. What a fabulous horse he is! You guys are the best!!!
Hi Jose! First of all, best wishes for a quick and complete recovery from your latest injury. Jerry Bailey was at the top of his game when he retired from riding. He mentioned, among other reasons, wanting to leave racing healthy and in one piece. With your many riding accomplishments (and a future Hall of Famer), do you feel that you need to continue your riding career, or, does this latest injury give you pause to consider hanging up your tack?
Thank you. I am feeling well. We all want to go out of the game in one piece. There are inherent risks involved in riding race horses though and unfortunately we do face injuries from time to time. I have thought long and hard about it. I definitely want to ride again. If the doctor gives me the green light to ride I will. Riding has always been my passion and I love doing what I am doing.
In the past couple of years, New York circuit jockeys such as Richard Migliore, Aaron Gryder, and Shaun Bridgmohan have left the circuit after many years to try their hands at riding in California or on the mid-west circuits on a regular basis. Have you ever considered a similar move on your own part?
No. I love New York!
Volponi's Classic win was a shock to most. Was there anything in his previous race (second) or in his training leading up to the race that gave you a feeling he would put forth such a tremendous effort?
P G Johnson was very confident that he could win the race.
Hi, Jose. I hope you are recuperating well and we'll look forward to seeing you back at the races. Who do you think is the greatest horse you've sat on? Outside of the Derby, what victory was sweetest? Jim
Manila. I rode Manila in 1986 for Leroy Jolley. He was a machine to ride. We won the Breeders’ Cup Turf that year at Santa Anita. Outside of winning the Kentucky Derby on Funny Cide, winning the Breeders’ Cup on Manila was the best for me.
Will you ever consider visiting the Camarero Race Track in Puerto Rico and riding in the Clasico del Caribe? Is a great day and large purses!
I rode there three years ago. I would love to ride there again if the opportunity arises.
Welcome, Jose. You're a tough man, from the Funny Cide controversy to these injuries. God's speed. How tough was Manila to ride? I've heard his sire, Lyphard, was a little easier than some of the Dancers? Who were your toughest and kindest horses? Can you please share a couple of thoughts? Thank you, Jermane
Manila was not a tough horse at all. He was like a fine tuned machine. The toughest to ride was Cryptoclearance who was Volponi’s sire. He was very difficult to ride. He was a horse that liked to come from behind and you had to measure him perfectly to get to the wire first. My kindest horse was Steinlen. He won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 1989 at Gulfstream Park. He was a sweetheart of a horse. You just gave him the rein and he knew what to do.
Como nosotros, que a veces pensamos con el corazón y no con la mente... ¿piensas que volverás a correr para retirarte en gloia y majestad como el triunfador de siempre en una pista de carreras? Un abrazo, que Dios te bendiga, Esteban Gárate F.
Hello, Esteban. It’s so nice to hear from you. Thank you for always being concerned about me. You are a true friend. Please forgive my answer if it is not all the way correct. I am not great with computers and your question was sent to my manager. Her Spanish is not good, so I will do my best to answer….I am leaving it in the Dr.’s hands. I would love to go back to riding because that is my passion.
Jose thank you for taking my question. I’m 11 years old and very small. I ride horses everyday and love horse racing. I wanted to ask advice on becoming a jockey and where to start. And Funny Cide is my second favorite horse behind Cigar. I hope you heal fast and get back to riding soon. Thanks Ty
I hope you stay small and strong if you want to be a jockey. You will need a lot of passion for the sport and love to do it because there are a lot of ups and downs. Chris McCarron started a jockey school in KY that would be great training for you as you grow. We have something in common, as your second favorite horse is one of my all time favorites.
Hi Jose! This is Ray Smith (Mike Smith's Brother). I don't have a question, I just wanted to wish you and your family the best and I hope you have a speedy recovery. Hope to see you soon. God Bless.
Hello, my friend. Thanks for the blessings. I hope to see you soon. God bless you and your family.
My question is what makes a jockey a better "turf" rider than dirt rider. You have been known as "turf" rider. Are there different strategies used for races on the turf?
I don’t know why but I have gotten a bit of a label as a “go to” turf rider, therefore I get good horses to ride on the turf. It’s the horse that makes a big difference on grass VS dirt.
Long Grove, IL:
Jose, what was more fun: winning on Volponi, winning on Funny Cide or throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium?
Very tight call. I enjoyed all three so much!
New York, NY:
What do you consider to be your greatest ride? For me, it was the way you bulled Steinlen through the stretch in the '89 Breeders' Cup Mile.
No question about it. I have to agree with you there.
Little Neck, NY:
Paul Saylor has spoken a lot about the vital role you played in preventing catastrophic injury to Fleet Indian during last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff. At what point did you realize something was amiss and what exactly happened when you did?
As soon as we passed the first turn the filly switched leads, then she switched right back again. I knew immediately that something was wrong. She was working hard to get comfortable. The next quarter of a mile I was very careful with her and then decided to pull her up thinking something was wrong. I was thrilled to be a part of her career. Todd Pletcher and Paul Saylor put a lot faith in me, giving me the opportunity to ride her and I am very grateful to both of them. I gained a great new friend in Paul. She was a fabulous filly and the best I ever rode. It was very heartbreaking to all of us.
You've proven yourself one of the best -- not to mention being one of the best for our sport. Of you're major victories, which one surprised you the most? How so?
Volponi in the Breeders’ Cup. I knew he had a good chance to win and the trainer was 100% confident but I was very surprised at how easy it was for him
First of all, congratulations on being a finalist for the Hall of Fame this year. I was just wondering if you've been following any of the Derby preps and if you can give your objective view on which potential Derby contenders you like so far. Thanks and best wishes for a speedy recovery. You're in our thoughts and prayers!
I really like Scat Daddy. I watched him work at the track before he ever raced and was very impressed. I think he is a horse with a lot of potential. He is my pick in this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Did winning the Kentucky Derby change your life in any way? If you could ride any horse in this years Derby, who would it be?
As sweet as the victory on Funny Cide was, my family and I were put through a tremendous amount of stress by the Miami Herald’s accusation of me carrying a device during the race. Although it was not true, it should never have happened. It will always be in the shadow of my career. I hope to win another Derby one day and be able to enjoy the victory so much more.
Jose, what was the loudest crowd you ever heard turning for home?
The 2003 Kentucky Derby with Funny Cide. No doubt.
What are the highest and lowest points in your career?
The highest was winning the Kentucky Derby. The lowest was a week later when the Miami Herald released a story wrongly embarrassing me with false allegations that I was carrying an electrical device during the race.
Is the Kentucky Derby in your eyes still the biggest race in the world to win?
Our prayers are with you. I'm wondering how you would compare riding fillies and mares to colts. Who is the best filly or mare you have ridden?
I believe that fillies and mares take a little more finesse and colts take a little more strength. The best filly I ever rode was Fleet Indian.
Saludos desde Miami! This is a two part question. When you started your career in the USA, did you notice any major differences in riding style? Would you consider Hispanic riders to have a more aggressive style of riding? Gracias.
Yes, definitely. The American style is very different. The American way is more correct and clean. The Spanish way is much rougher. It is very aggressive with a lot of interfering. The Spanish style is much more risky.
In my opinion, jockeys are some of the best athletes in the world and certainly have the most dangerous job. Were there any jockeys in particular that you learned to look out for in a race because of their competitive skills? The ones that just had a way of stealing a race. Thanks for your time and the best to you and your family.
There have been a couple of guys I looked out for. Jorge Velasquez is one. He is a great rider and very professional, one of the riders I admire the most because he is so professional and so dedicated. Laffit Pincay is another. He was a very dedicated jockey. When I came to America in 1984 those were the two guys I admired the most.
Las Vegas, NV:
Jose, hope you are feeling good these days, get well soon! Quick question. What are your thoughts on Polytrack? Much safer for the horses?
I have not formed an opinion yet as I have not been able to ride on the surface yet. I am all for anything that makes it safer for horse and rider though.
East Saticoy, CA:
How good of a horse was Star of Cozzene? The horse held his own against Lure and gave you some big wins in the early 90's.
He was one of my all time favorites. He was a true long distance horse.
After a spill, does it take time for you to build up your confidence to get back in the saddle again?
The only thing that builds confidence is a good horse and that takes great support from owners and trainers.
San Juan, Puerto Rico:
I'm Joe Bruno, from Puerto Rico. The guy who knows your friend Pedro Luis "Lucho" Salinas. I pray for you hoping everything will be ok with you. My thoughts are with you and your family. Please, get well soon.
Thank you very much for your prayers. I really appreciate them.
Si ingresa al hall of fame podria decir decir misión cumplida a su trayectoria.Podría retirarse feliz en caso que sus médicos consideraran que no corriera más. (Sorry, but y dont speak english) Grande José, te amamos en Chile.
Thank you so much. I am hoping to ride again but am awaiting word from the doctors. I will know more on April 30 when I have an MRI.
How do you judge pace? Do you have some sort of method?
We start riding at such a young age. It starts to come naturally after a while to those with talent.
During the pre-race, what kinds of things are you looking to accomplish with the horse you are riding on. Also, do you have a pretty good idea before the race begins if the horse you are riding on is going to give you a good effort in that particular race?
The warm up is very important. You can feel if the horse is 100% or not and he or she will usually let you know. It all depends if the horse is in the right race and who your competition is.
Where do you rank Chief Bearhart and how easy was he to ride? Any special memories of him?
He was one of the top five best horses I ever rode. In the beginning he was a little difficult but after a couple of races he and I got to know each other and we did well together. I have many special memories but I would say the one that stands out the most is the tremendous effort he gave me in winning the Breeders' Cup Turf in 1996 at Hollywood Park. It was such a commendable performance on his part. I was very proud to be part of the Canadian and American champion's career.
What is the running style of a horse you most enjoy to ride? And who was your favorite horse you've ever ridden with that running style in your career?
Stalking is my favorite style. Laying third or fourth before making a move at the right time to win. There were too many to give you jut one.
Los Angeles, Ca:
Jose, this is your California agent Derek. Get well soon!
Thank you my friend. You will always have a special place in my heart. I’LL BE BACK!
Last Updated: 1:00 PM
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