Ramon Dominguez, who retired last June because of head injuries he sustained in a spill at Aqueduct Racetrack early in 2013, returned to Maryland May 15 and was honored by the Maryland Jockey Club with its Special Award of Merit.
The award is presented during the Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico Race Course two days before the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Dominguez won four riding titles at Laurel Park and two at Pimlico from 2000 to 2004. His time in Maryland set the stage for years during which Dominguez dominated the jockey standings at New York Racing Association tracks; he won the Eclipse Award as champion jockey from 2010-12.
Dominguez said he and his wife, Sharon, had "some of our most treasured memories" during his time in Maryland. He also said he wanted to be a positive influence on jockeys and the Thoroughbred industry.
"Think about how you can make the world better for those who follow you," Dominguez said. "I am humble, and I am no hero. But it has been an exciting and rewarding career and life, and I'm very fortunate to be here."
The Rev. William Lori, archbishop of Baltimore, gave the invocation again at the Alibi Breakfast. He mixed in some humor with prayer.
Lori told the tale of a gambler at Pimlico who observed a priest blessing horses that were dismissed at big odds. The gambler kept track of it and saw the horses would win after receiving the blessing, so he began betting them and cashing in.
Lori said on the last race of the day, the priest blessed "an old nag" and the man decided to bet all of his winnings on the horse—who proceded to finish last.
The gambler then asked the priest about it. As related by Lori, the priest told him: "My son, my son. I see you are not Catholic. You couldn't tell the difference between a simple blessing and last rites."
As part of his pre-Preakness prayer, Lori also noted the weather forecast calling for torrential rains May 16, the day of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II).
"Please don't send two or three inches of rain, and let Black-Eyed Susan day come off as a great event," he said.
The Friday program is scheduled to begin at noon, with the Black-Eyed Susan for 3-year-old fillies set for 4:47 p.m. EDT. Rain is forecast for most of the day.