Jockey Ry Eikleberry notched career win No. 1,000 Nov. 19 aboard One Fine Jewel in the 11th race at Zia Park in Hobbs, N. M.
“It’s something that I can look back at and be proud of,” Eikleberry, 23, said. “There’s always those riders that you look up to, and you don’t feel you’re to their level. I remember last year for the first time somebody called me a veteran. I’m kind of getting to that point where I’m more respected.”
Eikleberry and One Fine Jewel made up 7 1/2 lengths from seventh place in the final quarter mile to win by a neck in a photo finish in the one-mile claiming race.
Eikleberry is a fourth-generation horseman but the first jockey among an immediate family of trainers. His great-grandfather Guy trained from 1976-86. His grandfather Calvin trained from 1976-99. And Ry Eikleberry’s father, Kevin, who was at Zia Park this weekend to watch his son go for the milestone win, has saddled more than 5,500 starters and won more than 800 races since 1979.
The first horse Ry Eikleberry rode in a race at the age of 16 was for his father—Skyline Gal in a six furlong allowance race at Arapahoe Park on June 12, 2005. The apprentice was far back early and rallied to finish third.
Father and son admit that Ry was inexperienced.
“I’ll be honest in that I rode him a little before he was ready, but I didn’t know how long he would make it because he is tall,” Kevin said of his son who is now stands five-foot nine-inches tall.
“I was kind of down because everyone I ever talked to said, ‘You’ll never make it,” Ry said. “You might ride a few races, but you’re going to be too big.’”
Eikleberry earned his first win as a jockey aboard Chopin’s Crescendo, also trained by his father, in a 5 1/2-furlong claiming race at Arapahoe Park July 8, 2005.
His first stakes victory also came with a horse his father trained almost one year to the date of his first mount. Eikleberry unleashed a well-timed ride aboard Komax in the six-furlong, $25,000 Arapahoe Park Sprint to win by a head in a photo finish.
“He was the one that stuck by my side,” Ry said about father. “It’s so hard to break in but I had my dad to help me get on a few live horses and then catch people’s attention to give me a shot.”
“It just got better and better as time went along. He rides hard, he gives everything he’s got, and I’m very proud of him for that,” his father said.
In addition to his parents’ support, Eikleberry credits his wife, Jilique, whom he met at Canterbury Park in Minnesota in 2007 and married Aug. 4, 2012, for travelling with him from track to track. A native of Phoenix, Eikleberry won three consecutive jockey titles at the city’s Turf Paradise in 2009-11 before riding full-time in New Mexico.