Jockey James Lopez earned his 1,000th career win when he guided Dance Hall Darlin to her maiden score in the ninth race at Turfway Park March 11.
A native of San Antonio, Lopez, 32, grew up on the Louisiana and Kentucky racing circuits as his father, also a jockey, plied his trade. His grandfather was a jockey as well. Lopez began galloping horses at 12, and at 16, against his father’s wishes, quit school and took out his jockey’s license. He rode his first winner in 1996 at Retama Park.
In March 2005 at Turfway, Lopez shattered a collarbone when a horse fell on him leaving the gate. The injury not only forced Lopez out of the saddle but also forced him to acknowledge that he was unhappy, burned out on riding. He left racing, and after the collarbone healed, he worked building scaffolding for oil rigs and laying ceramic tile. He also used the time to study for the General Educational Development test and earned his high school equivalency diploma. He returned to riding in 2007 at Ellis Park and won with his first mount back.
Lopez has riding titles at Oaklawn Park, Louisiana Downs, and Turfway.