Jockey Joe Talamo will be carrying the hopes of a lot of Louisiana families on his back when he starts in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 2. The young Bayou State native has pledged $25,000 of his share of the earnings to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans if his mount I Want Revenge wins.
Children’s Hospital is the only full-service hospital exclusively for children in Louisiana. The not-for-profit regional medical center has 235 beds and more than 400 physicians on staff. In 2008, Children’s Hospital treated 56,105 children from all over Louisiana, 42 states, and three foreign countries.
Talamo, 19, said he made his pledge after learning that the hospital cares for all children regardless of their families’ ability to pay for treatment.
"Since Hurricane Katrina the health care system in New Orleans has struggled to rebound, and I wanted to do something to help my hometown get back on its feet," Talamo said. "Several of my friends have been treated there, and I’m thankful they’re here, caring for all the children of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast."
I Want Revenge, winner of the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and the Gotham Stakes (gr. III), is one of the leading contenders going into Kentucky Derby, which will be Talamo’s first. He began going to Fair Grounds Race Track in New Orleans when he was 7 with his father, Joseph Jr., who worked as an assistant to trainer Connie Tassistro. Talamo began riding at 16 in 2006 at Louisiana Downs. During the 2006-07 meet at Fair Grounds, he won 119 races (25 more than local legend Robby Albarado) and became the first-ever apprentice jockey to claim a Fair Grounds riding title.
"I’ve only been riding for two and a half years," Talamo said. "It’s amazing that it’s happening so fast, but I’m enjoying every minute of it."
Now based in Monrovia, Calif., he could become the third consecutive Louisiana native to win the Kentucky Derby. Calvin Borel won in 2007 on Street Sense , and Kent Desormeaux won last year on Big Brown .