Woolf Award Finalists Announced

Jockeys Gonzalez, Gryder, Meier, Migliore, and Pino are the finalists for award.

Jockeys Roberto Gonzalez, Aaron Gryder, Randall Meier, Richard Migliore, and Mario Pino have been nominated to receive the 2008 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, the winner of which will be announced in February of 2008.

Now in its 59th year, the Woolf Award has been presented by Santa Anita Park since 1950 to honor riders whose careers and personal character shed a positive light on the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Roberto Gonzalez, 52, rode his first winner on May 2, 1975, at Hollywood Park and was the leading apprentice jockey in Southern California in 1976 before moving his tack to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1978, where he has been a mainstay ever since. Gonzalez won his 4,000th race Feb. 20, 2006 at Golden Gate Fields.

Aaron Gryder, 37, was the first and only apprentice jockey to lead a Hollywood Park meet when he rode 31 winners at the track’s fall Meet in 1989. Gryder returned to Southern California two years ago after a 12-year stint on the East Coast. He won his 3,000th race at Santa Anita Mar. 7, 2007. In addition to being recognized as one of America’s top jockeys, Gryder also has an extensive acting resume, including a role on HBO’s blockbuster series “The Sopranos.”

Randy Meier, 53, is once again vying for leading rider honors at Hawthorne Race Course, where he is the all-time leading jockey. Meier, who won his 4,000th race this past summer at Arlington Park, is also the all-time leading jockey at defunct Sportsman’s Park and has been a dominate force on the Chicago-area circuit since 1980. In a stellar career that has spanned more than three decades, Meier has repeatedly come back from catastrophic spills that have resulted in numerous fractures and other related injuries.

Richard Migliore, 43, has enjoyed a career resurgence since relocating to Southern California in 2006 and finished fourth in the jockey standings at the 2006-07 Santa Anita meet. A mainstay in New York dating back to 1981, “The Mig” currently commutes on a regular basis to be with his family, which remains in the East. A winner of more than 4,000 races, Migliore’s biggest victory this year came aboard Student Council in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar.

Mario Pino, 46, has been in the national spotlight throughout 2007 as the regular rider of top 3-year-old Hard Spun. The all-time winningest rider at Maryland racetracks, Pino has become an iconic figure in Maryland since winning his first career race  Jan. 16, 1979, at Bowie Race Course. Pino won his 6,000th race Nov. 7 at Laurel Park in Maryland. He is ranked15th on Thoroughbred racing’s all-time win list.

The winner of the Woolf Award, selected by jockeys across the nation, will be presented with a trophy replica of the full-size statue of George Woolf created through donations from the racing public after his death following a spill at Santa Anita Jan. 3, 1946.

Past winners of the Woolf Award include Hall of Fame jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Eddie Arcaro, Bill Boland, Manuel Ycaza, Braulio Baeza, Laffit Pincay Jr., Angel Cordero Jr., Sandy Hawley, Ron Turcotte, Chris McCarron, Eddie Delahoussaye, Steve Cauthen, Pat Day, Earlie Fires, Jerry Bailey, Gary Stevens, Mike Smith, and Russell Baze. Last year's winner was Mark Guidry.