Though he missed some weekends because of riding commitments in Southern California and played catch-up, Julien Leparoux, the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey of 2006, took the lead on the final night of the Turfway Park winter/spring meet and captured the riding title by one victory over Alonso Quinonez.
The meet, which began Jan. 1, featured a battle between Quinonez, an apprentice, and Miguel Mena, who took turns in the top spot. Mena missed the last three days of racing because of a suspension, which gave Quinonez some breathing room. But Leparoux made a late rally from third to tie Quinonez April 4, and he won two races April 5 versus one for Quinonez.
Leparoux, who won the 2006 winter/spring meet title at Turfway as well, finished the 2007 meet with 76 wins from 308 starts. Quinonez had 75 wins from 429 starts, and Mena 70 wins from 367 starts. Victor Lebron was fourth with 53 wins; seven other jockeys had more than 20 victories in what proved a competitive meet.
Leparoux and Quinonez were tied heading into the ninth of 10 races closing night. Leparoux won the feature with Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Engineered, who went from last to first, and Quinonez then finished fourth aboard Brent’s Victory in the final race.
“It feels good to win it like this,” Leparoux said after a trophy presentation on a night when the temperature made it feel more like opening day in January than closing night in April. “I don’t really like the cold, but it was a good meet. I moved around a lot this winter and really haven’t been leading rider until tonight.”
Leparoux, a 23-year-old native of France, has ridden numerous well-bred and talented horses for trainer Patrick Biancone, for whom he rides first call, and others, but at Turfway, he rode his share of lower-level claiming horses. He called it educational.
“You’ve got to try to ride a lot of races,” said Leparoux, who also won the 2006 fall meet at Turfway. “I came back here because Patrick told me to come here, and it was a pretty good idea. I had some good horses to ride here, but with these cheaper horses, you can learn some things. It’s easy to win on the very good horses.”
Leparoux now goes to Keeneland, where he took the riding title at the 2006 spring (in a tie with Rafael Bejarano, who also launched his career at Turfway) and fall meets. Then it’s on to Churchill Downs, where he won the 2006 spring meet title, and probably Saratoga.
Leparoux, the leading rider in North America last year with 403 wins, said he’d like to ride in California later this year, but it’s too early to say.
“We’ll see later,” Leparoux said. “Right now I’m going to Keeneland, and that’s all I’ve thought about. I don’t want to think about the rest of the year.”
Paul McGee won the Turfway winter/spring meet training title with 17 victories from 57 starts. Kim Hammond was second with 15 wins, followed by Eddie Kenneally (14), Greg Foley (13), and Elwood McCann Sr. (11).