Upon earning his 4,000th career victory July 31 at Ellis Park, jockey Corey Lanerie recalled thinking he'd never make it to 1,000.
"That was fun," Lanerie, a two-time Ellis Park and 11-time Churchill Downs riding champion, said after guiding Fred Allor's Crooked Stick to a three-quarters of a length score over favored Put Da Blame on Me in the seventh race, a one-mile allowance event. "It's special. I didn't know how long the career was going to last. Now to hit 4,000, it's a milestone I never dreamed of years ago. But I've been blessed and things have been going well, and I hope to keep on trucking.
"My first thousand took a long time. After I lost the (apprentice weight allowances), I think one year I won one or two races. I thought I'd have to find another job. Then I moved my tack to Sam Houston and got to ride a lot and learned a lot. Looking back at it now, I wasn't very good. So I went down there and I learned and I worked my way back up. Just hard work and stuff, and it's paid off. I moved to Kentucky, started doing good little by little and found myself on top—and now it's hard to stay up there."
Lanerie, who grew up in Louisiana as a third generation horseman, was painting a slightly distorted picture of his third year riding professionally, when he won 37 of 474 races in 1993. His worst year since then was his 116 wins in 1994. Lanerie's mounts have accrued at least $1 million in purses every year since 1995, including a career-best $8.5 million in 2015. Win No. 3,000 came in 2011 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Crooked Stick is trained by Keeneland-based Alex Clarkson, who recalled the first time he rode Lanerie shortly after the jockey came to Kentucky in the late 1990s. That race, a $50,000 maiden claiming event, also was at Ellis Park.
"It was my own filly. He was second," Clarkson said. :I said, 'He's going to be a really good rider, this guy.' Corey is a great rider. I just can't get him, because he's always riding for (Dale) Romans (and other big outfits). I called his agent last week and said, 'This is a good filly I've got.' And he said, 'No problem. I'll ride her.' So that was good. I said, 'I need somebody who knows the track.' My wife said, 'He's too far back.' I said, 'It's 45 (seconds for the half-mile). He knows what he's doing. And he did."
Does he think Lanerie will get 5,000 wins?
"Oh yeah, why not?" Clarkson said. "He's fit. And he's clean, a family guy. No baggage. That luggage gets weary on you. But he's great."
As they often are, Lanerie's wife, Shantel, and daughter, Brittlyn, were in the winner's circle. Afterward, the Louisville, Ky., resident signed programs for fans "CLan 4,000" amid the largest crowd of the meet.
Lanerie, who also won the sixth race on the Donald Hunt-trained Taliaferro County Sunday for No. 3,999, became the 70th jockey to reach 4,000. He ranks No. 46th in career earnings at more than $105.6 million.