Jockey David Flores, who secured three Breeders’ Cup wins in the early 2000s and delivered top-notch rides throughout his career, plans to retire from racing after this weekend at Del Mar.
Flores, 49, began riding in 1984 at his native Tijuana, Mexico track—Agua Caliente—before he made his Southern California debut in 1989. He was based in Southern California for the majority of his career.
"I started at Del Mar in 1989, so I wanted to go out at Del Mar," Flores said of plans that will begin with as many as three mounts July 28 and possibly a few more July 29-30.
Flores already has been working toward his post-riding career, as he is learning about sale pinhooking from Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock. Flores enjoys providing early training for young horses and could move into training horses.
"I’m going to work beside her and start learning the process. I’ll be her apprentice or student," Flores said. "I’ve already worked with her for about a year and I love it. I love breaking babies, it’s one of my favorite things to do."
Flores will leave plenty of memories on the track. In 2001, he notched the first Breeders’ Cup victory of his career when he guided Godolphin Racing's Tempera to victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). He quickly followed with two more Breeders’ Cup wins, teaming with the Richard Mandella-trained Action This Day for a big upset at 26-1 in the 2003 Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) before rousing Singletary through the stretch of the 2004 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) to win at 16-1 for trainer Donald Chatlos Jr.
Flores won multiple grade 1 races with Turbulent Descent, Street Boss , Janet, Siphon, and Marquetry. He scored big wins outside the U.S., too, like when he guided the Wesley Ward-trained No Nay Never to victory in the 2013 Darley Prix Morny (G1) in France.
Flores has won more than 3,600 races and his horses have earned more than $153 million in purses. His top Kentucky Derby (G1) finish came in 1997 aboard third-place Free House.
Flores helped Zenyatta get off to a fast start when she made her debut at age 3 in 2007. He guided the eventual 2010 Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer to victory in her first three starts, including a clear victory in the 2008 El Encino Stakes (G2), her first stakes win.
"Riding has been unbelievable. My career has been so good," said Flores, who didn’t want to rank any win or horse as most memorable because he said each one was special. "I’m so grateful that I was here at the right time and came in with so many great trainers, horses, jockeys—you name it."
An accomplished gate rider, Flores had an affinity for Fairplex Park, where he won six riding titles. Flores competed in the loaded Southern California jockey colony of the 1990s that included Laffit Pincay Jr., Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron, Kent Desormeaux, Eddie Delahoussaye, Patrick Valenzuela, Alex Solis, and Corey Nakatani.
By the end of that decade, Flores won the riding title at the 1998-99 Santa Anita Park meet and the 1999 Del Mar meet. He said that competition forced himself and the other riders to get better.
"It was a privilege to ride the best horses and compete against the best riders," Flores said. "I think we all paid attention to what we were doing and what the others were doing in trying to improve ourselves. That’s what it’s all about."