The New York Racing Association has announced Joe Bravo as the 2018 recipient of the Mike Venezia Memorial Award, an honor for jockeys who exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship.
The Venezia Award will be presented to Bravo May 28 in a ceremony after the third race at Belmont Park. The award, established in 1989, is named in honor of jockey Mike Venezia, who died as a result of injuries he suffered in a spill in 1988 at Belmont. Venezia, a Brooklyn native, won more than 2,300 races during his 25-year career.
"It's such an honor to be able to receive this award," Bravo said. "I'm shocked it wasn't a four-person dead heat, because each of the guys I was nominated with are all great and deserving to win as well. When you look at the some of the past winners of this award, including Hall of Famers like Angel Cordero Jr., Ramon Dominguez, and Edgar Prado—it's truly an honor."
Bravo, 46, was selected as the 2018 winner through an online fan vote hosted at NYRA.com that closed May 16. The field of candidates included Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose Ortiz, and Manny Franco.
A native of Long Branch, N.J., and affectionately known as "Jersey Joe," Bravo comes from a racing family. His father and grandfather also rode professionally. Bravo rode his first winner in March of 1988 at Calder Race Course and has earned more than $170 million with more than 5,200 winners in his career.
In 2017 Bravo amassed more than $5.4 million in purses and earned grade 1 victories aboard Bigger Picture in the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park and Zipessa in the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland.
The first Venezia Award was awarded posthumously to Venezia in 1989. Previous winners of the award include Mario Pino (2016), Jon Court (2015), John Velazquez (2014), and Dominguez (2013).