Jockey Joe Stokes booted home his 1,000th career winner Saturday aboard Ponticiello at Indiana Downs in the evening's third race.
Entering the program Stokes, the leading rider at Indiana Downs, needed two scores. He earned them in his first two mounts and was feted in the winner's circle by his fellow riders and Indiana Downs management.
In the second race Stokes guided E'Moro to the top spot in a six-furlong maiden claiming contest. He followed that up by placing 8-year-old Ponticiello first in the night's third event, a one-mile starter allowance on the turf. Stokes finished with a riding triple to further build the cushion over defending leading rider Rodney Prescott in the standings.
"It's real special. It felt great," Stokes said of reaching the 1,000-win plateau. "My mounts looked pretty good, so I wasn't surprised with the horses. I liked them."
The 28-year-old rider grew up in a racing family. His father, Rex, is a former jockey that now trains runners. His brothers Louis, 27, and Rex III, 22, are also jockeys. Stokes began riding in 1997 and has had stints in Indiana and West Virginia. He won the West Virginia Derby (gr. III) in 1999 aboard the Richard Small-trained Stellar Brush.
Stokes holds a track record at Mountaineer Park and recently added another at Indiana Downs when he maneuvered Beverly Witthauer's Don Manuel over the fivefurlong turf course in :55 3/5.
"I've been very lucky with my racing career. I'm just thankful for staying safe and doing well. I've been blessed," Stokes commented.
This spring Stokes returned to Indiana Downs after a one-year absence. He finished second to Prescott in the standings in 2004. This year he has teamed with new agent Jim McNemey at the Shelbyville track and has once again risen to the top of the colony. With 44 victories to date, Stokes now enjoys a 13-win advantage over Prescott with 18 days of racing remaining at Indiana Downs.
"This would be my first title," added Stokes. "I was second last time here, and I've been second at Mountaineer three times."