Despite Setbacks, Parker Claims Riding Title

Despite Setbacks, Parker Claims Riding Title
Photo: Courtesy Mountaineer Park
DeShawn Parker

The way the first half of 2010 played out for DeShawn Parker, securing his first national riding title for total number of wins was something that rarely crossed his mind. Parker, who is based at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, missed nearly all of the first two months of the season when he suffered a hip injury in January.

Though he came back with a vengeance by winning races at a remarkable clip, Parker had another setback in early July when he broke two bones in his foot and cracked a pair of ribs in a spill at Mountaineer. At that point, the 39-year-old jockey was just hoping to stay healthy the rest of the year.

“I had a goal at the beginning of the year (to win a riding title), but after the first two months I didn’t even think about it,” said Parker, who was third in wins in 2009 and second in 2008. “I started winning a lot of races again after that, but then when I broke my foot I missed about three more weeks. I just wanted to get healthy after that.”

But as the year went on and Parker continued to win races in bunches, including a six-win day late in the summer, remarkably Parker kept himself within reach of the national leader, Ramon Dominguez. In third-place in the standings for much of the fall, he eventually closed in on Dominguez and by December was closing in on his first win title.

“People were telling me I was close, but I’m kind of superstitious so I didn’t want to look,” Parker said. “I knew I was getting close but I wasn’t sure. People kept telling me to look.”

By mid-December Parker finally overtook the New York-based Dominguez and after furiously securing all the mounts he could, including taking mounts at Presque Isle Downs & Casino and even Beulah Park one day, he ended the year eight wins ahead. By the time 2010 had ended, Parker had ridden 377 winners, and despite missing nearly three months of action, he wound up with a national-best 1,552 mounts. He also won at 24% clip during the year.

“I worked hard and I’m proud of it,” Parker said. “It was definitely the best accomplishment of my career. It took a lot away from my family life, but I had a goal. I have to give a lot of credit to my agent, Billy Johnson. He was able to get me on a lot of good horses.”

Parker, whose horses earned more than $3.8 million from his rides in 2010, has been riding professionally since 1988. He is the winningiest African-American jockey in North American history with more than 3,500 victories.

Easily recognizable at 5-foot-10, Parker has overcome many obstacles throughout his career, which began at Thistledown in Ohio. He has been based at Mountaineer for some time. Parker’s father, Darryl, was the first African-American racing steward in North America.

Despite accomplishing his goal, Parker does not plan to rest of his laurels. For the first time in his career he is riding at the Tampa Bay Downs winter meet, and he expects to be partially based in Indiana in 2011.

He is even open to moving his tack to Kentucky if the opportunity arises. No matter where he winds up, Parker doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.

“I enjoy winning and success,” Parker said. “I don’t expect to cut back that much. I’ll see how it goes, but you have to keep it going while you’re going good.”

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