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Racing through history: The greatest jockeys to ever ride at Delaware Park

Racing through history: The greatest jockeys to ever ride at Delaware Park

The biggest weekend of Delaware Park’s live thoroughbred racing season is right around the corner, with the Grade III $300,000 Delaware Oaks to be held Saturday and the Grade II $500,000 Delaware Handicap highlighting Sunday’s card.

Those big purses annually attract top horses from around the country, conditioned by some of the sport’s most famous trainers.

The talented athletes in the saddle often travel from far away, too.

Blind Luck (5), ridden by Garrett Gomez, edges Havre de Grace – ridden by Ramon Dominguez – in the 2011 Delaware Handicap. Dominguez is Delaware Park’s career leader with 1,526 victories.

This weekend, don’t be surprised if some of the same jockeys you see riding in the Triple Crown races every spring are urging their mounts down the stretch in the First State.

Which got us to thinking, who are the greatest jockeys in Delaware Park history?

Since 1937, many of the sport’s all-time greats have piloted horses around the Stanton oval.

Some only came to Delaware for the biggest races. Some started their careers here before moving on to larger tracks. And some competed at Delaware Park for many years and became local legends, even besting the great traveling jockeys more than a few times in the track’s marquee events.

TRIPLE CROWN TIES Historic horses: 32 who have raced in the Kentucky Derby – and at Delaware Park

So, with great research and help from longtime Delaware Park racing information coordinator Chris Sobocinski, enjoy this alphabetical look at the greatest riders in the track’s 87-year history.

Eddie Arcaro

Won the Delaware Oaks a record four times (1940, ‘41, ‘45 and ’55). Cincinnati native also won the Christiana, Dover and Leonard Richards stakes twice at Delaware Park.

Arcaro won 17 Triple Crown races, including five Kentucky Derbies and two Triple Crowns aboard Whirlaway and Citation. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1958.

Jerry Bailey

One of four jockeys to win the Delaware Handicap three times – aboard Heavenly Ade in 1980, Wild Spirit in 2003 and Island Sand in 2005.

Sea Hero with jockey Jerry Bailey aboard wins the Kentucky Derby. May 1, 1993.

Now a racing analyst for NBC Sports, the Dallas native retired from riding in 2006 with 5,894 career wins. Bailey was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1995.

Jose Caraballo

Although never the track’s leading rider, he finished in Delaware Park’s top 10 every year from 2000-14.

The Rio Peidras, Puerto Rico, native won the first race of the meet for four straight years – from 2002-05.

Caraballo won 10 Delaware Park stakes, including the Kent (2014), Cape Henlopen (2006), Dover (2011) and two George Rosenberger Memorials (2010 and ’14).

He also was the jockey aboard Barbaro, who won the Kentucky Derby the following year, when he broke his maiden at Delaware Park in 2005.

Carol Cedeno

Shares the record with six riding titles at Delaware Park (2014-16 and 2018-20).

The second female rider in track history to be leading jockey, and first female to win multiple riding titles.

Let’s Cruise (1), ridden by Carol Cedeno, leads the field early in the Delaware Handicap on Saturday at Delaware Park.

A mother of two who is raising her family in Delaware, Cedeno also holds the record for most wins on a single card with seven on July 11, 2018. 

Daniel Centeno

A top-five rider at Delaware Park the last 10 years, the Caracas, Venezuela, native has won 12 stakes in Stanton.

Centeno has won the Obeah Stakes a record four times. Also owns wins in the Delaware Handicap (2021), Delaware Oaks (2016) and Robert G. Dick Memorial (2023).

Axel Concepcion

Puerto Rico native won the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Apprentice Jockey last year.

Concepcion finished 10th in the Delaware Park standings with 21 wins in 2023, including a victory in the Blue Hen Stakes.

Angel Cordero Jr.

Won a record four Delaware Handicaps over three decades – aboard Politely in 1968, Krislin in 1974, Relaxing in 1981 and Coup de Fusil, whose 1¼-mile track and stakes record still stands today, in 1987.

Jockey Angel Cordero Jr. celebrates in the winner’s circle after guiding Bold Forbes to victory in the Kentucky Derby. May 2 1981.

Puerto Rico native also won six Triple Crown races, including three Kentucky Derbies. Notable champions he rode include Bold Forbes, Seattle Slew, Slew o’ Gold, Spend a Buck and Manila.

Cordero was inducted into National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame in 1988.

Pat Day

One of the sport’s all-time greats didn’t travel to Delaware Park often, but won back-to-back Delaware Handicaps aboard Tap to Music in 1999 and Lu Ravi in 2000.

The Brush, Colo., native retired in 2005 with 8,803 career victories, which ranks fourth all-time. Day was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1991.

Ramon Dominguez

Delaware Park’s all-time leading jockey by wins with 1,526.

His horses earned $40.5 million in purses at Delaware Park, and his victories at the track represent 31 percent of his career total.

Caracas, Venezuela, native won 14 graded stakes at Delaware Park and 98 local stakes overall, including the Delaware Handicap twice, Kent Stakes four times and Robert G. Dick Memorial twice.

Havre de Grace (3), ridden by Ramon Dominguez, battles Blind Luck (left) and Garrett Gomez down the stretch before losing by a nose in the 2011 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park.

The track’s leading rider five times, from 2003-06 and 2008. Holds the record for most wins during a Delaware Park meet with 254 in 2003.

Dominguez won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s Outstanding Jockey three straight years from 2010-12.

Was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2016, and inducted on the Delaware Park Wall of Fame in 2017.

Ron Franklin

Baltimore native is best known for being the vexed rider for Spectacular Bid, the “greatest horse to look through a bridle.”

Franklin guided “The Bid” to the 2-year-old championship in 1978, but was blamed for questionable tactics during losses in the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth and the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park.

The following season, Spectacular Bid won seven straight stakes, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with Franklin astride, before suffering another defeat in his bid for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

After the Belmont, trainer Grover “Buddy” Delp replaced Franklin with William Shoemaker as Spectacular Bid’s regular rider.

Florent Geroux

Won his first Delaware Handicap aboard I’m a Chatterbox in 2016, then became a two-time winner with Idiomatic in 2023.

Jockey Florent Geroux gives Idiomatic a cooling sponge bath after guiding the horse to a narrow win in the Delaware Handicap, Saturday, July 8, 2023 at Delaware Park.

The 37-year-old native of Argentan, France, has more than 1,700 career victories to date, including the 2021 Kentucky Derby and seven Breeders’ Cup wins.

William Hartack

Won nearly two dozen Delaware Park stakes, including a sweep of the Delaware Handicap (Princess Turia) and Delaware Oaks (Bayou) in 1957.

The Colver, Pa., native won five Kentucky Derbies, three Preakness Stakes and one Belmont. Notable horses he rode include Carry Back, Kelso, Majestic Prince, Northern Dancer and Round Table.

Was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall Fame in 1959.

Julie Krone

Benton Harbor, Mich., native is the only female rider to win the Delaware Handicap, aboard Amarillo (who paid $85.80 to win) in 1998.

Also the only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race, aboard Colonial Affair in the 1993 Belmont.

Finished third in the Delaware Park jockey standings in 1981, her first year riding. Also won the First State Stakes aboard Millions in 1998.

Krone became the first female inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall Fame in 2003.

Mike Luzzi

A.I. du Pont High School graduate won the Delaware Handicap aboard Green Darlin in 1993.

Winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 1989. Long one of the top riders on the New York circuit, the Wilmington native earned the George Wolff Memorial Jockey Award for his contributions on and off the track in 2015.

Retired in 2023 with 3,539 career victories.

Eddie Maple

One of four jockeys to win the Delaware Handicap three times – aboard Optimistic Gal in 1976 and back-to-back with Nastique (1988-89).

The Carrollton, Ohio, native was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2009.

Chris McCarron

Track’s leading rider when he won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 1974.

The Boston native won 103 races in 65 days that season, leading Delaware Park to give away “Chris Can’t Miss” buttons.

McCarron won six Triple Crown races – aboard Alysheba, Sunday Silence, Danzig Connection, Pine Bluff, Touch Gold and Go for Gin.

He ranks sixth on the all-time career win list with 7,141 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1989.

Michael McCarthy

Won a record six Delaware Park riding titles (1996-2000, 2002) and more than three dozen local stakes.

Won back-to-back Delaware Oaks in 2000 and 2001. The East Meadow, N.Y., native is the only jockey to win more than six races on a single Delaware Park card twice, in 1997 and ‘98.

McCarthy is the only thoroughbred racing recipient of the John J. Brady Award as Delaware Athlete of the Year, awarded by the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcaster Association in 1997. He recorded his 2,000th career victory at Delaware Park in 1998.

Trevor McCarthy

A.I. du Pont High School graduate, the son of longtime top Delaware Park jockey Michael McCarthy, earned his first graded-stakes victory in the 2014 Delaware Oaks aboard Fortune Pearl.

McCarthy, who celebrated his 30th birthday in May, has more than 1,800 career wins to date. He has won Delaware Park’s Kent Stakes twice – with Eons in 2019 and Gufo in 2020.

Conn McCreary

Won seven Delaware Park stakes in a 10-year span, including a record four Kent Stakes in 1942, ‘44, ‘46 and ‘48.

St. Louis native also won the 1947 Sussex Stakes aboard Stymie.

Known for his come-from-behind tactics, McCreary won four Triple Crown races including his second Kentucky Derby in 1951 aboard 14-1 long-shot Count Turf, who the year before won the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park.

Was inducted into National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame in 1974.

Chad Murphy

The Wilson, N.C., native was Delaware Park’s leading rider in 1990 and ‘91.

Murphy retired in 2018 with 2,175 victories.

Rosie Napravnik

First female rider to lead the Delaware Park standings in 2010.

The Mendham, N.J., native broke Julie Krone’s national records for total wins and earnings by a female jockey in 2012.

Napravnik became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks when she guided Believe You Can – who broke her maiden the year before at Delaware Park – to victory in 2012.

Eldon Nelson

Delaware Park’s leading jockey in 1956 and ‘58 won nine local stakes, primarily in the famed silks of Christiana Stables owned by Delawareans Harry and Jane Lunger.

Nelson rode Light Hearted to her track-record sixth consecutive victory in a meet in the 1972 Delaware Oaks.

Oklahoma native won the Delaware Handicap with Endine in 1958. Also rode Hall of Fame and multiple champion filly Cicada to victory in the Blue Hen Stakes in 1961.

Became the first jockey in track history to win six races on a single card in 1958.

In 1972, the year before his retirement, Nelson won the Preakness with Bee Bee Bee.

Jose Ortiz

One of four jockeys to win the Delaware Handicap three times – aboard Belle Gallantey in 2014 and back-to-back with Elate (2018-19).

Regulatory Risk ridden Jose L Ortiz rides through the final turn Friday, May 3, 2024, during the 150th running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 30-year-old native of Puerto Rico earned his 3,000th career victory on June 9 at Churchill Downs. His mounts have earned more than $249 million to date.

William Passmore

Track’s leading rider in 1971 won more than a dozen Delaware Park stakes.

Born in West Chester, Pa., he rode for 38 years and was known as “Mr. Consistency.”

Notable horses he rode include 1982 Pennsylvania Derby winner Dixieland Band, who was owned by Delawarean Bayard Sharp.

Passmore is the only jockey inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame.

Maurice “Moose” Peters

The contract rider for Foxcatcher Farm, owned by Delaware Park co-founder William duPont Jr.

The North Dakota native won the first Delaware Handicap (then the New Castle) aboard Rosenna in 1937. Peters also won the race in 1941.

Also won the Wilmington, Sussex, Polly Drummond and Kent stakes.

In 1938, Peters rode Dauber to second in the Kentucky Derby, a win in the Preakness and second in the Belmont.

Joe Petersen

The Garden City, Kan., native became the first to capture three consecutive Delaware Park riding titles from 1985-87.

Petersen won the Denise Rhudy Memorial (2001), Light Hearted Stakes (2001), Dover (1995), Caesar Rodney (1992) and New Castle Stakes (1988).

He retired in 2002 with 1,190 victories.

Mario Pino

Went from sneaking peeks at Delaware Park races while in class from the top floor of nearby Saint Mark’s High School to the track’s leading rider in 1979 and ’80.

Pino, who could hear the “Call to The Post” from his childhood home, won more than two dozen stakes at Delaware Park, including the 1980 Delaware Oaks.

Jockey Mario Pino, born and raised in Delaware, is returning back home to ride at Delaware Park, more than 40 years after the track first sparked his passion to become a jockey.

In 2007, he rode Hard Spun – owned by Delawarean Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm – to second in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Notched his 5,000th career victory at Delaware Park in 2002. Retired in 2021 ranked 10th all-time with 7,001 wins.

Edgar Prado

Won nearly three dozen Delaware Park stakes, including a record four Robert G. Dick Memorial titles (1999, 2005, ’12 and ’16), the 2015 Delaware Oaks and 1992 Delaware Handicap.

The Lima, Peru, native was the regular rider for the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who was locally owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables.

He also won the Belmont Stakes twice.

Prado retired in 2023 ranked eighth all-time with 7,119 wins. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall Fame in 2008.

Joe Rocco Jr.

Son of noteworthy Delaware Park jockey Joe Rocco was raised on a nearby farm in New Jersey.

As a teenager, he exercised horses for three-time Delaware Park leading trainer Sam Cronk.

In 2011, Rocco Jr. was the track’s leading rider and became the sixth jockey in Delaware Park history to win six races on a single card.

Notched his first stakes victory at Delaware Park in the Legal Light Stakes in 2003.

Jaime Rodriguez

Has won the last three Delaware Park riding titles, despite splitting time between Stanton and Maryland last year.

The Puerto Rico native has won eight stakes at Delaware Park, and notched his 2,000th career victory last year.

Jeremy Rose

The track’s leading jockey in 2001 and 2007, Rose earned his first career victory at Delaware Park in 2000 and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2001.

Jockey Jeremy Rose is covered with mud from the sloppy track after riding Onyx to fifth place in the Delaware Handicap on Saturday at Delaware Park.

Rose has won 35 Delaware Park stakes, including the Robert G. Dick Memorial twice and the Kent.

The Bellefonte, Pa., native is best known as the regular rider for 2005 3-year-old champion Afleet Alex, who won the Preakness, Belmont and Arkansas Derby.

William Shoemaker

Rarely rode at Delaware Park, but the 11-time Triple Crown winning jockey and Hall of Famer won arguably the most celebrated race in track history.

In Spectacular Bid’s comeback race after being defeated and injured in the Belmont Stakes, Shoemaker was named to replace Ron Franklin by trainer Grover “Buddy” Delp in a Delaware Park allowance race on Aug. 29, 1979.

The Bid did not disappoint, winning by 17 lengths and setting a track record.

Nick Shuk

Stanton oval’s leading rider in 1951, ’55 and ‘56 won seven Delaware Park stakes races, including the Delaware Oaks in 1952, the Kent in 1955 and two Dover Stakes in 1955 and ‘69.

Illinois native rode notable stars Damascus, Grecian Queen and Salior in a five-decade career.

Started as the contract rider for Art Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in 1948.

Mike Smith

One of four jockeys to win the Delaware Handicap three times – back-to-back aboard Royal Delta (2012-13) and with Songbird in 2017.

Mike Smith rides Royal Delta to victory in the 2012 Delaware Handicap, the first of back-to-back wins for the mare in Delaware Park’s premier race.

The Dexter, N.M., native remains an active rider at the age of 58, with more than 5,700 career wins.

The all-time leader in Breeders’ Cup victories (27) was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2003.

Ron Turcotte

Track’s leading rider in 1964 won five Delaware Park stake races, including the Leonard Richards Stakes with Hall of Fame colt Damascus in 1972.

The New Brunswick, Canada, native is best known for being the regular rider for Secretariat, who became the first horse in 25 years to sweep the Triple Crown in 1973.

Turcotte won six Triple Crown races and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1979.

Jacinto Vasquez

Track’s two-time leading rider (1963, ’66) won seven Delaware Park stakes races, including the Delaware Handicap twice with Blessing Angelica in 1971 and May Day Eighty (at Saratoga) in 1983.

Panama native is best known for being the regular jockey for Hall of Fame filly Ruffian in 1974 and ‘75.

Vasquez was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1998.

Jack Westrope

Track’s leading rider in 1953 and ’54 won six Delaware Park stakes.

The Montana native won the Delaware Oaks twice, including the first running in 1938 aboard Handcuff.

Won his second Oaks in 1954 with 3-year-old filly champ Parlo, owned by Delaware Park founder William duPont Jr.’s Foxcatcher Farm.

Westrope was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2002.

Contact Brad Myers at bmyers@delawareonline.com. Follow on X (aka Twitter): @BradMyersTNJ

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Delaware Park: Greatest jockeys in track’s 87 years

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