Latino Jockeys Dominate Elite Horse Racing World
July 20, 2017
By Alberto Garcia
Opening Day at the Del Mar racing season on Wednesday saw several Latino jockeys ride into the Winner’s Circle, continuing a growing trend of riders from Latin countries dominating the sport of kings.
On Wednesday, the jockey with the most wins on the day was Rafael Bejarano, a 35-year old rider from Peru, taking the win in four races. Bejarano has over 3,000 wins under his belt, having won a record seven races in a single day in 2004.
But Bejarano was not the only Latino to win on Del Mar’s opening day. Mexican-born Israel Ocampo rode Geologist to win the second race, and T.J. Pereira from Brazil won aboard Bowies Hero in the eighth race of the day.
Other Latino jockeys riding Wednesday included Daniel P. Vergara, Mario Gutierrez, Norberto Arroyo, Jr., Victor Espinoza, Santiago Gonzalez, and Agapito Delgadillo.
Nationally, Latino jockeys have won major horse races and have become some of the highest earners in the sport. So far, five Latino jockeys have been inducted into the National Museum of Racing.
In 2010, seven of the top 10 jockeys based on earnings were Latinos, including Rafael Bejarano, who that year earned over $14 millions in race purses.
Although jockeys work for the owners of the horses, the rider usually earns about 10 percent of the winnings, which can amount to millions of dollar per year.
For example, John R. Velázquez, a Puerto Rican-born jockey, has become the highest earning jockey of all time, and has inducted into the racing Hall of Fame in 2012.
Velazquez has won thirteen Breeders’ Cup and four Triple Crown races including winning the Kentucky Derby in 2007 and again in 2011.
In 2011, Velázquez earned more than $4 million for himself, and Mexico City’s Víctor Espinoza made over $2.8 million.
Dominican jockey Joel Rosario has also become a major player in horse racing. In 2011, Rosario earned more than $5.5 million a year. He became a professional jockey at 14 years old, and earned his first win in July 2000. In 2006, he moved to the United States, and just four years later, rode Make Music For Me to a fourth place finish at the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
One of the highest profile Latino jockeys in the past few years is Mexican Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to win the Triple Crown in 2015. His wins at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes made him the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. In that year, Cuban-born Laz Barrera won the Triple Crown aboard Affirmed.
Latinos already dominate the horse racing world and, with more entering the system each year, the future of the sport seems squarely in the hands of Spanish speakers.
“If horses could talk, they would surely speak Spanish,” said Bob Baffert, the trainer of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.