01/06/2011 7:44PM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Jockey

Email

RAMON DOMINGUEZ

Once again Dominguez was the dominant jockey in 2010 on the New York circuit, easily leading in wins and earnings while topping the standings at every meet except for when he was third at Saratoga. Dominguez was the regular rider for Gio Ponti, winning the Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont Park and the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on him. Dominguez also won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 2 Suburban aboard Haynesfield and the Grade 1 Hopeful on Boys At Tosconova. His other top mounts included Check the Label, with whom he won three graded stakes, as well as Phola, First Dude, Riley Tucker, and Musket Man.

A 34-year-old native of Venezuela, where his father wanted him to become a doctor, Dominguez came to the United States in 1995, winning his first race in North America in March 1996 at Hialeah. He eventually became the top jockey in the Mid-Atlantic region of Delaware and Maryland before moving to New York in late 2008, and he became an immediate success there. Over the last decade, he has perennially ranked among the winningest jockeys on the continent, having amassed more than 4,200 wins since his arrival, including leading all jockeys in wins in 2001 (453) and 2003 (433). Dominguez rode his 4,000th winner last March 17 at Aqueduct.

“The Jockey Club definitely was a great race to win without question, and winning with Gio Ponti is always exciting because he’s such a good horse,” said Dominguez. “I’m still very excited about Boys At Tosconova.”

Dominguez ended 2010 with 369 wins, second only to Deshawn Parker (377) in North America, and had the most mount earnings of any jockey with $17,411,880. His career mount earnings are more than $145 million.

GARRETT GOMEZ

Gomez was honored with the Eclipse Award in 2007 and 2008 and led all North American jockeys in earnings every year from 2006-09. He enjoyed a whirlwind finish to the 2010 season by winning three Breeders’ Cup races, capped by his unforgettable triumph aboard Blame in the BC Classic, a race in which Gomez was widely credited for giving the colt a textbook ride that might well have meant the difference between victory and defeat. Gomez also swept the two BC juvenile turf races with More Than Real and Pluck, bringing his career total to 12 BC wins. The sensational weekend at Churchill Downs earned Gomez his fourth Bill Shoemaker Award for top jockey at the Breeders’ Cup, a feat made even more impressive by the fact Gomez suffered a shoulder injury in a spill at Churchill on the day before the two-day BC. The jockey missed nearly three weeks of action following the BC Classic to recuperate from the injury.

Gomez began and ended his year in Southern California, where he makes his home with his family, but he traveled extensively in between, also riding regularly in New York, New Jersey, and Kentucky. His other top wins on the year included the Grade 1 Stephen Foster and Grade 1 Whitney with Blame, as well as Grade 1 triumphs aboard Haimish Hy, Serious Attitude, Telling, R Heat Lightning, Franny Freud, and Chinchon.

A 39-year-old native of Tucson, Ariz., Gomez began riding at 16. He experienced considerable success before having his career derailed for 21 months by substance abuse, eventually returning to the saddle in 2004. Since overcoming those personal demons, he has ranked among the top jockeys in earnings every year. Among his other feats are four wins in the Pacific Classic, a victory in the 2007 Kentucky Oaks on Rags to Riches, a Travers win in 2008 on Colonel John, and more than 3,400 career wins.

Gomez ended 2010 with earnings of $16,889,037, second-highest in North America. His career mount earnings are more than $176 million.

JOHN VELAZQUEZ

Long the go-to jockey for multiple Eclipse-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Velazquez enjoyed another outstanding year in 2010 while ranking among the top jockeys in all the important categories. Velazquez won 12 Grade 1 races in 2010, tying Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for the most among all North American jockeys. He won graded stakes aboard some of the most accomplished racehorses of 2010, including Quality Road, Eskendereya, Discreetly Mine, Life At Ten, Devil May Care, Morning Line, Bribon, and perhaps most importantly, the early favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby, Uncle Mo.

Among his notable Grade 1 triumphs were the Donn Handicap and Metropolitan Mile with Quality Road, the Wood Memorial aboard Eskendereya, and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Uncle Mo.

“He’s special,” Velazquez said of Uncle Mo following the Juvenile at Churchill Downs. “And today he did it perfect because he allowed me to get him back the way I wanted to.”

Velazquez, a 39-year-old native of Puerto Rico, migrated to the United States in 1990 and has been mentored by countryman Angel Cordero Jr., the retired Hall of Fame jockey who has served as his agent for much of his career.

Among the honors that Velazquez has compiled are the 2004 Bill Shoemaker Award and the 2009 George Woolf Memorial Award. He won the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard Rags to Riches and has won more than 4,400 races, having ridden his 4,000th winner in September 2008 at Belmont.
Velazquez ended 2010 with earnings of $16,743,328, third-highest in North America. His career earnings are more than $240 million.

Photos: Barbara D. Livingston