01/06/2016 12:54PM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Tyler Gaffalione

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Tyler Gaffalione was born to ride. The son of a jockey, he established himself as one of the top young riders in North America in 2015 and for Gaffalione’s efforts in his rookie year he is a finalist for the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice jockey.

Gaffalione, a 21-year-old native of Davie, Fla., won 182 races from 1,137 starts during his apprenticeship that ended Oct. 10. Gaffalione’s mounts earned $4,855,732. He rode his first career winner Sept. 7, 2014, at Gulfstream Park and went on to win the track’s spring and summer titles in 2015. 

Gaffalione’s father, Steve Gaffalione, is a retired jockey who made a significant impression on his son.

“I used to ride my bike and pretend that it was a horse,” Tyler Gaffalione said. “I had a tree branch as a whip. I started galloping when I was 10 or 11. I got my first Equicizer when I was 12, and it really helped me. I used to pretend to ride 10 or 15 races a day. It was great.”

Gaffalione found himself in high demand in South Florida as the year went on in 2015. He won six stakes during his apprentice season, all at Gulfstream, with the first on May 3 aboard Celebrity Star in the Sunrise Handicap. Gaffalione also guided Grade 2 winner East Hall to victory in the Sensitive Prince on Sept. 12.

Another notable feat for Gaffalione was a five-win day Sept. 20 at Gulfstream. All of the rider’s winners that memorable afternoon came for trainer Ralph Nicks.