12/17/2013 12:12PM

Dick Jerardi: Carrasco yet another in a long list of top Maryland-based apprentice jockeys

Jockey Victor Carrasco recently surpassed $4 million in earnings, best among all North American apprentices.

Maryland has long been home to top apprentice riders. Put Victor Carrasco firmly on the list, which spans 40 years, starting with Chris McCarron (1974). In addition to McCarron, eight other Maryland-based jockeys have won the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice: Ronnie Franklin (1978), Alberto Delgado (1982), Allen Stacy (1986), Kent Desormeaux (1987), Mike Luzzi (1989), Mark Johnston (1990), Jeremy Rose (2001), and Ryan Fogelsonger (2002).

Carrasco, 21, will definitely be in the conversation when voters look at their Eclipse ballots in the coming days. He won his 200th race this year last Friday at Laurel Park.

“I feel great,” Carrasco said. “When I came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, I was hoping to win 100 races, so to get to 200 is exciting. I appreciate all the trainers for trusting me and giving me a chance. I am riding some good horses and am taking advantage of it.”

The jockey has been pretty good all year. He has been especially hot lately, winning 37 races in six weeks. When he won two last Friday, it was the 11th time in 15 racing days he had multiple winners. He has 58 winners at the ongoing Laurel meeting. Fellow apprentice Trevor McCarthy is second, but nearly 20 winners behind.

Carrasco recently surpassed $4 million in earnings, best among all North American apprentices. His 202 wins are also first. He is 14th among all jockeys in wins.

Carrasco finished tied for second in the Pimlico spring standings and then was second in the Delaware Park standings. Apprentice riders Jevian Toledo and Chelsey Keiser are also among the top five in the Laurel standings.

“There are probably more quality bug riders riding here this fall than I have ever seen,” said trainer Ferris Allen, who saddled Carrasco’s 200th winner. “So for him to pop out to the top from this group really says something. He is way ahead of the curve in where he should be in terms of patience and where to be in a race. You expect to see that from Jeremy Rose, but not from a kid with 200 career wins. He adjusts to the circumstances very well and tries to the very end in every race.”

Charles Town Oaks gets grade

The Charles Town Classic, now a Grade 2 race, was the first graded stakes at Charles Town. The Charles Town Oaks is the second after getting a Grade 3 designation for 2014.

First run in 2009, the Charles Town Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs began with a purse of $250,000 and was worth $400,000 the past four years. In 2010 and 2011, it was America’s richest sprint for 3-year-old fillies. It will have a $500,000 purse in 2014.

The 46 horses that have run in the Charles Town Oaks have gone on to win 24 graded stakes and place in 55 more.

“Our entire racing office, headed by our racing secretary, Charlie McIntosh, has done a great job in getting some of the best in the division here for the Charles Town Oaks,” said Erich Zimny, Charles Town’s vice president of racing operations. “We’re thrilled to see the hard work pay off with our second graded race and the first graded race for fillies in West Virginia.”

Charles Town Oaks winners include So Many Ways and Book Review. The 2011 race was won by Strike the Moon, but it was the second horse who just missed that went on to much greater glory: two-time Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll.

Two major days at Penn in 2014

Penn National is scheduled to run 200 live racing days in 2014, but the “event days” will be on May 31 and Nov. 26.

The second running of the $500,000 Penn Mile will be the centerpiece stakes on May 31. There will be three other stakes on the card and total purses of more than $1 million.

If Penn is lucky, Ben’s Cat will be going for a three-peat in the $200,000 Fabulous Strike on Nov. 26. And if Ben’s Cat runs, don’t miss it.

Farro closing on first Parx title

With just two weeks left in 2013, Pat Farro (82 wins) has opened up a small lead on Ramon Preciado (78) in the Parx trainer standings. It would be the first Parx training title for either.

Laurel adjusts winter schedule

Laurel Park has adjusted its live racing dates for the first two months of the 2014 season, opting to run on Wednesdays rather than Fridays. The track will conduct live racing on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays through Feb. 22. Laurel will race Wednesday through Saturday for the last five weeks of the meet, beginning Feb. 26.

The change was approved by the Maryland Racing Commission at its monthly meeting Tuesday.