06/28/2016 1:33PM

Flores returns to saddle on Thursday’s card

Keeneland/Coady Photography
David Flores will have his first mount since September on Thursday at Belmont Park.

Jockey David Flores, a winner of more than 3,500 races, will ride for the first time since last September in Thursday’s fifth race at Belmont Park.

Flores, 48, has won 156 graded stakes, including three Breeders' Cup races. A top rider in California for many years, Flores has won riding titles at Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Fairplex. His mounts have purse earnings in excess of $151 million.

Flores rode in the United States from 1984 to 2013 and then in Singapore in 2014 and early 2015. He rode in California last summer and then moved to Ocala, Fla., where he worked for Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock to learn about developing and pinhooking young horses.

When the Ocala sales were over, he went to work for Wesley Ward at Keeneland.

"He's working for me in Kentucky, galloping and breezing horses just like a jockey would do," Ward said. "He's learning more from a standpoint of an assistant trainer, maybe not in as much detail, but he's learning about buying yearlings and pinhooking horses and things like that."

Ward has named Flores aboard Tree Top Lover, the 7-5 morning-line favorite, in a $20,000 maiden-claiming race Thursday. In the fifth race Friday at Belmont, Flores is named aboard Lamontagne for Ward in a $50,000 starter race. Lamontagne is the early 2-1 favorite.

"He's very light and the talent is still there," Ward said.

Flores, a licensed rider in California, Florida, and Kentucky, will have to obtain a New York license in order to ride Thursday.

Ward said he doesn't believe Flores is planning to launch a comeback.

"He's had several offers to resume riding, I've even tried to set him up with some of my friends who are agents," Ward said. "But I think at this chapter of his life he's just happy making a salary and riding a few races. He's shown an interest in riding some of the horses he's been breezing and galloping."

Ward has a similar arrangement with jockey Julio Garcia, who rides an occasional mount for him. Garcia, a winner of more than 1,300 races, rode Lady Aurelia to victory in her career debut at Keeneland in April. In her second career start, Lady Aurelia, with Frankie Dettori aboard, won the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes for Ward at Royal Ascot on June 15.

Ward said both Flores and Garcia would go to Saratoga when that meet begins.

Ward, before outgrowing the profession, rode from 1984 to 1989. He won 749 races and was voted the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey of 1984. As a trainer, he has won 1,477 races since 1991.