06/16/2017 3:40PM

Gaffalione sticking around for the summer

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tyler Gaffalione leads the Gulfstream jockey standings and is second in the country in wins.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The rest of the local riding colony may not like the news, but his legion of fans in south Florida will be delighted to know that jockey Tyler Gaffalione has decided to remain at Gulfstream Park through the summer. Gaffalione had been considering trying his luck at Saratoga.

Gaffalione not only holds a commanding advantage in the standings here for the spring-summer meet, which began April 5, he was also second in wins nationwide this year heading into Friday’s program. Gaffalione had 141 victories, 13 fewer than Juan Diaz and 14 more than Irad Ortiz Jr. in third.

“I owe it all to the horses, the trainers, the owners, and, of course, my agent, who does such a great job picking the horses and picking the spots,” Gaffalione said, referring to Matt Muzikar. “It’s a team effort right now. It’s always a goal to win a lot of races and have a high percentage, but we know how fast things can change in this business. Fortunately, I’ve been able to stay healthy and out of trouble all year.”

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Gaffalione said he will make the occasional foray this summer to ride out of town. He will decide whether to stay here or ride in New York or at Keeneland during the fall.

Leading trainer Todd Pletcher keeps a large string at nearby Palm Beach Downs, and Gaffalione said being able to ride for Pletcher went a long way toward persuading him to stay put.

“Todd was one of the principal reasons we stayed here to begin with,” said Gaffalione. “It was a way to develop a business relationship with him, plus to get to know him on a personal level as well.”

Gaffalione, the 2014 Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s leading apprentice, said he never imagined he’d have so much success this year.

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“The whole year has been like a blessing thus far,” said Gaffalione. “It started off when we won the McKnight on Pegasus Day for Mike Maker. Then he gave us some really solid opportunities out of town in races like the Spiral and Mervin Muniz. Mike does such a great job. He is a class act, and I love riding for him.”

Gaffalione also fulfilled a lifelong dream last month when he rode in the Kentucky Derby for the first time. He was aboard Louisiana Derby runner-up Patch for Pletcher.

“It’s hard to put into words what the experience was like riding in my first Derby,” Gaffalione said outside the jockeys’ quarters here on Friday.

As for being second in the standings nationwide, Gaffalione said he doesn’t pay much attention to such statistics.

“I come out here to do my best and win as many races as I can every day, and if we get there, we get there,” Gaffalione said. “All I can do is to just keep trying.”