11/20/2012 3:41PM

Hollywood Park: Leparoux finds a home and a wife

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Barbara D. Livingston
On Dec. 10, Julien Leparoux is going to marry Shea Mitchell, the daughter of trainer Mike Mitchell.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The life of a traveling jockey is behind Julien Leparoux.

At the ripe old age of 29, he is settling down.

Last month, Leparoux, well known as the champion apprentice jockey of 2006, relocated to Southern California where he plans to ride on a year-round basis. The sport was not the only attraction.

On Dec. 10, Leparoux is marrying Shea Mitchell, the daughter of trainer Mike Mitchell. The couple has been dating for a year, and Shea’s home is in Southern California. She works as an entertainer at Disneyland, performing in stage shows.

“It will be a big change for me to stay in one place,” Leparoux said in an interview in the jockeys’ room on Sunday morning.

“I moved around a lot on the East Coast. This is different. I’m here to stay.”

Leparoux has ridden regularly in Florida, Kentucky, and New York. He is one of six riders to accumulate 300 career wins at Keeneland.

For now, he has no intention of hitting the road again, aside for the occasional out-of-town stakes mount. Last Saturday, he rode three winners at Churchill Downs, including Centre Court in the Mrs. Revere Stakes.

Since moving to California in late October, Leparoux has made a favorable impression. He won the Sharp Cat Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 11 with Midnight Ballet, a candidate for the $500,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 8.

This weekend, he has mounts in two of the three $250,000 turf races at Hollywood Park – Doubles Partner in Friday’s Grade 2 Citation Handicap, and Lucky Chappy in Sunday’s Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

Lucky Chappy is trained by Graham Motion, who employed Leparoux frequently during the Keeneland fall meeting last month.

“He’s a classy guy and a very sensible rider,” Motion said. You can have confidence in him on the grass. He’s coming off a great Keeneland meet.

“I think he’ll do well out there.”

A native of France, Leparoux worked for trainer Patrick Biancone as an exercise rider before beginning his riding career in 2005.

Leparoux had the finest weekend of his career at Santa Anita in 2009, winning three Breeders’ Cup races – the Filly and Mare Sprint with Informed Decision, the Juvenile Fillies with She Be Wild, and the Dirt Mile with Furthest Land.

This month, he has three wins in the first two weeks of the Hollywood Park fall meeting, including an allowance race on the promising turf filly Qaraaba on Nov. 15. She will run in a stakes at Santa Anita next month.

“I feel comfortable,” Leparoux said of his first few weeks here. “I’ve been working horses every morning. Right away, we got off to a good start.”

Leparoux is used to contending for the riding title at meetings in Kentucky. That won’t be easy in California with riders such as Rafael Bejarano and Joe Talamo seeking the same distinction. Both Bejarano and Leparoux share an agent in Joe Ferrer.

Leparoux is on pace for his mounts to exceed $12 million in earnings this year. His mounts earned more than $13 million last year, not quite as much as his career-best of $17.4 million in 2009. He won 245 races last year and has 170 this year entering the race week.

“I’m hoping to have as good a year or better as before,” he said.

While Leparoux is committed to California racing, he does have a break scheduled. After the wedding, Leparoux and his wife will spend their honeymoon in Bora Bora, a place Leparoux has always wanted to visit.

“I’ve never been there,” he said. “I’ve saved it for the right moment.”