12/30/2016 1:46PM

Jimenez moving tack back to Turfway

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Albin Jimenez is returning to ride regularly at Turfway Park, where he has dominated the jockey standings in recent years.

Jimenez has abandoned his winter experiment at Tampa Bay Downs, where he won with just six of his 49 mounts since late November. In his absence, Abel Lezcano held a clear lead atop the Turfway jockey standings as the holiday meet neared its conclusion Saturday night.

“Tampa is a beautiful place and the people are very nice,” Jimenez said. “But I missed my family too much,” referring to his wife, Marybeth, and 2-year-old daughter, Josaleen, who remained at the family home in Alexandria, Ky., near Turfway.

At Tampa, Jimenez had employed Mike Moran as his agent. Moran had teamed in recent seasons with Antonio Gallardo to rule Tampa. Gallardo moved his tack this winter across the Florida peninsula to Gulfstream Park.

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As a newcomer to Tampa, Jimenez had to compete with established riders such as Daniel Centeno and Pablo Morales.

“Mike was doing a great job for me,” said Jimenez, a 25-year-old native of Panama. “But it is tough to break in there with Centeno and Pablo and the other riders who have been there many years. I’m not disappointed at all. Maybe another time.”

Jimenez was scheduled to leave Tampa after riding two races Friday. He was named on horses Saturday at both Tampa and Turfway, but said he would ride only that evening at Turfway, where he is named in seven races Sunday.

Despite his Tampa showing, Jimenez still had his most productive year earnings-wise. His mount earnings for 2016 recently nudged past the $4 million mark.

Jimenez won or tied for the leading-rider title at six straight Turfway meets, starting with the 2013 holiday meet and ending with the 2016 winter-spring meet.

Jimenez is reuniting with agent Jimmy McNerney (who is also the Turfway race-caller). McNerney also will continue to book mounts for Alonso Quinonez. McNerney has been booking mounts for Lezcano, but because an agent can work for a maximum of two riders, Lezcano will now have Steve Peery as agent.

◗ Not that fans will much notice, but the winter-spring meet starts Sunday at Turfway with a nine-race New Year’s Day card that will occur less than 24 hours after the holiday meet ended with a New Year’s Eve night program. Mostly for record-keeping purposes, the turn of the calendar requires separate race meets.

After the New Year’s card, there will be no Sunday racing through the end of the meet, April 1. A four-day week (Wednesday-Saturday) commences this coming Wednesday, and the schedule will then be winnowed to three days in March when Wednesdays are dropped.

Eight stakes are on the winter-spring schedule, highlighted by the Grade 3, $500,000 Jack Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes on March 25. The first stakes comes next Saturday (Jan. 7) with the $50,000 Wintergreen.

◗ A handful of jockeys who have ridden with some regularity at Turfway for the last month will be at the Oaklawn Park meet that starts Jan. 13, including Channing Hill, Jon Court, Didiel Osorio, and Tommy Pompell. Jack Gilligan, who entered the last two days of the Turfway holiday meet tied for second with Quinonez (14 wins each) and behind Lezcano (19), said Friday that he also is contemplating a move to Oaklawn for the winter.