09/01/2015 1:21PM

Juarez loses bug, wins first stakes

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Nik Juarez wins the Philip Iselin Stakes aboard Valid on Sunday at Monmouth Park.

Nik Juarez, the fourth-leading rider at the Monmouth Park meeting with 36 wins, finished his apprenticeship on Aug. 26, but didn’t miss a beat, going 4 for 18 over the weekend.

Juarez, 22, won the first stakes of his career Sunday, guiding Valid to a 3 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth.

“It’s the best feeling,” Juarez said. “It means a lot. It’s really a kick-start to the rest of my career.”

Juarez, a native of Westminister, Md., made good use of his apprenticeship, winning 113 races from 839 mounts, a 13 percent win average. Juarez has won 76 races this year and is winning at a 17 percent clip.

Juarez won with his first career mount on Dec. 14, 2013. He was the leading apprentice at last year’s Monmouth meet but was injured in a spill on Sept. 28, 2014 that kept him sidelined until the beginning of this year’s Pimlico meet in early April.