01/28/2016 8:18PM

Juarez resumes riding, moving to Florida

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Nik Juarez, winning the Philip Iselin Stakes aboard Valid, will begin riding at Gulfstream Park on Sunday.

After not being allowed to ride since Jan. 15, jockey Nik Juarez resumed his career Friday at Laurel Park, finishing second in the fourth race on a horse trained by his father, Calixto Juarez.

Juarez, 22, is named on a horse in the 10th race at Gulfstream Park on Sunday for trainer Marcus Vitali, and will be relocating to Florida. At Gulfstream, he will be represented by Jay Rushing Jr., who was his agent for the final part of the Monmouth Park meet last summer. Juarez finished third in the Monmouth standings.

Juarez was suspended by the Laurel Park stewards on the morning of Jan. 16 for not providing a urine sample the previous day. Maryland Racing Commission officials randomly drug tested all of the riders in the second race at Laurel Park on Jan. 15. When asked to submit a sample, Juarez explained he had been reducing to make weight in a later race and was given until the end of the day to comply.

When Juarez was finished riding for the day, he said he was unable to locate an official to test him and left the track, resulting in his suspension.

“I made a big mistake and am very sorry for my actions,” Juarez said Thursday evening. “I didn’t realize how serious of an issue this was. I minimalized it in my head. I’ve learned a valuable lesson.”

On Jan. 16, Juarez was advised to go to a private facility and be tested. He did so at the U.N.I. Urgent Care Center in Frederick, Md., and the results were negative. The next week, he was tested by commission officials, and those results were negative. He was fined $500 and his license was reinstated.

The Stronach Group, which owns the Maryland Jockey Club tracks of Laurel and Pimlico, in addition to Gulfstream Park, were not satisfied, however, and would not allow Juarez to ride at their tracks.

“We didn’t like that he got tested at an outside facility and we wanted him to test for us,” said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group. “He tested under the supervision of our security team and the results were negative.”

Juarez has signed an agreement with The Stronach Group that will allow them to test him at their discretion.

“I have agreed to test any time I am asked,” Juarez confirmed. “The Stronach Group takes this very seriously. I’ve learned that I need to do what I am told, when I am told, no questions asked.”

Juarez, a native of Westminster, Md., has ridden 166 winners since 2014. He completed his apprenticeship last August. He rode six winners at Laurel on Jan. 11.

Juarez is heading to Florida because he believes “Monmouth Park will be an important part" of his future and he wants to re-establish relationships with trainers racing there. Juarez said he was looking forward to competing against “the top riders in the nation” and believed it would help him improve his skills.

Juarez won the first stakes of his career for Vitali last summer at Monmouth when he guided Valid to victory in the Grade 3 Philip Iselin four days after losing his bug. He had his first Breeders’ Cup mount for Vitali last fall when he rode Valid in the Dirt Mile. The mount Vitali has given Juarez on Sunday allows him to get into the mix at Gulfstream.

“Marcus is a good person and has been a big supporter of mine,” Juarez said. “I can’t thank him enough.”

Jay Rushing Sr. dies at age 58

Jay Rushing Sr., a longtime agent in Maryland and New England, died last week at age 58 of a heart attack, according to his son, Jay Rushing Jr.

Among the riders Jay Rushing Sr. booked mounts for was Calixto Juarez, the father of Nik Juarez. Steve Rushing, who is the agent for Irad Ortiz Jr. and who represented the now retired Ramon Dominguez, is the brother of Jay Rushing Sr.

In addition to Nik Juarez, Jay Rushing Jr. has worked for Orlando Bocachica and Matthew Rispoli.