05/15/2014 11:48AM

Maryland Jockey Club honors Dominguez at annual Alibi Breakfast


At the annual Alibi Breakfast on Thursday, retired jockey Ramon Dominguez was honored with the Special Award of Merit, given by the Maryland Jockey Club to someone who has made a positive impact on racing.

Dominguez won 4,985 races in his career, was a three-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top jockey, and was a leading rider on the Maryland and New York circuits. Dominguez was forced to retire last year due to head trauma suffered in a spill at Aqueduct in January 2013.

“When I found out that I was going to be the recipient of this award, in a matter of seconds, I went from being very excited to stopping and thinking which way and how did I impact our industry in a positive way,” Dominguez said. “I rode because I love riding. I didn’t start because I wanted to make a difference. I was just a kid. I just wanted to ride. But hopefully, as each of us matures, we realize we’re going to have to leave our career and this world in a better position than when we started. I am very happy and grateful to receive this award. I want to ask each of you how you can make the world better for those who follow.”

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Dominguez was not joined by his wife, Sharon, because he said she was back in New York running their joint business venture. Afterward, Dominguez declined to identify what business he and his wife had formed but said he hoped to be able to speak about it soon.

Immediately following Dominguez’s speech, Mike Rogers, an executive of the Stronach Group, which runs Pimlico, presented a check for $50,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

Also honored at the Alibi breakfast were journalists Sean Clancy, Mark Viviano, and Amy Zimmerman. Clancy won the David Woods Award for best Preakness story from the previous year. He wrote on D. Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens, teaming up to win the Preakness aboard Oxbow.

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Viviano, a local television sports director, and Zimmerman, executive producer and senior vice president at HRTV, were honored with the Old Hilltop Award, recognizing members of sports media who have covered Thoroughbred racing with excellence and distinction.

Patrick Smith of Getty Images won the Jerry Frutkoff Award, given to the photographer deemed to have taken the best photo of the previous Preakness.

The pizzazz, humor, and good-natured ribbing that is prevalent at the breakfast was lacking Thursday. Ron Paolucci, owner of the filly Ria Antonia, showed some class by acknowledging trainer Bob Baffert, assistant trainer Jim Barnes, and exercise rider Jorge Alvarez, who had the filly for four months before she was moved to Tom Amoss for this race after her sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks.

“They couldn’t have done a better job with this filly,” Paolucci said. “Bob Baffert is the best trainer in the country, a phenomenal people person.”

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The best story was probably told by Ron Sanchez, owner of Social Inclusion, who said he watched the 1996 Preakness from the infield when Louis Quatorze went gate to wire.

“I was a little disappointed. I put my money on Skip Away,” Sanchez said. “I came with 20 buddies, and everybody else I came with got drunk. I had to jump on a bus to go to Ocean City.”