08/05/2009 12:00AM

Melancon's son shows promise as a rider

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As a winner of almost 3,500 career races as a jockey, Gerard Melancon has seen his share of young riders. Recently at Evangeline Downs, Melancon has had his eye on one young apprentice in particular.

"He has really good hands, sits well on a horse, and can finish," Melancon said this week. "I think he has a real future."

Melancon's opinion, while accurate, may also be a bit biased as he is speaking of his oldest son, Jansen, 21.

"He has the tools and the background," said the elder Melancon. "Now it is just a matter of how much he wants it."

Melancon went on to say that it was strictly his son's decision to pursue his dad's vocation.

"It was his and his alone," he said. "The only stipulation that I had is that he finish high school first, which he did."

It was a high school pursuit that the younger Melancon says helped him in his race riding career.

"I rode bulls competitively," he said. "I enjoyed it quite a bit and actually made the state finals one year. I feel that it has helped me feel more relaxed on the back of a racehorse. Once you've gotten on a bull, you aren't afraid of getting on anything."

Jansen Melancon has not all of a sudden burst upon the racing scene. He has been aboard more than 70 Quarter Horse winners the last couple of years. He said the promise of steady work made him switch over to Thoroughbreds.

"It seems I would ride a couple of months, then be off a couple of months with the Quarters," he said. "The Thoroughbreds pretty much run year round at some track in the state."

It has been a heady last few weeks for the young apprentice. He rode Quarter Horses through the conclusion of the summer meeting at Delta Downs and won a closing-day stakes race there on July 12. He then began riding Thoroughbreds the following week at Evangeline and has ridden a handful of winners since, including victories at odds of 17-1 and 24-1.

The two Melancons have yet to hook up in a spirited stretch duel, but have been in proximity at other locations around the track.

"It is neat being in the jocks' room with my dad," Jansen said. "We go over a lot of different things. We look at the Racing Form together, watch replays. Anything that will help win races."

Both riders plan on moving their tack to Louisiana Downs after Evangeline concludes its meeting on Labor Day. When the Louisiana Downs season is over in October, the two could part ways, with Gerard moving to Delta Downs, where he is the two-time defending riding champ at the winter Thoroughbred meeting, and Jansen possibly testing the waters at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.