07/04/2013 11:13AM

Q&A: Churchill leading rider Shaun Bridgmohan

Coady Photography/Keeneland

Shaun Bridgmohan, who won the riding title at the recently ended Churchill Downs spring meet, spent the first 13 years of his life in his native Jamaica before moving with his family to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He worked at Calder as a stablehand before starting his riding career in 1997. He soon moved to New York, where he earned the 1998 Eclipse Award for top apprentice, before moving to Louisville, Ky., in 2005.

Bridgmohan also has been the leading jockey at Aqueduct, Arlington Park, and Fair Grounds. Coming into this week, he had won 2,582 races for mount earnings of more than $106 million. His agent is Lenny Pike Jr.

Age: 34

Family: wife, Stephanie; sons, Alexander, 9, and Steven, 6

You’re heading back to Saratoga. How do you expect business to go there? I’m very optimistic. I’m hoping that the feather in my cap will hopefully generate a little bit more business for me. I’m sure Lenny is working right now on getting us some mounts, whether it’s with some of the people I’ve known from my days in New York or whoever it might be. I don’t tell him how to conduct his business, and it’s been working really well for the both of us.

Would you eventually like to go back to New York year-round? No, I don’t think so. I do like it here in Louisville very much. My family is settled in, and the kids go to school here. We still have a home in Saratoga, and we have one here. We like how it works out for us now.

What do you like to do when you’re not around the track? I pretty much try to spend all my time with the family. In the winter, they don’t travel with me to New Orleans, and I miss them. I don’t play golf or any other sports. I just try to dedicate my time to them.

Best horses ridden? Midnight Lute, Evening Attire, Pyro, Kodiak Kowboy, Majesticperfection.

Greatest and worst moments in racing? The greatest probably were the two times I won six races in a day [at Aqueduct on Feb. 15, 1998, and at Fair Grounds on Dec. 22, 2007]. The worst was when I took off the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner [Volponi] in 2002. I had a choice between him and Evening Attire, and I picked Evening Attire. I didn’t feel very good about that.

You rode first call for Steve Asmussen for several years, but now you rarely ride for him. What’s the story? Steve and I are very good friends. Obviously, I’ve made some decisions through the years that he hasn’t agreed with. That’s on a professional level. On a personal level, we’ve still maintained our friendship, and I talk to him all the time. He’s been very good to me throughout my career.

Tell us something about yourself that few people know: I enjoy the art of cooking. I don’t cook by a book, but I really enjoy cooking. I’m in charge of the meals on dark days, believe me.

Your younger brother, Jermaine, 25, is active as a jockey at Woodbine in Canada. He has done pretty well for himself, with almost 600 wins since he began as an apprentice in 2006. Was racing a family tradition? Are you and Jermaine in contact much? My dad [Gerald] is probably one of the biggest race fans there is. He enjoyed it tremendously and took us around the racetrack when we were young. He wanted to be a jockey, but his mother wouldn’t let him, so my brother and I are basically living out his dream. My dad is absolutely the reason I got in. And yes, I talk to my brother on a fairly regular basis.

Besides winning the Kentucky Derby, what are some career goals you have yet to reach? Just continue to compete at the highest level I’ve been at and keep riding good horses. Hopefully, the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cups that every jockey wants to ride in will be part of that.

The jockeys you most admire? I really don’t want to leave anyone out and hurt anybody’s feelings, but I must say I really looked up to Jerry Bailey. I rode with him when he was in his prime and thought he was great at what he did. A lot of riders really helped me on the way up. As a young kid, I used to be around Mike Smith all the time. When I went to New York with the bug, Richard Migliore taught me a lot and was very instrumental in my career. Johnny Velazquez is a very good friend. So is Alex Solis. I always thought Rene Douglas was a great, great rider. I always admired his work. There are more, too.

Churchill acknowledged you as leading rider on closing day in the winner’s circle, and you and the other jockeys took that opportunity to honor the recently retired Ramon Dominguez by unveiling a plaque with a very inspiring message inscribed on it. Was that your idea? It wasn’t my idea, but when I was approached with it, I thought it was great. I knew Ramon before I ever started riding. In fact, he rode a winner at Calder when I was still a groom; he has the picture of me holding the horse in the winner’s circle. I know it was supposed to be my moment [Sunday], but knowing Ramon for as long as I have, I thought it would be great to honor him. I was very touched by it all.

Do you feel you’re as good as any jockey in the country? Yes, I do feel that way. I’d say my best asset is as a positional rider. I try to put my horse in the best position to win the race.