10/15/2009 12:00AM

Q&A: Joe Talamo

Barbara D. Livingston
Talamo says his childhood hero was Eddie Delahoussaye. "I used to watch replays of him with Risen Star."

Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey profiled in Animal Planet's TV series "Jockeys."

Birthdate: Jan. 12, 1990, in Marrero, La.

Family: Single.

Nickname: Smokin' Joe.

Got into racing because . . .: "I love the sport. My dad brought me into it. He was an assistant trainer at the Fair Grounds. Marrero is five minutes from New Orleans."

Childhood hero: "Eddie Delahoussaye. I used to watch replays of him with Risen Star. I had the tapes. I wasn't even born when he ran. I always looked up to Eddie. In Louisiana, he's a legend."

Childhood dream: "To be a jockey."

People he most admires: "My parents, Joy and Joe Jr. My dad is Joe Jr. I'm actually Joe the third."

First job: "Cutting my neighbors' grass when I was 7 or 8. I could have been big as a landscaper! I had 15 homes. But I wanted to be a jockey."

Best horses seen: "Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, and Zenyatta."

Best horses ridden: "I Want Revenge and Nashoba's Key."

Greatest career moment: "Winning the Wood Memorial on I Want Revenge."

Most painful moment: "Derby Day, May 2, 2009. Waking up to find out I Want Revenge was scratched. That was the lowest point in my young life. I didn't know what to feel. I was in shock. The whole week was unbelievable - the media,the parties. We were very confident. And then . . . it was like a bad dream."

Toughest opponents: "The whole jockey colony here at Santa Anita."

Closest racing friends: "Aaron Gryder, Mike Smith, and Garrett Gomez."

Did you get recognized from the show "Jockeys"? "Every once in a while. The other day, this little girl recognized me when I was out with my girlfriend, Elizabeth Ellis. I gave her an autograph. At the track, people loved the show. I think it was great for horse racing."

How'd you like being on Conan O'Brien's show? "An unbelievable experience. I was pretty nervous. He's an unbelievable guy. He's so tall, I bent my neck looking up at him. The show was a few days after he had hit his head and suffered a concussion. I was scared to bring my jockeys' helmet out and give it to him as a joke, but his producer said, 'Do it, he'll love it,' and he did."