01/19/2012 12:53PM

Q&A: Kyle Frey

Barbara Weidl/Equi-Photo

On Monday night, he was named the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey for 2011. He won 153 races last year, and his mounts earned more than $4 million in purses. He was interviewed immediately following the awards dinner at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Birthdate: Jan. 3, 1992, in Tracy, Calif.

Family: Single

Got into racing because . . . My grandfather, Paul, who just died the other day, was a rider at Longacres. My dad, Jay, gallops horses and is Russell Baze’s valet. So, as a kid, I grew up going to the track. I experienced the magic of racing. I got pumped up as a kid. I got away from it a little while as a teenager, but since coming back to it, it got its jaws locked on me.

When did you start riding? When I was 8, my dad bought a horse off trainer Jedd Josephson for a dollar. Lucky Treatin was his name. I fell in love with that horse. To this day, I haven’t had a connection with a horse like I had with him.

You started your professional career late in 2010 at Golden Gate, the biggest major track where you grew up in Northern California. How did you end up at Parx, where you now ride? My agent, Mark North, threw it out there. There weren’t enough opportunities for me at Golden Gate. The money wasn’t that good. When you start somewhere, sometimes they look at you just as when you started out. But when I went to Parx, it was like, “There’s that kid from California.” There were more opportunities. Doors started to open up a little bit.

When did you go there? Four months after I started with the bug. I started riding the day after Thanksgiving in 2010. That’s an easy day to remember. So it was around March when I moved to Parx.

What do you remember about your first mount? The first day I rode, I was on two horses, in races on turf, at a mile and at a mile and a sixteenth, which everyone says is unusual for a bug. I was not fit for that. I was proud that I switched sticks and didn’t fall off. I was straight-legged tired.

This year’s Eclipse Award for apprentice jockey needed a re-vote because the original material sent to voters had inaccurate information on Rosario Montanez, who also rides at Parx. How did you feel through the whole process? It was weird. It wasn’t like I was out there thinking I deserved to win. I just wanted the voters to have the right stats. If they decided that Montanez or Ryan Curatolo won, that would have been fine, as long as the stats they used were correct.”

Montanez was here tonight. Did you guys speak after you won? He walked up and said congratulations. Like I said, I just wanted the right stats to be considered. I just wanted to know that if I lost, I lost fair.

Do you think you will remain at Parx for the time being? I have a lot of people saying try New York, try this, try that, but I like Parx. I’ve got a lot of friends there. I’m pretty well grounded there now.

How much longer do you have your apprentice allowance? Actually, today was the last day. This was a good way to finish it out.

You mentioned your grandfather in your acceptance speech, and you got choked up. He must have meant a lot to you: He was a hard kind of racetracker, a tough guy. He’d lay into you real good, call you an idiot, but you know he meant good by it.

Are your parents here? My mom, Mary, is. I’m going to hang out with her for a day before going back. My dad couldn’t be here because of everything going on with my grandfather.

Best horse ridden? I really haven’t been on any top stakes horses yet. Hopefully, this will break the ice.

OK, then, who is the best jockey you’ve seen? I’d have to say Garrett Gomez. I met him a few months ago at Parx when he came in to ride a stakes race. He was really cool, relaxed. You wouldn’t know he’s one of the top guys in the country.

Future ambitions? I guess like every rider it’s to win the Kentucky Derby. I can’t imagine doing that. This here, it still hasn’t completely hit me.