12/11/2009 12:00AM

Q&A: Ramon Dominguez

Barbara D. Livingston
When Dominguez came to the U.S., "It was a little intimidating. . . . I was so young, and I was doing pretty good in Venezuela, so I felt I had nothing to lose."

Winningest jockey in New York this year with 368 victories through Dec. 8, ranks second nationally in wins with 382, and is second nationally in purse earnings with $18,051,309.

Birthdate: Nov. 24, 1976, in Caracas, Venezuela.

Family: Wife Sharon; sons Alexander and Matthew.

Got into racing because . . .: "My dad used to operate an offtrack betting machine in Venezuela. You could play a bet there that was like the pick six. You could go to any little town, people would line up. On the weekends, though, for the races, he had to physically take it to the track. From the first time I went to the track, I knew I wanted to be a jockey. I watched the races, and I was obsessed. I was the first one in my family to be involved with the horses. My dad's involvement was only with the offtrack betting machine."

Childhood dream: "I always had a passion for animals. I thought I was going to be a veterinarian. But from the first time I watched a live race, I knew I wanted to be a jockey."

People most admired: "Definitely my parents, Alfredo and Belkis. I'm the oldest of four kids. Next were two sisters, and then my brother was last."

First job: "Exercising horses prior to holding a license to ride horses. When I wanted to learn to ride races, there was no established riding school. The only way was to learn on your own. I went to a farm near where I lived. I was 16 years old."

You came to the United States when you were 18. Was that scary?: "It was a little intimidating. I wanted to do well. I was so young, and I was doing pretty good in Venezuela, so I felt I had nothing to lose. I could always go back. But I adapted quickly to the American lifestyle, everything America had to offer, from Day 1. It was an easy transition."

This year you transitioned from Maryland to New York: "We still have a little farm in Maryland, which we rent out. The whole family is with me now in New York. I like it. For the longest time, I didn't know if I would like the change. The farm in Maryland was very country. But my wife has adapted, and so have I. The boys are only 5 and 3 1/2, so I think it was easier for them than if they were teenagers."

Best horse seen: "Ghostzapper."

Greatest moment of career: "Winning the Breeders' Cup Turf in 2004 aboard Better Talk Now. It was one of those things that put me on a different level. It opened up a lot of doors for me with different trainers and different outfits."

Embarrassing moment: "I once went to the paddock in the winter at Aqueduct with my earmuffs on, but without my helmet."

Are you going to stay in New York this winter?: "Yes."

Closest racing friends: "Abel and Javier Castellano. They are also from Venezuela. I didn't know them there."

Favorite food: "Any Asian cuisine. I like Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese. I really love Asian culture. My wife says I was probably Chinese in another life."

Favorite movie of all time: " 'Alive,' which is based on the true story of the soccer team from Uruguay whose plane crashed in the Andes."

Favorite TV show: "I really enjoy the 'Planet Earth' series on Discovery Channel."

Last book read: " 'A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose,' by Eckhart Tolle. It was a very good book."

Favorite music: "Everything - bluegrass, country, Dave Matthews. Too many to mention. I really enjoy music."

Favorite thing to do outside racing: "Rock climbing. I do indoor wall climbing. It's something I've done for quite a while."

Future ambition: "Definitely win the Kentucky Derby. Every jockey will tell you that."