08/24/2011 12:16PM

Teenage rider C.J. McMahon could be Louisiana's successor to Talamo


OPELOUSAS, La. – For 30 years, jockey agent Tony Martin has been handling the business of some of the best riders from his native south Louisiana. The list is lengthy, as one would expect from this most fertile jockey nursery, but some riders have stood out more than others.

One of Martin’s most notable projects in recent years was the breakout of Joe Talamo’s career at Louisiana Downs and Fair Grounds prior to the young phenom’s big splash on the West Coast. While it is admittedly too early to tell just yet, Martin may have another star in the making in 16-year-old C.J. McMahon.

“He’s got the talent,” Martin said earlier this week after taking care of business at the draw of entries at Evangeline Downs, where McMahon is currently fourth in the rider standings with 44 winners. “More importantly, despite being your typical invincible teenager, he seems to have his head in the right place as well.”

McMahon comes by his current vocation honestly. He is the son of long-time Midwestern Quarter Horse jockey Charles McMahon. The elder McMahon has more than 1,600 victories.

“I’ve known the family a long time,” Martin said. “C. J. has been getting on horses since he was eight. That, and he just knows horses. He grew up around them and for someone so young, he is already a horseman. When it was time for him to start riding, I was ready to take his book.”

“I knew I wanted to ride the first time I ever got up on one,” the young McMahon said last Saturday en route up Interstate 49 to his first riding engagement at Louisiana Downs, where he had three mounts on the Louisiana Cup program.

McMahon made an almost immediate impact in his Louisiana Downs debut. After setting the pace aboard outsider One Pretty Penny and fading through the stretch in the afternoon’s fifth race, the Louisiana Breeders Derby, McMahon kindly rated Royal Madame on the lead in the $100,000 Distaff at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Finding more down the stretch, Royal Madame refused to fold to 2-1 favorite Skipping Town, losing by a nose.

He was at it again in the Louisiana Cup Oaks on board Madalanie, once against setting the pace before giving ground grudgingly in the late going to complete the trifecta at 15-1.

Although his day on Saturday was decidedly one dimensional, the young McMahon says his riding style is strictly dependent on his mount.

“I learned a lot by watching Shane [Sellers] when he was riding earlier this summer at Evangeline,” McMahon said. “He always seemed to have horse left, regardless of where he was in the early part of the race.”

◗ Johnny Lloyd, 80, died earlier this month in a car accident near his home in Folsom, La. Lloyd was a long-time trainer on the south Louisiana circuit and the father of Evangeline racing secretary Coleman Lloyd.

◗ Evangeline Downs dropped the last two Wednesdays from its racing calendar. The meeting instead will be extended two days from its traditional Labor Day closing with racing Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10.