Updated on 09/17/2011 10:45AM

There's no doubt: Fogelsonger belongs

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Ryan Fogelsonger has won five stakes races on Cherokee's Boy, including the Federico Tesio.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Ryan Fogelsonger has always delivered.

After graduating high school, it was pizzas. Now, at 22, he's the dominant rider in Maryland, delivering winner after winner.

Friday night at Lone Star Park, Fogelsonger will try to prove he can win against some of the nation's most accomplished riders when he makes his first appearance in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association All-Star Jockey Championship.

The competition, in which 12 jockeys earn points based on their finishes in four races, is a fundraiser for the Disabled Jockeys' Endowment.

Fogelsonger, the Eclipse award-winning apprentice last year, has been riding only since March 2002. He will be the youngest rider in the competition by six years and has been a journeyman since only May 24.

"I was on vacation in Florida when my agent called and told me I was in the Jockey Championship, and it blew me away," Fogelsonger said. "I looked on the list at all these big guys, and said, 'How did my name come about that list?'"

Fogelsonger is modest. Extending an invitation to the rider had to be a no-brainer for the selection committee. In addition to his Eclipse, Fogelsonger is the nation's third-leading rider in wins this year behind Russell Baze, who will also compete in the Jockey Championship. Fogelsonger recently won the riding title at Pimlico, his fourth straight championship at a major meet in Maryland.

But still, Fogelsonger said he is anxious about squaring off with the likes of Jose Santos, Jorge Chavez, Edgar Prado, Robby Albarado, Richard Migliore, Eddie Martin Jr., Shane Sellers, Mike Smith, Alex Solis, and Pat Valenzuela on Friday.

"All of them together, it's pretty intimidating," Fogelsonger said. "But I love pressure. I'll have fun with it."

Fogelsonger, a resident of Laurel, Md., did not grow up around horses and has come a long way in a short time. It was just a few years ago that his friend, exercise rider Henry Colon, let him ride a pony on a visit to Laurel Park. Fogelsonger soon left his job at the pizza parlor to break young horses in South Carolina.

Fogelsonger next went to work for Bill Boniface at Bonita Farm in Maryland before heading to the track and landing a job galloping horses for top Maryland trainer Dale Capuano.

"One of the things I liked about him is that he's a natural lightweight," Capuano said. "And horses seemed to work well for him, better for him than some of the other guys. Horses ran for him. That's one of the things I noticed early about him."

Fogelsonger and Capuano have since won a lot of races together. But the rider's signature horse is trained by Capuano's brother, Gary. Fogelsonger has won five stakes races with Cherokee's Boy, with whom he finished eighth in the Preakness.

Fogelsonger's career took off in the second half of 2002. Although he did not pick up his first win until May 1, he ended up winning 244 races in the last five months of the year, more than any other rider in the country during that time period.

The feat made him the latest in a long line of Maryland-based riders to pick up the Eclipse as outstanding apprentice, among them Chris McCarron in 1974, Kent Desormeaux in 1987, and Mike Luzzi in 1989.

While his counterparts moved on to ride in New York or Southern California, Fogelsonger just bought a home in Maryland and his immediate goal is to win the riding title at Colonial Downs.

"I try not to look too far into the future," Fogelsonger said. "Right now, I'm pretty content.

"Every time I think 'this is the best thing,' something else happens. First the Eclipse Award, then I got to ride in the Preakness, and now I'm invited to the Jockey Championship."