11/09/2009 1:00AM

Three Cup wins propel Leparoux to the top


ARCADIA, Calif. - A little more than four years after starting his riding career in North America, Julien Leparoux reached one of the pinnacles of his profession at this year's Breeders' Cup.

Leparoux earned the coveted Shoemaker Award as the top jockey at the 2009 Breeders' Cup by winning three championship races during the two-day event at Santa Anita. Leparoux, 26, won the BC Juvenile Fillies on She Be Wild and the BC Filly and Mare Sprint aboard Informed Decision on Friday, then capped his sensational weekend by upsetting the BC Dirt Mile aboard Furthest Land on Saturday.

"If you had told me four years ago that all this would happen, I wouldn't have believed you," said Leparoux.

By Sunday morning, Leparoux already was back to work at his home track, Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., following a red-eye flight out of Los Angeles. He will ride at Churchill through the end of the meet Nov. 28, then ride sparingly in December in Florida and Southern California while perhaps returning to his home country, France, to visit with family.

Leparoux departed California as the leading jockey in the country in 2009 mount earnings with $17,606,463. It's a three-way race in a category that often is pivotal in year-end voting for the Eclipse Award for top jockey, and Leparoux, because of the custom-made circuit he follows, probably is at a disadvantage in that respect. Garrett Gomez ($17,256,037) and Ramon Dominguez ($16,701,516) both will have plenty of money-making opportunities through the end of the year when riding primarily in Southern California and New York, respectively.

"There's really nowhere for us to ride on a regular basis after Churchill ends until Gulfstream Park starts" on Jan. 3, said Leparoux's agent, Steve Bass. "You just can't go into the middle of the meet somewhere and expect to do much good. We definitely care about this, though, and obviously if Julien could be the leading earner he wouldn't take any time off. But we'll just ride a few weekends in December and hope people realize that when the championships were run in California, Julien really stepped up to the plate."

Indeed he did. No one rode better than Leparoux at the Breeders' Cup. His two-turn victories aboard She Be Wild and Furthest Land both came after he saved valuable ground and made perfectly timed bids, and his forward trip on Informed Decision helped the filly finish clear of a stretch run from the defending champion and odds-on favorite, Ventura.

Informed Decision "broke fast and didn't go too fast the first quarter, so I was in a very good position," Leparoux said. "The filly is just very good. She kicked very nice, just like she usually does."

Leparoux said he can't worry about what Eclipse Award voters ultimately decide, although he said he certainly would love to win it. In the meantime, he will try to be the leading rider at Churchill, where he was the dominant jockey last fall, while also savoring his spectacular weekend at the Breeders' Cup. The Shoemaker has been awarded seven times, since 2003.

"These races are fun to ride in, and when you can win, it's even better," said Leparoux. "I guess now we've got a chance for the Eclipse Award, but we will have to see what happens."