12/30/2015 11:20AM

Toledo ends breakout year on top

Coady Photography
Jevian Toledo wins the 2014 Charles Town Oaks on Miss Behaviour.

This has been a breakout year for Jevian Toledo, who clinched his first riding title Thursday on closing day of the Laurel Park meet. Toledo also led the 2015 overall Maryland Jockey Club standings at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel in both victories and purse earnings.

Toledo has 178 wins and $5.2 million in earnings this year, with 141 of his victories coming at the two Maryland tracks. In 2014, he won 63 races on the Maryland Jockey Club circuit.

Toledo finished second in the Laurel standings last winter to Sheldon Russell. He was third to Victor Carrasco and Trevor McCarthy, beaten by two wins, at a tight Pimlico meet, and then was second to Carrasco at the Laurel summer session.

“It is my dream come true to win this title,” Toledo said.

Toledo, 21, attended Escuela Vocacional Hipica, the famed jockey school at Camarero Race Track in his native Puerto Rico. His fellow students at the time included 2013 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice Carrasco, who is the second-leading rider in Maryland in 2015 by wins and purse earnings; New York rider Manny Franco; Jorge Vargas Jr., who was third in the Parx Racing standings in 2015; and Florida rider Edgard Zayas.

“I was going to high school, but the classes I didn’t really like,” Toledo said. “I applied to the jockey school at Camarero, and they accepted me.”

Toledo began his career in January 2013 at Camarero, with his goal being to ride in Kentucky or California. After winning 32 races, he made the move that spring, aiming high and heading to the West Coast. Things didn’t go as planned, though, and while Toledo had some mounts, he was not winning. He was on the verge of heading back to Puerto Rico when his mother gave him some sound advice.

“I said I wanted to come back to Puerto Rico, but she told me to try another track in the United States, that there were a lot of tracks,” Toledo said.

Toledo called Gersom Rodriguez, the agent for Mid-Atlantic rider J.D. Acosta, and asked if he would represent him. Rodriguez declined at first but changed his mind and told him to come. Toledo won with his first mount at Pimlico on June 8, 2013. He went to Charles Town that night and won again.

Toledo began riding at Delaware Park in the day and Charles Town at night. He won 57 races at those tracks in 2013, plus another 34 in Maryland and five at Penn National.

“You could see his talent that summer and fall, but he was being overshadowed by Carrasco and McCarthy, an extremely tough group of bugs,” said Marty Leonard, his current agent.

Toledo lost his apprenticeship in March 2014, and his business slowed. Even though he had a top Delaware Park agent in Mark Mace, he had trouble getting going at that meet.

Toledo and Leonard teamed up that summer and decided to focus on Maryland. Toledo’s career has been on the rise ever since.

A turning point came when trainer Phil Schoenthal asked Toledo to work Miss Behaviour several times before her second-place finishes in the 2014 Test and Prioress at Saratoga. Javier Castellano had the mount for those races, but when Schoenthal and owner Cal MacWilliam decided to send her to the $500,000 Charles Town Oaks, they offered the ride to Toledo. Miss Behaviour won by almost 10 lengths.

“I have to thank Phil Schoenthal for the opportunity,” Toledo said. “After we won, my business improved. I had just won my first stakes the week before that race.”

Other trainers instrumental in Toledo’s success include Gary Capuano, Gerald Brooks, Hamilton Smith, Alan Goldberg, Hugh McMahon, Jamie Ness, and David Jacobson.

Last Saturday, Toledo won the Jennings Handicap for Capuano on Noteworthy Peach and finished second for him in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship on Lexington Street.

“He’s a polite, wonderful kid and an extremely hard worker,” Capuano said. “I think he rides a smart race. On Noteworthy Peach, he saved ground, then eased him out. He seems to put them in the right spot.”

Capuano paid Toledo a high compliment by comparing him to retired rider Ramon Dominguez, a three-time Eclipse Award winner who won 10 meet titles in Maryland and Delaware before moving to the New York circuit.

“He kind of reminds me of Dominguez,” Capuano said. “He’s always there, willing to work, and he’s really a pretty heady rider.”