11/13/2013 5:52PM

Tony Vega, former leading rider on East Coast, dies at 52

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Jockey Tony Vega struggles to hang on as his mount, Vinnie, stumbles badly at the start of a maiden race at Monmouth Park in July 2010. Vega managed to stay on and the horse completed the mile-and-70-yard race, finishing last.

Tony Vega, who won two leading rider titles at Mid-Atlantic tracks as an apprentice 30 years ago, died Monday following a brief illness at age 52.

During his best season in 1983, Vega won 288 races, including a track-record 134 at Monmouth Park, where was the top jockey. He also finished atop the standings that season for the winter-spring meet at Philadelphia Park with 58 winners.

In Eclipse Award voting for the year’s top apprentice, Vega finished second to Declan Murphy.

Vega had only modest success once he became a journeyman. Following 1993, in which he won 29 races, Vega never again rode more than four winners in a season. He last rode in 2012, going 0 for 13. Overall, he won 713 races from 6,161 mounts with purse earnings of $7.2 million.