05/29/2013 2:13PM

Woodbine: Mickey Walls to receive Avelino Gomez Memorial Award

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Mickey Walls, winner of an Eclipse Award and three Sovereign Awards, is this year’s recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award.

The award, presented annually on Woodbine Oaks Day, goes to a jockey who is Canadian-born, Canadian-raised, or has been a regular rider in the country for more than five years and has made significant contributions to the sport.

Avelino Gomez, who was born in Cuba but went on to become one of Canada’s greatest jockeys, died following a spill in the 1980 running of the Woodbine Oaks. A life-size statue of Gomez overlooks Woodbine’s walking ring and a miniature replica is presented to each year’s honoree.

Walls, who was born in Vancouver in 1974, debuted at age 16 and was the leading rider at Vancouver’s Exhibition (now Hastings) Park when he won 71 races in four months. He then came to Woodbine, where he recorded 41 more wins en route to his first Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding apprentice.

Based here the following season, Walls won 221 races at Woodbine to set a meet record that still stands. He was the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice that year and also collected Sovereign Awards in both the outstanding apprentice and outstanding jockey categories.

An ongoing struggle with weight led Walls to retire in 2003 with 1,453 career wins (112 stakes victories), 1,212 seconds, 1,094 thirds, and more than $37 million in purse earnings.

His major wins in Canada included the 1999 Queen’s Plate with Woodcarver, the 1996 Prince of Wales with Stephanotis, the 1996 Breeders’ Stakes with Chief Bearhart, and the 1999 Woodbine Oaks with Touch Dial.

Walls continues to be active here as an exercise rider, primarily for his parents, trainer Joe Walls and assistant trainer Carol Walls.