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Top Jockeys Are Ready To Rumble

June 21, 2001
by Mary Rampenilli
Daily Racing Form

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Horse racing will put on its version of the NFL's Pro-Bowl game Friday night, when the fifth annual National Thoroughbred Racing Association All-Star Jockey Championship is held at Lone Star Park.

The event has become the definitive all-star competition for jockeys. Sponsored by the NTRA and endorsed by the National Jockeys' Guild, the four-race competition has been a hit since it made its debut at Lone Star in 1997.

Last year, a crowd of 15,315 turned out to watch 12 of the nation's top riders compete, and Lone Star handled $3,635,475 on its live program, the fourth highest handle at the track in 2000. Lone Star is expected to achieve similar success Friday.

The lineup for this year's Jockey Championship is a blend of old and new faces. Pat Day, who last month became the third jockey to win 8,000 career races, and Jerry Bailey, the nation's leading rider by earnings, were elected to compete this year through a new online poll.

Laffit Pincay Jr., Robby Albarado, Ronald Ardoin, Jorge Chavez, Edgar Prado, and first-time starters Earlie Fires, Tyler Baze, David Flores, and Aaron Gryder were selected by a panel headed by Bill Shoemaker. Corey Lanerie earned the final spot in the competition for being the top rider at Lone Star.

Together, the 12 jockeys have won more than 49,000 races. Bailey, Day, and Pincay are in the Hall of Fame while Fires is to be inducted in August. Chavez won this year's Kentucky Derby with Monarchos; Baze won an Eclipse Award as racing's leading apprentice in 2000; and last summer Ardoin achieved career win 5,000.

"I think this is good for the sport," Lanerie said. "Everyone has a favorite jockey who they think is the best, and this gives you an opportunity to root for them, and hopefully he proves why you think he's the best."

Shane Sellers won the Jockey Championship in 1998 but will be unable to compete this year because of a knee injury. But Sellers will make an appearance Friday. He is scheduled to sing the National Anthem, and will also perform songs from his successful country CD, including his hit "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Earnhardt," in concert at Lone Star.

Other past winners of the Jockey Championship are Gary Stevens in 1997; Pincay in 1999; and Prado in 2000.

The Jockey Championship winner is the rider who accumulates the most points for his finishes in the four races that make up the competition. For example, a win is worth 12 points, and a second-place finish, 6. Mounts are drawn at random, but the entries are graded and each jockey rides an "A" horse - or one of the favorites - down to a "D" horse - or super longshot. The third, fourth, sixth, and seventh races will make up the Jockey Championship. The final race of the competition is a five-furlong starter allowance on turf worth $55,000, and it has drawn a strong field, including Caro's Royalty.

The winning jockey will earn $21,000 of the record $163,000 in prize money available to riders this year. Second place is worth $16,000, third place $15,000, fourth place $14,000, fifth place $13,000, and sixth through 12th place $12,000.

Bettors can participate in the tournament through the All-Star Wager. The proposition bet enables fans to make win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta wagers on the riders in the Jockey Championship. A $2 win bet last year on Prado, for example, returned $19.80. One percent of the handle on the All-Star Wager, as well as one percent of the handle on the four Jockey Championship races, goes to the Jockeys' Guild Disabled Riders Fund.

Other fund-raisers for the Disabled Riders Fund on Friday include a luncheon that will honor Bill Hartack, who rode five winners of the Kentucky Derby, and LeRoy Neiman, who has created a poster for the Jockey Championship. During the luncheon, a benefit auction will be held, and among the items available are the mounted set of goggles, helmet, and helmet cover worn by Day when he scored his 8,000th win May 30. Over the past four years, more than $420,000 has been raised for the Disabled Riders Fund.

The Jockey Championship will be televised on tape delay by ESPN2 at 11 p.m. Central time on Saturday.

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