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April 11, 2018


by Mike Henry
Veteran jockey Jose Ferrer will be making his first trip to Santa Anita; Antonio Gallardo on verge of fourth Oldsmar riding crown; Mike Allen rides career winner No. 1,999.

Tampa Bay Downs jockey Jose Ferrer sat down with fellow rider Mike Luzzi during his trip to New York to ride Justaholic in Saturday’s Grade III Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct.

The topic of discussion: what to expect when Ferrer receives the 2018 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., during a winner’s-circle ceremony between races.

Ferrer’s takeaway: His feelings Sunday will be unique and unprecedented in his 36 years of race-riding.

“Mike (who won the award in 2015) told me it’s an unbelievable experience, like nothing that has happened in his life,” said Ferrer, who leaves for California with his wife Steffi after Friday’s Oldsmar card. “I can’t wait. I’m really, really looking forward to it.”

The Woolf Award honors a rider whose career and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing. After being nominated for the award by Jockeys’ Guild Regional Manager Heriberto Rivera, Jr., Ferrer defeated Javier Castellano, Alex Birzer, Joe Talamo and Rodney Prescott in voting by active jockeys across the country.

Ferrer, who turned 54 on March 31, has ridden more than 4,200 winners, including 26 graded-stakes winners, since beginning his career in 1982 at Monmouth Park.

He astounded his fellow riders, horsemen and fans by returning to competition at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 1, 11 weeks after suffering a collapsed lung, eight broken ribs and three fractured vertebrae in a multi-horse spill at Delaware Park.

Ferrer is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with such past winners as Laffit Pincay, Jr., who won the award in 1970, and still-active Mike Smith, the 2000 winner. What he can’t control is the flood of memories almost certain to overtake him when he receives a replica of the full-size statue of George Woolf that stands adjacent to the Santa Anita walking ring (also located there is a life-size sculpture of Seabiscuit, ridden by Woolf to a famous match-race victory in 1938 at Pimlico against 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral).

Ferrer will be doubtless be thinking of his two young sons, Derek and Joseph, and his parents, Jose Ferrer, Sr., and Carmen, who live in Puerto Rico. The fans at Tampa Bay Downs will also be in his thoughts.

“Riding at Tampa Bay Downs the last few years has recharged me, like jumper cables,” said Ferrer, who rode career winner No. 4,000 here in 2016. “The environment, the great weather, the racetrack and the fans – I’ve lived in a lot of places, and to me you can’t beat Tampa Bay.”

Around the oval. Mike Allen rode career winner No. 1,999 in the fourth race, a maiden claiming event for 3-year-old fillies that was switched from the turf to the main track. Allen piloted Florida-bred Hera to a gate-to-wire victory for owner Eagle View Farm and trainer Derek Ryan.

Jockey Antonio Gallardo, who is well on his way to a fourth Oldsmar riding crown, rode his 100th winner of the meeting in the sixth race. Gallardo scored on Critical Humor, a 4-year-old filly owned by Gumpster Stable and trained by Darien Rodriguez. Critical Humor was claimed from the race by trainer Wayne Potts for new owner Sharda Ramdat.

Gallardo also won the eighth race aboard Beechwood, a 5-year-old mare owned by William Du Pont, III and trained by Chad Stewart.

For his part, Rodriguez saddled the ninth-race winner, 3-year-old colt General Paddy, who is owned by Angel Ubarri and was ridden by Pablo Morales.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:52 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 6, with the exception of May 2.

The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.