by Mike Henry

With almost 4,200 career winners and 26 graded stakes triumphs, including the Grade I Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga in 2000 on Stormy Pick, Jose Ferrer is used to riding in exclusive company.

But the 53-year athlete reached another level today with his nomination for the 2018 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, along with four other jockeys.


Jose Ferrer

Named for George “The Iceman” Woolf, a National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame member perhaps best known for his victory on Seabiscuit in the famous 1938 match race against War Admiral, the award honors a rider whose career and personal character reflect positively on the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

The other finalists are Javier Castellano, Alex Birzer, Joe Talamo and Rodney Prescott.

Ferrer returned to action at Tampa Bay Downs last week, more than a month ahead of his doctor’s prognosis after he suffered a collapsed lung, eight broken ribs and three fractured vertebrae in a multi-horse spill at Delaware Park in September.

Ferrer won the ninth race today on the turf on Jermyn Street, a 3-year-old filly owned by Vince Campanella and Nation’s Racing Stable and trained by Keith Nations, for the rider’s first victory since his return.

 “I think Jose is very deserving of the award,” said Jockeys’ Guild Regional Manager Heriberto Rivera, Jr., who nominated Ferrer. “He is probably the fittest 53-year-old man in the country, and it was amazing he was able to come back so quick after his injuries.

“Plus, Jose is always ready to help the little guys at the racetrack. His character is outstanding,” Rivera said.

A native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, Ferrer makes it a point to mentor up-and-coming young jockeys, especially Hispanic riders struggling to adapt to working stateside. In doing so, he is carrying on a tradition in which several jockeys helped him early in his career, including Hall of Fame riders Angel Cordero, Jr., and Jorge Velasquez.

“God blessed me with this talent, so I want to bless everybody else,” Ferrer has said on numerous occasions. The Tampa resident and his wife Steffi have two sons: Derek, 3, and Joseph, almost 2.

The news of his nomination still appeared to be sinking in during today’s action. “Looking at all I’ve accomplished and the number of young kids I’ve helped, I feel very proud,” Ferrer said. “I’m really happy, because it’s one of those things you don’t expect to happen.”

The 2018 Woolf Award ballots will be distributed to active jockeys across the country. The winner is expected to be announced in February.

The list of Woolf Award winners reads like a “Who’s Who” of racing greats (it can only be won once): Bill Shoemaker, Johnny Longden, Eddie Arcaro, Braulio Baeza, John Sellers, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Cordero, Ron Turcotte, Chris McCarron, Steve Cauthen, Pat Day, Velasquez, Jerry Bailey, Kent Desormeaux, Gary Stevens, Mike Smith, Edgar Prado, John Velazquez, Ramon Dominguez and Victor Espinoza.

“I’ve been voting on it for so many years, and to finally get my chance to be on the ballot. … it’s a huge honor,” Ferrer said.

Almost 100 nominated for Dec. 16 stakes card. Three-time Tampa Bay Downs stakes winner R Angel Katelyn, Grade III stakes winner Three Rules and Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore winner Mo Cash are among 98 Thoroughbreds nominated for Cotillion Festival Day stakes competition on Dec. 16.

In addition to the 39th running of the $100,000 Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and the 33rd edition of the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-old males, the Dec. 16 card includes a pair of brand-new $125,000 Florida Sire Stakes sponsored by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association: the FTBOA City of Ocala FSS for 3-year-old fillies and the FTBOA Marion County FSS for 3-year-old colts and geldings.

The FTBOA stakes are restricted to registered Florida-breds sired by an FTBOA-registered Florida stallion and which have paid all FSS eligibility fees.

The day’s activities begin with the “Welcome Back” EG Vodka Brunch at the Downs Presented by PDQ, which begins at 10:30 a.m. beneath the Trackside Picnic Pavilion tent adjacent to the saddling paddock. The cost is $8 and tickets can be pre-purchased in the General Office.

R Angel Katelyn headlines a list of 20 3-year-old fillies nominated to the 7-furlong FTBOA City of Ocala FSS. Owned by Averill Racing, CCF Racing Stable and K Lauren Racing, R Angel Katelyn won last season’s Sandpiper, Gasparilla and Florida Cup Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies. Now 6-for-11 lifetime, she is conditioned by reigning Oldsmar training champion Gerald Bennett.

Three Rules, owned by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Tom Fitzgerald and Geoff Roy, tops the list of nominees for the 7-furlong FTBOA Marion County FSS. The homebred colt won his most recent start, the Grade III Carry Back Stakes at Gulfstream Park in July, by a neck from pace-setter Mo Cash. As a 2-year-old, Three Rules swept the FSS three-race series at Gulfstream by a combined margin of 22 ½ lengths, earning a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, where he finished sixth.

Trained by Jose Pinchin, Three Rules was second this year in the Grade II Swale, third in the Grade III Fountain of Youth and fifth in the Grade I Florida Derby, all at Gulfstream Park.

The 6-furlong Sandpiper Stakes, which has been won by the likes of Grade I winner Dr. Zic (2008) and multiple graded-stakes winner Ebony Breeze (2003), has attracted 41 nominees, five from the barn of Bennett.

The Inaugural drew 24 nominees. Notable recent winners include Florida-bred Catalina Red (2014), who went on to win the Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes as a 4-year-old.  

Tampa Bay Brewing Company Trainer of Month. The good times keep rolling for veteran trainer David Hinsley.

Three weeks after he, wife Sharon and partner Richard Perkins sold their 7-year-old stakes-winning mare You Bought Her for $250,000 while in foal to two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, Hinsley opened the 2017-2018 Tampa Bay Downs meeting by winning with his first three entrants.

The whirlwind performance earned Hinsley the Tampa Bay Brewing Company Trainer of the Month award.

“The goal now is to keep winning races,” Hinsley said. “The three that won (3-year-old fillies Mystique Artiste, Holiday Laughter and Neuqua) were in good shape and training well, and we were able to find races at the distances they wanted.”

Ademar Santos rode all three winners.

Toward the end of the summer Hinsley sensed some of his horses needed a break. So he cut back on their schedules, believing a short layoff and a change of surroundings would improve their performance. Each of his winners had worked out three times on the Oldsmar main track before winning.

“By the time they were ready to race, they were accustomed to the racetrack,” Hinsley said. “And Ademar is a good, solid rider who listens to instructions. When things click, you’d better stick with it.”

You Bought Her, who won the Minaret Stakes in Oldsmar in 2015 and 2016 and was 3-for-3 at Keeneland in her career, sold for the highest price of any of the nine mares in foal to California Chrome during the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, getting purchased by Margaret Dunaine.

The Hinsleys and Perkins had purchased You Bought Her as a 2-year-old-in-training for $18,000. Her career earnings were $530,185.

“We’re going to try to find another one like her, but it won’t be easy,” said Hinsley, who also trained Grade III winner Rumor Has It for William S. Patterson.

In the early 1960s, after his family had moved from Brantford, Ontario to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, the 16-year-old Hinsley became a jockey. He soon became too heavy to compete, but knew his future was in racing. After returning to North America, he worked for Spendthrift Farm preparing young horses, then as an assistant trainer for 10 years to William H. “Jinks” Fires.

The Hinsleys have homes in the Tampa Bay and Chicago areas, and always look forward to returning south.

“Of course you can’t beat the weather, and the main track here is very kind for horses to train on,” Hinsley said. “They come out of here in pretty good shape, so you have a chance to make some money and get them ready for the summer.”

Around the oval. Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25. The feature is the sixth race, a starter/optional claiming race for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward going six furlongs on the main track.

 The 8-5 morning-line favorite is 4-year-old Florida-bred Pink Mama, who has won 11 of her 22 career starts, including a six-race winning streak earlier this year.

Tampa Bay Downs 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.