Cristian Torres Excited to Ride at KY Downs for First Time

August 17, 2023

Jockey Cristian Torres speaks with ESPN Louisville sports-talk co-host Louis Rabaut on Aug. 15 at the Blind Squirrel restaurant in Louisville for Kentucky Downs Preview Day (Grace Clark)

By Jennie Rees – Kentucky Downs

FRANKLIN, Ky.— Jockey Cristian Torres, in his first year in Kentucky after running away with the Oaklawn Park title over the winter, is looking forward to riding over Kentucky Downs’ 1 5/16-mile, kidney-shaped course with its elevation changes and even a right-hand turn.

“It will be my first time at Kentucky Downs,” Torres said Tuesday at the Kentucky Downs Preview Day presented by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund and ESPN 680 and held at Louisville’s Blind Squirrel restaurant and sports bar. “A lot of people have told me good things about it.

“I like the grass because you don’t get too dirty,” the 26-year-old from Puerto Rico said with a laugh, continuing, “But I’m very excited to be there and ride at a track like Kentucky Downs. Everybody loves it. I know it’s going to be challenging, and I like challenges. So, I’m ready for it.”

What advice has Torres gotten from other jockeys about riding the unique course?

“They told me not to move early, because it’s a long stretch,” he said. “You think it’s going to be done and you have a furlong to go.”

While missing some days to ride stakes out of state, Torres is in the thick of a mad dash to the wire for the Ellis Park riding title. Rafael Bejarano and Gerardo Corrales lead at 16 wins apiece, followed by Francisco Arrieta at 15 and Torres and Declan Cannon at 14 with six days remaining.

Cristian Torres wins the West Virginia Derby (G3) aboard Red Route One Aug. 6 at Mountaineer (Coady Photography)

Torres won the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) on Red Route One in one of his out-of-town sojourns. Owned by Kentucky Downs co-managing partner Ron Winchell, Red Route One won his debut at Kentucky Downs last fall before turning to dirt in pursuit of the 3-year-old spring classics. The Gun Runner colt is scheduled to return to the grass in Kentucky Downs’ $1 million, Grade 3 National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby on Sept. 3. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed via text that Torres would have the mount.

The West Virginia Derby was Torres’ second time riding Red Route One. The first was a runner-up effort in Oaklawn’s Rebel (G2).

“He was way back, made a nice big run like he usually does,” Torres said. “He’s a really nice horse. I love the way he runs. I love that he gives 100-percent every time. I watched the race where he broke his maiden at Kentucky Downs. Now he’s going to be running over there again, back to the grass. But he has the experience.

“He moves like a turf horse, but he’s proved he can run on any surface. You just have to let him get his own pace the first part of the race, and he’ll pick it up later in the race. He knows what he has to do. I’m very grateful to Mr. Steve Asmussen and Ron Winchell for giving me the opportunity to ride him.”

Torres began riding in 2019 at Gulfstream Park before moving his tack to Oaklawn at the end of 2021. He added Remington Park and Lone Star Park to his circuit before the move to Churchill Downs and Kentucky this past spring. With 123 victories and more than $8.6 million in purse earnings, he’s already had his best season of his young career.

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