Jessica Pyfer named Eclipse Champion Apprentice Jockey for 2021

February 11, 2022

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 10, 2022)–Santa Anita-based Jessica Pyfer has been named Eclipse Champion Apprentice Jockey, becoming the third female rider to win America’s highest honor for fledgling jockeys and she also becomes the sixth Santa Anita-based rider to win the coveted honor as well. 

A 23-year-old native of Denver, Colorado, Pyfer is the daughter of lifelong horsewoman Sherri D’Amato, who is married to current top trainer Phil D’Amato, who is also Pyfer’s stepfather.  A graduate of nearby Azusa Pacific University, Pyfer began riding races at Santa Anita in September of 2020 and broke her maiden here on Oct. 9, 2020.

A quick study, Pyfer, who is a diminutive 5′ 2″ and 110 pounds, soon caught on with Southern California horsemen.  During her apprenticeship, which ended this past Nov. 13, Pyfer became a constant among the Top 10 jocks at Santa Anita, Los Alamitos and Del Mar as well.  Blessed with an abundance of natural ability, she has proven especially adept at getting horses out of the gate and then allowing them to run to their potential on or near the lead.

Pyfer was quick to acknowledge the role her mother has played in her development on and off the racetrack.  “My mom has been everything, she’s the one that put me on a horse when I was a few days old,” said Pyfer, who is represented by agent Brandon O’Bryan.  “I like to say that she forced me to ride, but I’m so glad that she did because I can’t imagine my life without horses.  Her strength in this industry has motivated me to continue her legacy and to stay true to who she taught me to be when I was young.”

Pyfer is currently an integral part of D’Amato’s large Santa Anita-based operation, as she gets on a number of horses each morning and assists both her mother and father with the stable’s operation.  (Through 21 racing days, Phil D’Amato is currently second in the Santa Anita trainer standings with 15 wins, four of them in stakes). 

As announced in an Eclipse Awards Gala Thursday night at Santa Anita, Pyfer joins Steve Valdez (1973), Tyler Baze (2000), Christian Santiago Reyes (2009), Joe Talamo (2007), Drayden Van Dyke (2014) and Evin Roman (2017) as one of seven Santa Anita-based riders to be named Champion Apprentice dating back to the award’s inception in 1971.

Additionally, as was announced last night, Pyfer joins the Bo Hirsch owned and bred Ce Ce and Speedway Stables’ Corniche as one of three Santa Anita-based Eclipse Champions for 2021.

Santa Anita Press Release

Photo: Jessica Pyfer (Benoit Photo)

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