DEL MAR, Calif.— When top rider Flavien Prat announced he was moving his tack back east this summer, one could almost hear a collective sigh of relief coming from the jockey colonies at Santa Anita and Del Mar. Prat took with him over 1,100 wins, not to mention numerous jockey titles, including last summer’s here at Del Mar.
But with every void comes something, or someone, to fill it. Enter Ramon Vazquez, one of several jockeys answering the call to ride fulltime for the first time at Del Mar this summer. The recent Los Alamitos riding champion brings credentials worthy enough of taking down the rider’s title at Del Mar.
Vazquez is a native of Puerto Rico and began riding in the U.S. in 2011. He has put together a solid career riding at Arlington Park, Oaklawn and other midwest tracks. But he flew under the radar until he got the mount on Lone Rock for the Robertino Diodoro barn and later pulled off a huge upset victory in this year’s G2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn with Un Ojo at 75-1.
It will not be the first time Vazquez has ridden at Del Mar. He was out here last November to ride Lone Rock in the G2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard.
“Everybody told me it’s a special track, like Saratoga,” Vazquez says. “It’s a dream for me to be here, to ride here for the first time.”
A few months after he got a taste of West Coast racing, Vazquez announced he would move his tack to Santa Anita for the remainder of the winter/spring meet. Despite not starting until late April, he finished with 25 wins in 162 starts and over $1.4 million in earnings. When the Southern California racing scene moved to Los Alamitos, he went out and captured the jockey title, winning 12 races out of 45 starts at the abbreviated meet, outdistancing runner-up Juan Hernandez by seven victories.
“We looked at a big opportunity when Flavien Prat left,” Vazquez says. “We talked about it being a good move to be in California”
But he is not deterred by the recent addition of another top jockey, Florent Geroux. “Yes, its gotten much stronger but that’s making me more strong because I want to ride with the good riders,” Vazquez noted. “Now you have to give another 100%, now you have to give 200%.”
This summer at Del Mar may be a make-or-break meet for him as to whether or not he stays out west, though he says he’s committed to the long haul. “We’re looking to stay here,” Vazquez says. “I moved my family here, I moved my car here, I’m looking to stay.”
Del Mar Press Release
Photo: Ramon Vazquez (Coady Photography)