ARCADIA, Calif.—Long one of the most highly respected riders of his generation, New Jersey-born Joe Bravo has won Santa Anita’s 2022 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award via a vote of jockeys nationwide. Bravo will be feted in a Runhappy Winner’s Circle ceremony on Sunday, March 27, and be joined by close family, friends and the Santa Anita jockey colony as he accepts the Woolf Award trophy which is a replica of the life-sized statue of the legendary George Woolf that adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.
Presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950 and one of the most coveted awards in racing, the Woolf Award can only be won once. Named for the late Hall of Fame jockey who gained national fame when an estimated radio audience of 40 million tuned in as he piloted Seabiscuit to victory over Triple Crown Champion War Admiral in a match race at Pimlico Race Course on Nov. 1, 1938, the Woolf Award recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character garner esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
“It really is an honor to now be part of this circle of riders, joining all of these guys that I grew up with or grew up underneath, I’ll put it like that,” said Bravo when informed earlier in the week that he’d won. “I was lucky enough to win the East Coast version of the Woolf Award, the Mike Venezia Award in 2018, and now to be honored here on the West Coast, wow, you don’t know what an honor this is.
“My Dad will be coming out and this makes all the hard days, the mornings that we work, it makes it all worthwhile. There’s probably only one award above this that I’d like to have, and that’s the Hall of Fame.”
Born in Long Branch, New Jersey on Sept. 10, 1971, “Jersey Joe” Bravo was a dominant force in the Mid-Atlantic and in particular at Monmouth Park dating back to the early 1990’s, through early 2021. In the summer of last year, Bravo announced that due to a change in riding rules instituted by the New Jersey Racing Commission, he would be shifting his base of operations to Southern California on a full-time basis, whereupon he soon engaged locally based agent Matt Nakatani.
A great judge of pace and especially known for his prowess on turf, Bravo, 50, has won 13 riding titles at Monmouth and nine titles at the Meadowlands. Bravo is closing in on 5,600 victories in a career that dates back to his debut at age 17 in 1988. A third generation rider, Bravo’s biggest career win came at Santa Anita aboard Blue Prize in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Won last year by Deshawn Parker, Bravo topped a 2022 Wolf Award list of finalists that included Glenn Corbett, Julien Leparoux, Rodney Prescott and Tim Thornton.
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Santa Anita Park Press Release