Born & raised in Hollywood, Florida, with Jamaican roots, Maragh comes from a horse racing family His cousins Tony and Rajiv are successful jockey’s and he has Uncles that are successful trainers.
Growing up he always wanted to be a jockey, but when he was 10 years old, “I started to get a little chunky so I decided to play soccer to get some exercise and get in better shape. And by the time I was 16 I was playing at a very high level and was getting scouted by some top colleges, and even some Professional teams were looking at me. So, in July of 2017 I had a decision to make. Either continue in Soccer and get a scholarship to a top school, and hopefully get to the professional ranks, or follow my passion and learn how to gallop horses and become a jockey. It was a tough decision for a few reasons; Education was / is very important to me; I had a 4.4 grade point average. But I also was struggling with the weight issue. I weighed 150 to 155 lbs playing soccer and didn’t think I could get my weight down to be a jockey. But then I joined an Elite soccer team called Next Level Soccer Academy, they train very hard, and within 2-3 months I was in great shape. I lost a lot of weight and was down to 120 – 125lbs. That’s when I started going to the track and learned how to ride properly, and made the decision to follow my passion, start riding horses and become a jockey. It was a really tough decision as I was a Junior going into my Senior year of High School, and I only needed 1 or 2 credits to finish High School and get my diploma. What I did was I took some College level AP courses so I got both High School and college credits and by December of 2017 I had enough credits to graduate. I didn’t have to go to classes in the Spring, so I focused on learning how to ride, but also made sure I graduated with my High School class and walk the stage with them, which I did in June of 2018”
In January of 2018 Romero focused on learning the Jockey trade. His uncle Aubrey, and cousin Rajiv helped him out a lot, showing him the ins and outs of what it takes to become a successful Jockey. To get your Jockey license and ride races at Gulfstream, you must be at least 18 years old. On April 14th, his 18th birthday Romero had his first ride, a horse his uncle Aubrey gave him the mount on. But the horse flipped in the paddock and was scratched. But the very next day he rode his first race as a professional Jockey, and he got his first victory on his fourth mount at Gulfstream, a horse named As it Happens for trainer Chuck Simon on April 28th, 2018. “Funny story about how I got that mount was that Chuck Simon messaged me on Facebook asking me if I wanted to ride his horse for him and I replied Of Course! And we won in gate to wire fashion, leaving no doubt of the victory. It was an amazing feeling, a childhood dream come true, and having my whole family there rooting me on made it even more special.”
Romero’s first stakes win was aboard a horse aptly named, A Bit Special in the My Dear Peggy September 29, for trainer Patrick Biancone. “Actually that day I ended up getting 2 stakes wins, a stakes double for me and Patrick. The second one was aboard Lafta, and we won the Monroe Stakes, also in Gate to Wire fashion.”
He entered the 2018-19 Championship Meet with high hopes, even though he would be facing a top colony of riders including Javier Castellano, Luis Saez, John Velazquez and brothers Irad and Jose Ortiz amongst others..
But on January 31st, 2019 in the first race, as Romero’s horse Classic Act was heading into the final turn, she started to tire, “run out of gas”, and clipped heels with another horse ridden by Paco Lopez that had cut in front of them. Maragh took a terrible fall, fracturing two vertebrae in his spine and was knocked unconscious for 30 minutes. He doesn’t remember anything after going down.
He underwent an emergency six-hour procedure to fuse four vertebrae, had a titanium rod inserted to stabilize his spine, and was fitted with an upper-body brace that he had to wear for a few months.
“The first three or four months was a little rough. I really couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t bend over and had physical therapy 3 to 4 times a week. In November, my doctor said if I wanted to, I could start getting on horses. He said he could clear me to ride but to take it easy at first. I told him not to worry as I won’t ride hard or race until I’m 100% sure I’m physically fit, healthy and ready”
When the calendar turned to 2020, Romero got on his first horse since his injury. “It wasn’t too different, it felt like business as usual, but it also felt great to be back riding again.”
It all came full circle yesterday. He had a ride in the 8th race aboard 5/2 shot Rayo My King, who took the lead out of the gate and into the final turn, until tiring late. “Everyone in the Jockey room was great, they welcomed me back with open arms. I really appreciated that. Putting silks back on was an adrenaline rush. And then walking into the paddock / walking ring it was kind of refreshing, felt really good. Having a few trainers come up to me and welcoming me back felt nice. Victor Barboza came up to me and said I’m so glad to see that you’re back. And then I saw all my family around my horse, #2, that was great, made me smile. But once I walked up to my horse it was game time and I just focused on the horse and my job at hand.”
Romero is listed on 1 mount this coming Thursday for Trainer William Hickey, and has 2 mounts on Friday, 1 for Jason Servis and the other for Brandon Walsh, and hopes to get back to a regular riding schedule soon. “I’m just playing it by ear. We have a little more than 3 months left in the meet. I still have my apprentice Bug, a 5lbs allowance for a few more months, and then once that’s gone let’s see where we are at. You never know I could get the ride on a couple of really nice horses that could take places, but we will see. It’s just great to be back riding again!
Since his injury Romero spent time away from the track by coaching boys and girls soccer at his old school, McArthur High School, and still does today so long as his schedule permits him. He’s working horses in the morning at Palm Meadows and is looking forward to getting back to winning races. He was quick to thank all the trainers and owners who have supported him, and encouraged his comeback. He made special mention of Patrick Biancone who has supported Romero since he began his career and has never wavered.
Romero’s as nice a young man as you could ever meet, and it’s easy rooting for him to have a healthy and winning meet. Welcome back Romero!!!
A Maryland native, Ed Cofiño moved to Florida 25 years ago as a golf professional but has spent time around horses his entire life. His exploits in racing include sitting on the backs of greats such as Secretariat, Spectacular Bid and Barbaro. Follow Ed on Twitter at @ItsMeEddieC.