Samy Camacho wins last year’s $100K Wolf Hill aboard Breakthrough (Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)
Camacho Looking To Provide A Challenge To Paco Lopez For Leading Rider Honors At Monmouth Park This Summer
Tom Luicci/Monmouth Park
OCEANPORT, N.J.— With Paco Lopez already off to a fast start in his quest for his 10th riding title at Monmouth Park, the annual question is out there again: Can anyone challenge him for the top spot?
For the first time since 2019, when Lopez caught and passed Nik Juarez for leading riding honors on the final day of the meet, the answer could be yes.
Samy Camacho arrived at the 51-day meet off his third straight riding title at Tampa Bay Downs, and fourth in the past five years, and with a commitment to ride first call for trainer Chad Brown’s horses at Monmouth Park.
With Friday racing being added to the live racing calendar this weekend, Camacho is listed to ride in four of the eighth races. First race post time for Friday racing, which will run through the end of August, will be 2 p.m.
“I know Paco is the jockey to beat here,” said Camacho. “But everywhere I ride, every meet, my goal is to be leading rider. Paco has the business. But I know what I have and I have confidence in my ability.”
Camacho, a 35-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela, already has some catching up to do, since Lopez currently holds a five-win lead (14 to 9) over him.
“Realistically, we know it’s tough beating Paco Lopez at Monmouth Park,” said Mike Moran, Camacho’s agent and the brother of Lopez’s agent, Cory Moran. “But we’re going to give it a try. That’s the goal. Paco has been on top for a long time here so you know it’s a big challenge.”
Lopez’s stranglehold on the top spot at the Jersey Shore track is the stuff of sports dynasties. He has won four straight Monmouth Park riding titles and eight of the past 10. Only Joe Bravo, with 13, has won more riding titles in track history.
But Camacho is closing in on 1,200 career wins and has momentum from his Tampa Downs success.
“I’m very happy where I am right now,” he said. “I never thought I would be the leading rider anywhere.”
Born into a racing family, Camacho started riding in the United States in 2012, winning 32 races. But a combination of homesickness and youthful impatience saw him return to Venezuela for almost two years. He rode and galloped in his native country until deciding to give it another try in the United States.
“I didn’t have the patience or the maturity then. My riding was nowhere near what it is now,” he said.
The light bulb moment for Camacho’s career came in 2018.
“I started to wonder why I was winning but not riding for the top trainers. What was the reason?” he said. “So, I started watching videos of Ramon Dominguez and Garrett Gomez and I started to learn a lot more. I watched them break, saw how they got good position, saw how they would save ground and be patient and then save enough to get something out of a horse when it mattered most. I saw things I needed to do to be successful.”
The highlight so far of Camacho’s career was booting home 49-1 shot King Guillermo in the 2020 Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, which had him Kentucky Derby-bound. Two days before the Derby the horse was scratched.
“I cried a lot when that happened. I still cry when I think about it,” said Camacho. “That’s one of my next goals – to ride in the Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Cup, graded races. I want more. I feel I am still learning. I don’t think you ever stop learning. That is how you get to the next level. That’s why I started coming to Monmouth Park, to get more opportunities.”
Camacho finished tied for third in the Monmouth Park standings a year ago with 41 winners (Lopez had 91) but dominated at the Tampa Downs meet with 114 wins, more than double the total of runner-up Jose Ferrer.
It was Ferrer in 2018 who was the last jockey to finish ahead of Lopez in the Monmouth Park rider standings.