An interview with Jorge Vargas
By Michael Valiante
Anyone who follows jockey Jorge Vargas knows that he was the leading jockey in Maryland for 2018. What you may not know is that he is also a huge fan of the Philadelphia 76’ers. After my recent chat with him it became clear to me that like the Sixers not only is he young, but he is also talented and hungry.
Q: Your career has really skyrocketed. When did you feel that you had taken the next step?
A: I always wanted to go forward and be better. Two years ago I began to get opportunities to ride some well-known horses for John Servis and Eddie Graham who was especially helpful to me. My victory on Postulation in the American Saint Leger at Arlington in 2017 really helped me a lot. In addition one time I was scheduled to ride Postulation in Canada and Eddie Graham introduced me to Graham Motion. We were at the airport and Mr. Motion stepped away to take a call. I was very shy. Eddie said to me, “What are you doing? Graham is one of the best trainers in the game, say something to him!” I will never forget that moment. It has led to me getting rides from Mr. Motion.
Q: Now that you are riding for some bigger named trainers and owners how do you handle the pressure?
A: I do not let the pressure get into my head. I know that when a trainer and an owner trust in my abilities I need to just concentrate on doing the best I can for them. If I am in a graded stakes race and I line up next to a big name jockey I believe in myself and I feel that I belong with them.
Q: After your encounter with Graham Motion you began to ride for him. Is he the type of trainer that issues a lot of instructions?
A: Sometimes he does. I believe he has confidence in me. I work for him a lot. Obviously he is a great horseman. He will also ask me what I think of a horse and knowing that he trusts me is huge to me.
Q: How competitive is the Maryland jockey colony?
A: It is a tough colony. You have Victor Carrasco who is a past Eclipse Award winner. Jevian Toledo, Julian Pimentel, Trevor McCarthy and Sheldon Russell to name a few. You have to work and work and work. On the track we are all business but we also look out for each other. Outside of the track I am especially close to Victor who is like a brother to me. We would do anything for each other.
Q: Do you plan to stay in Maryland for the foreseeable future?
A: Yes, but you do not know about the future because sometimes it gives you new opportunities that you cannot deny. I love Maryland and it has been so good for me I do not plan to leave anytime soon.
Q: In addition to Postulation what are the some of the other better horses you have ridden?
A: Ms. Locust Point, she is one of my babies. Also The Man. I have won so many races with him and from the first time that I rode him I felt some kind of connection between me and him.
Q: How does your girlfriend feel about your career?
A: She gives me a lot of support. She is obviously happy when I win but even when I do not win for a day or a week she keeps me positive and tells me to keep trying and that things will get better. She is one of the keys to my success. She is everything to me.
Q: How do you handle the politics of the game?
A: My dad was a trainer in Puerto Rico with a small stable of horses. You might say he was one of the little guys but he taught me a lot. Not only about training but also about life including how important it is to treat everybody with respect. He really helped me a lot.
Q: You attended jockey school in Puerto Rico. How was that? Why do so many good riders come from there?
A: It was great. My class included Victor Carrasco, Jevian Toledo, Manny Franco, Christian Hiraldo and Edgar Zayas. The teachers were all jockeys and they took a personal interest in us becoming professionals and were proud when we succeeded.
Q: When you get in your 40’s and 50’s where do you see yourself in the game?
A: My goal when I am done riding is to be a trainer. When I was a kid my dad taught me all the tasks a trainer handles and I got a good base of knowledge. That has helped me as a rider and that is how I wanted to start my career but I would like to finish as a trainer.
Q: How tough is it for you to make weight?
A: I do not have to fight weight. I take care of myself and watch what I eat but when someone offers me food that I like, I eat it.
Q: Do you like riding out of town?
A: I love to travel and meet new people and see different things. I get to travel doing what I love, so how can you beat that!
Q: Is there a track where you have not had a chance to race but would like to?
A: I would like to race at Santa Anita. A couple of years ago I tried California and had the opportunity to ride at Delmar and Los Alamitos. I worked for Art Sherman and that was a great experience but I get chances to ride more winners at Laurel and so for now I want to stay focused on that. I like to win!