Deep new generation replaces
hall of fame riders

Jan 9, 2007 3:39 AM

The legends are gone; long live the legends.

Elvis left the building for good more than 20 years ago. He has been followed, fortunately not permanently, by Chris McCarron, Eddie Delahoussaye, Kent Desormeaux, Julie Krone, Laffit Pincay Jr., Mike Smith and Gary Stevens, not necessarily in that order.

McCarron and Stevens retired voluntarily, Delahoussaye, Krone and Pincay due to injuries. Desormeaux and Smith abandoned Southern California on a regular basis to ride on the East Coast. All seven riding icons are in racing’s Hall of Fame. Thus, the renowned Southern California circuit is completely bereft of jockeys who have been elevated to racing’s most prestigious shrine.

Times, they are a-changin’. But life goes on.

With the dawning of a new year comes new faces melding with the old in the jocks’ room at Santa Anita.

Garrett Gomez, Aaron Gryder, Jorge Chavez, Martin Garcia and Richard Migliore are among the fresh visages now riding regularly, joining an old guard which includes Victor Espinoza, Patrick Valenzuela, Alex Solis, David Flores, Corey Nakatani, Martin Pedroza, Jose Valdivia, Tyler Baze, David Cohen and Jon Court.

Official stature may be lacking in the present riding colony, but the quality is as strong ever, not to mention competition for live mounts.

"Pincay, McCarron, Delahoussaye, (Sandy) Hawley, Shoemaker and Stevens; they represented a great generation of riders," said veteran agent Richie Silverstein, who has been Pedroza’s emissary for nigh on to two decades. "Now, it’s a new generation, headed by Garrett Gomez, who was the nation’s leading money earner last year. Southern California has new faces in Chavez and Migliore, and now Brice Blanc has returned, but we still have riders like Espinoza, Nakatani, Flores, Pedroza and Solis. The depth of this riding colony is incredible."

Which tends to make earning a peso ponderous for the underlings.

"I just don’t understand how riders outside the top 18 or 20 stay on the circuit," said a slimmed-down Silverstein, who recently shed 35 pounds. "Even though we have good-sized fields and lots of opportunities for riders so far this meet, the pie has gotten smaller with the addition of Migliore, Chavez and Gryder. (Norberto) Arroyo made a good move when he left (to ride from whence he came on the East Coast)."

Thanks to loyal patrons like Jack Carava and Darrell Vienna, Silverstein and Pedroza have dependable mainstays to keep the wolf away from the door, despite a nucleus of aspiring Hall of Famers.

"Martin will get his share (of mounts), as will a lot of others," Silverstein said. "But with (agent) Tony Matos representing both Espinoza and Gryder, and Ronnie Anderson handling Gomez and Migliore, they’re going to get the biggest slice of the pie. Martin and the others will still get their piece, but it might be a smaller one."

Hope springs eternal, however. The pecking order always is subject to change, especially when the lucrative Keeneland meet begins on April 6.

"I figure when Keeneland opens, we’ll probably lose three or four top riders," Silverstein said. "That’s what usually happens."

Hall of Fame credentials or not, money, as is often the case, talks.

The Homestretch

This is News You Can Bet On as Eclipse Award winners, to be announced Jan. 22: Street Sense (2-year-old male); Dreaming of Anna (2-year-old filly); Invasor (older male and Horse of the Year); Fleet Indian (older female); Thor’s Echo (sprinter); McDynamo (steeplechase); and Julien Leparoux (apprentice jockey).

Firm but shakier votes go to: Bernardini (3-year-old male); Wait a While (3-year-old female); English Channel (male turf horse); Ouija Board (female turf horse); Darley Stud (owner and breeder); Todd Pletcher (trainer); and Garrett Gomez (jockey).

”¡ Hot Santa Anita barns: Bob Baffert, Bobby Frankel and Paddy Gallagher. Cold: Ron McAnally, who was 0-for-41 at Hollywood and 0-for-8 at Santa Anita at press time. The Hall of Fame trainer had not won a race since Oct. 22 at Oak Tree.

”¡ Todd Pletcher says $16 million colt The Green Monkey is on the farm, but multiple graded stakes winner of turf English Channel is working towards his return at Palm Beach Downs in Florida.

”¡ I still say USC (football) is No. 1.