I just finished watching a show on the Golf Channel that had Top 10 hardest US Open golf courses. I love watching that show, and it made me want to do a Top 10 list of my own. I was going to do my top 10 favorite all time races, but almost every one of them resulted in me making a big score! So instead, how about the Top 10 Southern California riders for the past thirty years?
Here we go . . .
10. It’s a tie between current hot shot leading riders Joel Rosario and Rafael Bejarano – Both guys certainly have the talent, and only time will tell if they can move up the ladder into the top five. I would like to see both of these guys on Triple Crown contenders and winning more Breeders Cup races.
9. Corey Nakatani – This guy has as much talent as anyone who has ever ridden a horse. He is super competitive and has the most aerodynamic way of riding. Hopefully, this guy can finish his career with a solid run and maybe move up the ladder. I would love to see Nakatani get a Kentucky Derby win to go with all his Breeders Cup success.
8. Patrick Valenzuela – We all know what could have been. This guy is a lot smarter than most people give him credit for. He won Breeders Cup races and Triple Crown races. He was the best speed rider and could get a horse out the first one hundred yards better than anyone. In the middle part of his career, he rode the grass pretty well. He had it all…………….But oh those Demons.
7. Garrett Gomez – With all this guy has overcome in his life, it’s ironic he ends up one in front of P. Val. Here is another guy I would love to see win the Kentucky Derby. He has as much patience on a horse as one could have. It still impresses me to see how much he improves a horse the first time he gets a leg up. I’m a big fan of this guy and hope he has a bright future in racing.
6. Bill Shoemaker – Ok, so I’m putting this guy low on my list. I’m certain some of you will have him at number one, but here’s the deal . . . I caught him at the tail end of his career and I never felt good if he was on a horse I liked unless it was a grade one. He has all the records, Blah Blah Blah . . . He’s still only #6. Sorry Shoe.
5. Kent Desourmeaux – He rode the best I’ve ever seen anyone ride for the first two years he was inSouthern California. He won almost thirty percent of his races atDelMar against the strongest riding colony we ever had here. He has had many personal obstacles, and I sure would like to see him overcome them. He understands pace and saving ground better than anyone. Good luck on your comeback,Kent!
4. Gary Stevens – He was the best grass rider over the last 30 years. (Sorry Fernando Toro and Kent Desourmeaux.) Of course, this guy won all the Triple Crown races and many Breeders Cup races as well. He had a great feel for how to milk a horse to the wire when they were tired. He was great on the lead or from dead last. He never seemed to be on a horse that had a bad trip. He could have easily been higher on this list as well.
3. Eddie D. – He was known for being the guy who came from last to first. He had a method to his madness and would almost always save every inch of ground. He would never start his move to soon because he knew he wanted to swing out of the turn from the rail. He was a great front running rider as well. I can remember Trevor giving him the “Deep Water” call several times and he came back to win. He was great in all the big races and on any style horse.
2. Chris McCarron – He was an artist. First of all, he loved riding the big race. He was “super cool” when it came to the money races. What I never understood about Chris was how he was able to get a speed horse clear in a race with five other speed horses with fractions two seconds slower than one would have expected!! That was a unique quality. Other than maybe Jerry Bailey, there has never been a rider that was as smart as Chris. He seemingly knew what everyone else was going to do and if he was wrong about it, he made the necessary adjustments to give his horse the best possible chance to win.
1. Laffit Pincay, Jr. – He gets the nod as the best ever Southern California rider for the past thirty years due to his incredible record, his discipline, his work ethic and his incredible will to be the best. I have never seen a rider that was as tough to go by in the lane as he was. If he was on the lead at the sixteenth pole, chances were it was all over. If he was a length behind you at the sixteenth pole, chances were it was all over. He was awesome in the big races with Triple Crown and Breeders Cup winners – too many winners to list in this blog. He was and still is as good a person as he was a rider.
Thanks for all the memories Laffit, Chris, Eddie D.,Gary,Kent, Shoe, Go-Go, P. Val, C. Nak., Joel and Rafael!
Fernando Toro – a great grass rider and had the best nick-name (The Lawnmower).
Martin Pedroza – best ever Bullring rider.
George Velasquez – He just didn’t ride here long enough to get consideration.
Sandy Hawley – The slasher could whip a horse fifty times in the stretch.
Kenny Black – What could have been?
Mike Smith – undeniable great record but has too many poor rides to make the Top 10.