From Keeneland to the Cup

October, 27, 2011
LEXINGTON, KY -- Racing wraps up at Keeneland this weekend, and it's a great feeling to be going into the final days as leading rider. My agent and I expected to have a good meet for sure, because we had good business going in, but I didn't expect quite as much excitement as we ended up having.

I know I have a lot of people behind me at Keeneland -- and in Kentucky overall -- but it wasn't always that way. In 2005 my first win at Keeneland was on the last day of the meet. That was it. But I was new in Kentucky and I wasn't expecting any big thing at the time, so it was okay to start small.

This fall, we won eight races in the first two days, and then Sunday I got very lucky. I didn't win that day, but the luck came in another way because I didn't get hurt very badly when my horse in the Bourbon Stakes ducked and threw me over the rail. It's unfortunate that the horse was hurt because he was young and talented, but thankfully no one else was involved in the spill.

After I fell off, I felt okay. All of my muscles were still hot, so I didn't feel that much pain. I just wanted to go on to my next race, and the adrenaline was still running, so I went ahead and rode in the Spinster Stakes with a taped wrist. When I went back home I didn't feel that good, but thankfully my hand was just swollen and I only had to do some physical therapy for a few days. I missed one day of riding and there was no ligament damage or broken bones at all, just bruises.

It seems like every time I fly over the rail, somebody is there to take a great picture. Matt Goins won an Eclipse Award for a shot of me in 2006, so we'll keep our fingers crossed for the one taken by Jeff Coady, the track photographer at Keeneland, this year. Maybe something good will come out of that after all.

My Grade 1 stakes win came this season in the First Lady aboard Never Retreat. She's a very nice filly and easy to ride. Before the race I was a little concerned about the post we had -- we were all the way on the outside -- but she broke very good and put me in the race going into the first turn. We just settled nice and made our move at the quarter pole and she ran very big. I'm looking forward to her next start for sure.

Last Friday I rode nine races -- I was supposed to ride 10, but one scratched -- and I knew they were good horses with a good chance before the races, but I didn't know things were going to go as well as they did. Some days, you just pretty much get all the perfect trips and everything goes amazingly well. You build this momentum of ultimate confidence when you start to win one, then two, then three … it's like an ultimate high. We ended up the day with five winners, which was not as good as when I won seven at Churchill two years ago, but I'll take it any time for sure.

Wrapping up the end of the meet is a little bit sad because I love Keeneland and all of the great racing there, but it's exciting because we get to keep on going, and next is the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 4-5 at Churchill Downs. I have a bunch of friends and family coming in for the week, so it will be a fun and busy time in addition to all of the racing-related activities. Stay tuned for more updates on my mounts and thoughts on the upcoming World Championships!



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