Leandro Goncalves, a 27-year-old Brazilian who has been riding at tracks in the region for about three years, is enjoying a breakout season and appears poised to further raise his profile during the Fall Meet at the home of the Kentucky Derby.
After riding just seven winners during Churchill Downs’ 45-day Spring Meet, Goncalves has enjoyed a strong summer and fall capped by a riding title at the September meet at Turfway Park, his first U.S. riding crown. He was second in the standings at Indiana Downs meet and his victory total at the ongoing Keeneland meet includes an upset victory last week aboard Satans Quick Chick in the Lexus Raven Run (GII). Heading into racing on Wednesday, Oct. 28, Goncalves ranked eighth in total victories by U.S. riders with 226 wins on the year.
Goncalves will attempt to increase his stature at Churchill Downs with the aid of agent Steve Elzey, who most recently worked with jockey Miguel Mena. But it will be no easy task for Goncalves to make a significant step forward in the Nov. 1-28 Fall Meet because of the high-quality roster of world-class riders that will surround him in the jockeys’ room under the historic Twin Spires.
That room will include the winners of the last two renewals of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. One is two-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel, the regular pilot for 2009 Derby winner Mine That Bird and Kentucky Oaks (GI) and Preakness (GI) winner and “Horse of the Year” frontrunner Rachel Alexandra. The other is Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, whose victory aboard Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby was his third. Desormeaux also won this year’s Belmont Stakes (GI), Travers (GI) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) aboard Summer Bird.
Borel has earned a pair of Fall Meet riding crowns at Churchill Downs, while Desormeaux is looking for his first title at the track. Desormeaux, a three-time Eclipse Award winner, currently ranks fourth in earnings by U.S. jockeys with purses of nearly $11.6 million. Borel’s big year, headed by his rare Kentucky Derby-Oaks sweep, included another special milestone when he moved past Hall of Famer Don Brumfield into second place in career victories at Churchill Downs. He trails only Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day.
Julien Leparoux, who rode 62 winners to edge Borel for the Spring Meet riding title at Churchill Downs, will seek is third consecutive Fall Meet crown and his sixth overall. Leparoux, who ranks second in total earnings by U.S. riders in 2009 as his mounts have collected nearly $14.8 million in purses, has won five of the last seven meet riding crowns at Churchill Downs and also swept Spring and Fall meet honors in 2007.
Robby Albarado, the regular rider of “Horse of the Year” winners Mineshaft and Curlin, will pursue his second local title after leading the 2008 Spring Meet in victories. The Louisiana native ranks second in stakes wins by a jockey at Churchill Downs.
Other new faces who hope to earn repeated trips to the winner’s circle in the Fall Meet include Israel Ocampo, a 23-year-old native of Mexico City who currently leads the jockey standings at Hawthorne Park, and Chris DeCarlo, a veteran who has ridden primarily at tracks in New Jersey, Florida and New York. Back for his second consecutive Fall Meet is Chicago-based veteran E.T. Baird.
Other Churchill Downs regulars scheduled to be back for the upcoming meet include Miguel Mena, third in the 2009 Spring Meet standings; Shaun Bridgmohan, who tied with Borel for leading rider honors in the 2006 Fall Meet; Jon Court, the leading rider at this year’s Ellis Park meet following several years in Southern California; Jamie Theriot; Jesus Castanon; Larry Sterling Jr.; and Kentucky-based veterans Larry Melancon, Joe Johnson and Charles Woods, Jr. Also expected to ride at Churchill Downs during the Fall Meet is Orlando Mojica, Jr., the leading rider this year at Kentucky Downs, Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2010. The track will conduct its 2009 Fall Meet from Sunday, Nov. 1 through Saturday, Nov. 28. Churchill Downs is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record seventh time on November 5 and 6, 2010. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.