French-born jockey Julien Leparoux became only the seventh rider in Churchill Downs history to record 900 victories beneath the historic Twin Spires when Whitham Thoroughbreds’ promising 3-year-old filly With Dignity captured Sunday’s eighth race, a first level allowance/optional claiming event at 1 1/16 miles.
“I’ve been very lucky throughout my career at Churchill to ride for some very classy owners and trainers,” Leparoux said. “Nine hundred is a big number but I need to catch up to the other guys in the room like Calvin (Borel), Robby (Albarado) and Corey (Lanerie). Even though they’re way in front of me I have them beat in age.”
Leparoux joined Pat Day (2,482 Churchill Downs wins), Calvin Borel (1,226), Robby Albarado (1,181), Corey Lanerie (1,020), Don Brumfield (925) and Larry Melancon (914) in a select group of jockeys that reached 900-win milestone at Churchill Downs.
Leparoux, who will turn 36 on July 15, is the son of the late Robert Leparoux, a former jockey who became an assistant trainer. After working as a stable hand at Chantilly Racecourse in his native homeland, Leparoux ventured to the U.S. and worked as an exercise rider for fellow Frenchman Patrick Biancone before taking out his riding license in 2005.
Leparoux began riding at Churchill Downs during the 1995 Fall Meet and recorded his first victory at the Louisville track on Nov. 26, 2005 aboard Three Steps Ahead. It was his only win of that meeting.
Since then, he’s earned a pair of Eclipse Awards as the nation’s outstanding apprentice jockey of 2006 and America’s outstanding jockey of 2009. Also, he’s piloted 11 Grade I winners that earned more than $1 million in their careers: Tepin ($3,714,800), Forever Together ($2,633,200), Classic Empire ($2,520,220), Einstein (BRZ) ($1,726,893), Informed Decision ($1,691,839), Pure Clan ($1,536,624), Heart to Heart ($1,276,068), Turallure ($1,216,775), Sadler’s Joy ($1,214,800), She Be Wild ($1,084,500) and Carina Mia ($1,073,520).
With Dignity, an unbeaten half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner McCraken trained by Ian Wilkes, was Leparoux’s 2,620th career win. His lifetime mounts have amassed more than $159.6 million.
“It was great to win number 900 for Ian Wilkes,” Leparoux said. “He’s supported me a lot in my career and this filly is very nice. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with her in stakes company down the road.”