Friends and colleagues from across the horse racing industry continue to share stories of jockey Miguel Mena, who tragically passed away Sunday evening in an accident on I-64 in Louisville.
Mena was a fixture around the racetrack and spent nearly every morning breezing horses for different trainers. Away from the racetrack, the 34-year-old native of Peru would constantly update his social media pages with photos of his family, including two young daughters Naelah and Montserrat. Along with his two daughters, Mena leaves behind his wife, April, and many friends and family.
Here are some memories that were shared of Mena:
- Jason Barkley (trainer): “I don’t know that I can put into words what Miguel Mena has meant to us from Day 1. He was such a great person to be around and always smiling when he came to work. I was proud to have him ride for us and I was lucky enough to be his friend.”
- Declan Carroll (jockey) – “I’ve been lucky to know (Mena) my entire life. He was a special person and words can’t describe how much he’ll be missed.”
- Wayne Catalano (trainer): “Miguel was a wonderful young man. He came in cheerful. He was an unbelievable kid and great rider. I feel for his family and two young girls. They were his everything.”
- Emerson Chavez (exercise rider) – “I have so many good memories and stories to count – each one holds extraordinary value to me. … I’d like to thank him for welcoming me to my arrival in this country and offering me selfless friendship. … I’m devastated, sad and can’t understand everything that happened. … Seeing so many people disgraced by his sudden departure only makes me confirm the magnificent person he was.”
- Florent Geroux (jockey): “I lost more than a friend – a true brother. He’ll never be able to be replaced.”
- Tim Hanisch (agent): “I really enjoyed working with him. We had a good business relationship together but we were friends outside the track. He was one of my favorite people from the racetrack. He always had a smile on his face and was in a good mood. We’d get dinner together a lot in New Orleans at Fair Grounds. I thought a lot of him as a rider and a person. He had a really severe injury (in 2018) and admired what he showed to come back from something like that.”
- Colby Hernandez (jockey): “Miguel was not just a friend to me, he was family. There are no words that I can ever say to express our relationship. We rode for a lot of the same people and worked together almost every morning and afternoon. Things will never be the same.”
- Brian Hernandez Jr. (jockey): “We are all just going through it together. We all lost such a good friend. Miguel was always in such in a good mood. He knew how to read the racing form so well. I spent the last 15 years sitting next in jocks room. It’s just really hard knowing we won’t see him in that room again. … There are no words, post or pictures that can describe the honor, respect or love I have for Miguel. I truly loved the friendship we had.”
- Michelle Lovell (trainer): “I will always cherish the memory of us winning my first graded stakes race together. He rode a brilliant race. He’s a person I’ll never forget.”
- John Ortiz (trainer): “We lost a great friend. He was a wonderful father, husband and just a great person in general. It has been an absolute honor to have worked with him. We at Ortiz Racing send our deepest condolences to Miguel’s family. He will be missed by many and especially by all of us here.”
- Dale Romans (trainer): “He was such a good person. I don’t know anybody who had a bad word to say about Miguel.”
- Jose Santos Jr. (agent): “Over the past two years I had the fortune to work side by side with Miguel. He was one of the most likable guys I had been around. I think a lot of us who knew Miguel felt the same way. I eternally appreciate all of the opportunities he gave me and I will never forget what we accomplished.”
- Al Stall Jr. (trainer): “There was no question his talent. He caught everyone’s eye at an early age. I noticed him at Churchill in the early 2000s. The size of the race didn’t bother him at all.”
Churchill Downs will hold a moment of silence following Race 5 Wednesday (approximately 3:03 p.m.). Those who are unable to attend can view the ceremony on “America’s Day at the Races” on FS2 or through the simulcast channel on the Churchill Downs LIVE app.