by NYRA Communications
Jockey Jaime Torres won 37 races on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) in 2023 to lead all apprentice riders, posting a record of 411-37-50-50 for purse earnings in excess of $2.6 million. Luis Rivera, Jr. won 27 races to finish second in the NYRA apprentice rider standings.
Torres, who was represented locally by Hall of Famer Angel Cordero, Jr., became a journeyman in October and is now based at Fair Grounds Race Course where Liz Morris has his book.
“New York is one of the toughest circuits in the country and there are a lot of experienced jockeys there. I learned so much from them and from Angel Cordero, who was my right hand and teaching me and leading me the whole meet. I feel very blessed to have had all those opportunities and I learned from it a lot. I would love to go back one day,” Torres said.
Torres, a 24-year-old native of Puerto Rico, was late in arriving to the sport but has proven to be a quick study after a visit to Hipodromo Camarero in December 2019.
“No one in my family is related to this sport. I remember one day I was at my mom's home just changing the channels and I saw the races in Puerto Rico and I had never seen anything like that – only in the movies,” Torres said. “I went to the races the next day – that was December 15, 2019. I saw the races and fell in love with it. I decided then to ask for more information about how to get into it.”
Torres spent six months training as an exercise rider at the jockey school in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida and taking out his exercise rider license to work for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. at Palm Meadows Training Center.
“I worked for Saffie Joseph for 10 months and he helped me with everything,” Torres said. “His team taught me how to exercise horses and when I told Saffie I was going to try and get my license, he gave me three horses to break from the gate and get that license. A lot of the horses I exercised for him were winning and doing really good. I really appreciate the opportunity that he gave me.”
Torres secured his first win on September 17, 2022 at Gulfstream Park, guiding Takestwotowiggle to a 13-1 gate-to-wire upset. He began riding at Aqueduct Racetrack in January where he won the bulk of his races on the NYRA circuit, scoring 24 times at the Big A topped by an allowance score in April with the Carlos Martin-trained Lady Milagro, who went on to win the Autumn Days here in November.
Torres, who captured six races at Belmont Park, won seven races at the Saratoga Race Course meet, including a pair of maiden special weights with MyRacehorse’s Seize the Grey for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and with Leslie's Loot for trainer James Chapman, who co-owns the Fast Anna filly with Stuart Tsujimoto.
“I remember every moment and every win I had in New York, but the first win for D. Wayne Lukas with Seize the Grey was very special. The kind of trainer he is - he's a legend,” Torres said. “I remember Angel Cordero told me to visit his barn just to introduce me and, for me, that was a moment I will never forget. I didn't know I was going to ride for him and then one week I saw Seize the Grey was one of my commitments. I thought, 'Wow. I can't believe I'm going to ride for him.'
“And then I saw I was going to also ride for MyRacehose and that made me very happy,” continued Torres. “When I first started to know about this sport it was the same year they won the Kentucky Derby with Authentic. For it to end like that with a win, that was very special.”
Torres, who finished second in the Grade 2 Herb Moelis Saratoga Special with the Lukas-trained Market Street, said winning a race in Saratoga is an experience like no other.
“It was the best feeling. The fans give you a lot of support and they make you feel really good. When the kids ask you for a picture or to sign their book, that's very special,” Torres said.
Torres rode in Kentucky after the Spa meet ended but he reunited with Leslie's Loot at the Fair Grounds to notch his first career stakes win in the Letellier Memorial on December 23 as part of a lucrative day that also saw Torres win the Richard R. Scherer Memorial with the Michelle Lovell-trained Just Might.
“Wow, what a moment,” Torres recalled. “I remember saying to my father that I was just coming here to do what I love - with no pressure and following instructions. I gave it 100 percent and thank God it finished like that. I really thank James Chapman and Michelle Lovell for the opportunities.”
Torres said the relationships and learning experiences developed in New York have helped shape his career which is on an upward trajectory as he currently sits sixth in the Fair Grounds jockey standings with 14 wins.
“I feel very blessed for everything that is going on in my career. I never thought it was going to be that quick,” Torres said. “Joe Sharp and his owners have really helped me and supported me to achieve all my goals. Tom Morley and Ray Handal are here at Fair Grounds and I feel very blessed when I ride for them. They're all very nice people and saw me growing up in this business.”
Torres, who said he hopes to return to Saratoga this summer, will look to add to his stakes totals on Saturday at Fair Grounds when he pilots the Lovell-conditioned Redifined in the Nelson J. Menard Memorial as he continues to chase his racing dreams.
“I want to win a meet somewhere and just keep learning and make the most of the opportunities people are giving me. I appreciate all of them. One day, I would like to become one of the best jockeys in the country,” Torres said.
Summers preparing stakes contenders for home and overseas
Trainer Chad Summers will have a pair of stakes contenders in the Middle East for RRR Racing in Grade 2-winner Clapton and multiple graded stakes-placed Drew's Gold, who are both currently preparing at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.
Clapton, a now 5-year-old Brethren colt, captured the Grade 3 Ghostzapper in April at Gulfstream Park for his former conditioner Juan Alvarado. He was purchased privately by Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi’s RRR Racing out of a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Suburban in July at Belmont Park and subsequently joined up with Summers at Saratoga Race Course.
He posted a fourth-place finish in the Spa's Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 1 and followed with a rallying win in the Grade 2 Lukas Classic on September 30 at Churchill Downs. Last out, he failed to fire his best shot when 11th in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic on November 4 at Santa Anita Park.
Clapton, who breezed six furlongs with blinkers on from the gate in 1:12.90 Wednesday with Tyler Gaffalione up, will target the Group 1 Maktoum Challenge on January 26 at Meydan Racecourse, a qualifier for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup slated for March 30.
Drew's Gold, a private purchase in the fall from his former trainer James Chapman and Stuart Tsujimoto, was last seen finishing fifth in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course. The now 4-year-old Violence dark bay won his first four starts, including scores in the Jimmy Winkfield in February at the Big A and the Gold Fever in May at Belmont. He picked up a Grade 1 placing with a runner-up effort in the Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun in June at Belmont.
Drew's Gold, who worked five-eighths from the gate in company in 1:01.95 Wednesday, will target a pair of Group 3 1200 meter tests [about six furlongs] in the Al Shindagha Sprint on January 26 with an eye towards the Al Shimaal on March 2 and the long-term goal of reaching the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30.
"They're going to leave on January 11 to go over to Dubai, so we're excited," Summers said. "It's a lot of pressure to run in the backyard of His Highness, but Clapton is a cool horse and I really think he's going to love that track with the long stretch and wide, sweeping turns will really play into his repertoire.
"With Drew's Gold, we'll look at the sprint race on January 26 and if he makes that race great," Summers continued. "If not, we'll wait for Super Saturday on March 2 and the goal is the Golden Shaheen on March 30."
Gold Square's White Chocolate has posted a 4-2-2-0 record since joining Summers' barn this year, including an off-the-turf maiden score in August sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs over a sloppy and sealed main track and a last-out allowance sprint here on December 10 over a similarly sloppy and sealed main track.
The last-out effort by the City of Light 4-year-old filly, which matched a career-best 86 Beyer, came on the heels of a pacesetting second to Jersey Pearl in the Cheryl S. White Memorial on November 20 at Mahoning Valley Race Course.
"We weren't complaining when it came up sloppy last time, that's for sure," said Summers, with a laugh. "It was back a little quick. It was only 20 days back from the race at Mahoning Valley but she was doing good and with the 10 day [holiday] break coming and no other race for her at the time, we figured we'd see how she's doing. She continues to progress."
Summers said White Chocolate will point to either the Listed seven-furlong Interborough on January 20 here or the six-furlong What a Summer on the same day at Laurel Park.
"She's a very nice three-quarter horse, but most of the opportunities later in the year for fillies and mares are seven-eighths, so the question is do you go and try something new and see if she can handle it or stay doing what she does best. We'll take a look at both and make the best decision on the fields and what it looks like," Summers said.
White Chocolate is out of the Pomeroy mare Edith Court, who is a half-sister to dual Grade 1-winning New York-bred millionaire Palace.
Joseph Hardoon's Mama's Gold has won his last three outings here - all contested over sloppy and sealed main tracks - topped by a last-out 13 1/2-length romp in a nine-furlong optional-claimer on December 3 that garnered a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure.
The now 4-year-old Bolt d'Oro colt launched his career with Mike Maker and was haltered by Summers for $25,000 out of a 21 1/4-length score in January at the Big A. He followed with a trio of distant off-the-board efforts for Summers before transferring to Brad Cox and landing a distant fourth in a Churchill Downs allowance in May.
Mama's Gold returned to action with Summers this summer at the Spa and was a close second here when dropped in for a $25,000 tag in September traveling one mile.
"He was a little bit of a puzzle wrapped in a conundrum for a while," Summers said. "We got him after he broke his maiden by 21 lengths and he had the fastest sheet number in the country at the time besides one Bob Baffert horse. He trained like a really good horse but really disappointed us the first couple times he ran. He went to Kentucky with Brad and did more of the same. We were 10 minutes away from sending him to Finger Lakes and thought maybe we'll just try and stretch him out and see if that helps.
"He ran a really good second when we dropped him in class and it got his confidence back," continued Summers. "We did some work on him where we three-quartered his shoe which helped his action behind. He's a funny horse because he just keeps getting more and more brave. You see the change in him over the last six months. He's put on some weight and as he's won he's hollering for his food and thinks he's the big horse in the barn now. It's cool to see."
Mama's Gold, who worked a half-mile in 49 flat Sunday over the Belmont dirt training track, is targeting an allowance tilt on January 13 here with an eye towards the one-mile $100,000 Haynesfield on February 24 here for older state-breds.
"The great thing with the New York-bred program is you can win a few races and you're still eligible for an open 'a other than,'” Summers said. “We'll go that path and look at the Haynesfield."
Mama's Gold, a half-brother to graded stakes-placed Rotknee and stakes-winner My Mane Squeeze, is out of the Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama.
Summers will look to kick off a run of stakes successes on Saturday when he sends out RRR Racing’s Kentucky homebred Rayya Valentine in the $150,000 Ladies, a nine-furlong route for 4-year-olds and up.
The regally-bred 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road is out of the 2018 Group 3 UAE Oaks-winner Rayya, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Curlin Road.
Rayya Valentine will exit post 3 in rein to Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Shimmering Allure targets $100K Busanda
Walking L Thoroughbreds’ graded stakes-placed Shimmering Allure will make her third consecutive start at Aqueduct Racetrack when taking on the nine-furlong, $100,000 Busanda for sophomore fillies on January 13 for trainer Kenny McPeek.
The Busanda is the first Kentucky Oaks prep race of the year in New York, and offers the top-five finishers 20-10-6-4-2 qualifying points, respectively, towards the prestigious Grade 1 test on the first Friday in May at Churchill Downs.
Shimmering Allure has posted two recent works at Belmont Park in preparation for the Busanda, including a half-mile breeze in 49 seconds flat on Saturday.
“She’ll get one more maintenance breeze before she runs,” said McPeek.
“She’s very professional and it’s not complicated with her. She’s in a nice routine and at this stage, we’re proud of what she’s accomplished. Hopefully she can accomplish more.”
The daughter of Enticed was last seen finishing second to Life Talk in the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle traveling nine furlongs at the Big A main on December 2. There, the dark bay stalked two lengths off the pace in fifth as Life Talk led each step of the way and marked splits of 24.10 seconds, 48.65 and 1:13.10 over the muddy and sealed main track.
Shimmering Allure was asked for her best in the turn by Junior Alvarado and steadily made up ground in the three-path to be within two lengths of the lead at the top of the lane, but could not reel in Life Talk as she completed the course 3 3/4 lengths ahead in a final time of 1:51.10. Shimmering Allure was awarded a career-best 79 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort, and collected five qualifying points towards the Kentucky Oaks.
“It was another professional run and she’s rock-solid,” said McPeek. “I don’t know that we’ll keep her in New York all winter, but we’ll see.”
The Busanda is also expected to attract Most Of All and Princess Mayfair with Gin Gin, Class Act and Zuma among the possible starters.
The consistent filly has hit the board in 5-of-7 lifetime outings, including a fourth-out graduation in a restricted maiden in September at Churchill Downs, and a respectable fourth-place effort in the Grade 1 Alcibiades in October at Keeneland where she was headed out of show honors by Alys Beach. She followed with a strong three-length triumph from off-the-pace in the one-mile Tempted in November at the Big A ahead of her Demoiselle effort.
A $40,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale, Shimmering Allure is out of the stakes-placed Wild Again mare Shimmering Tale and is a half-sister to stakes-placed winners Shimmering Dream and My Daughter’s Song. She boasts a lifetime record of 7-2-3-0 with $239,095 in total purse earnings.