Barn Notes - 12/30/23

Compiled by Robert Yates

Call it the perfect early birthday gift.

Luis Quinonez became just the 83rd jockey to reach 4,000 career North American victories when he guided late-running Izeonpoint ($47.40) to a one-length score in Friday’s fifth race at Oaklawn, according to statistics compiled by Equibase, Thoroughbred racing’s official data gathering organization.

Quinonez, who turns 57 Jan. 6, reached the milestone on his 27,632nd mount, according to Equibase, which bases the jockey’s totals on mounts in the United States and Canada. He was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2007.

Quinonez recorded his 3,999th career victory in Oaklawn’s final race Dec. 16, but was winless with two mounts the following day. With Oaklawn dark last week (Christmas), Quinonez’s milestone chase resumed Friday. Quinonez finished seventh aboard Warhorse West in the second race – the jockey’s first mount of the day. Izeonpoint was his second.

“People asked me: ‘When are you going to win, blah, blah, blah?’ Quinonez said Saturday morning, shortly after working Stuck N Snow for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel, a longtime client. “I just tried to stay cool, be myself and just tried to let it happen. I’m very happy that it happened.”

Quinonez rode Izeonpoint for trainer Renay Borel and owner Martin Guzman. Borel is the wife of Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, a two-time Oaklawn riding champion who recorded his 4,000th career North American victory Feb. 16, 2005, at Oaklawn. Borel had ridden Izeonpoint in her last six starts, but the jockey is now based at Delta Downs in Louisiana. Quinonez was riding Izeonpoint for the first time in the $7,500 claiming sprint for females. Last of 11 early, Izeonpoint began moving toward the leaders late on the turn and struck the front in deep stretch.

“I watched the races when Calvin rode her,” Quinonez said. “It set up perfect for me. She was very professional. Every time a hole opened up in front of me, she moved right through it. I said, ‘Oh God, she’s doing the work for me.’ ”

Izeonpoint marked Quinonez’s first mount for Renay Borel, who saddled her first horse in 2019. Conversely, Quinonez has had 1,665 mounts for Von Hemel. They have teamed for 266 victories, including three stakes at the 2012 Oaklawn meeting with Alternation.

“Just really happy for Louie,” Von Hemel said Saturday morning. “We chatted about it yesterday morning and what his prospects were for the weekend. Just wished him a lot of good luck. He’s one of the good guys. Just thrilled for him.”

A native of Mexico, Quinonez recorded his first career North American victory May 10, 1989, at Canterbury in Minnesota. In addition to Oaklawn, Quinonez owns riding titles at Canterbury and Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

Quinonez became an American citizen approximately 20 years ago and now resides in Jones, an Oklahoma City suburb.

Asked about retirement, Quinonez said: “Not yet.”

“My daughter said, “Well, dad, you can’t retire until you win 4,000,’ ” Quinonez said. “So, I got there. I’m going to ride another year or two. I don’t think I’ll ride a lot, but I still feel good. As long as I feel good and make the weight, I’ll keep going. Feel good about it and make the people, the trainers and the owners happy. That’s all I can do.”

Izeonpoint was the 643rd career Oaklawn victory for Quinonez. Quinonez rode his first Oaklawn winner Jan. 31, 1998, and is now the ninth-winningest rider in Oaklawn history. Quinonez began riding in 1989 and his mounts have earned more than $81 million overall, according to Equibase.

Finish Lines

Otto the Conqueror is pointing for the $800,000 G3-Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 27 at Oaklawn, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said Friday morning. Otto the Conqueror, who is based at Oaklawn, won the $300,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 15 at Remington Park in his last start. … Jockey Eduardo Gallardo is named on horses Saturday and Sunday at Oaklawn. Gallardo (deep leg bruise) hasn’t ridden since a Dec. 15 spill at Oaklawn. … Lucky Boss ($46.40) was a nose winner of Friday’s sixth race, a $140,000 first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles, to become the first two-time winner at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting. It marked the second victory on the card for the meet’s leading rider, Emmanuel Esquivel, and the meet’s co-leading trainer, Cipriano Contreras. They also teamed to win the second race – by a nose – with Smokin’ Hot ($10.20).