Vazquez Plotting Move Following Career Win in the Rebel Stakes

Friday, March 04, 2022

Vazquez Plotting Move Following Career Win in the Rebel Stakes

Coinciding with an ascent in his riding career, Ramon Vazquez is about to make a career change, his agent, Bill Castle, said Thursday morning.

A post-Oaklawn fixture in recent years at Prairie Meadows, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Vazquez is “leaning towards” moving his tack to “Kentucky, New York” after the 2021-2022 meeting ends May 8, Castle said.

“At the moment, I would say 99 percent that’s the direction to some degree,” Castle said. “Ramon will be Kentucky and go to New York and probably get into New York early. I really truly hope that people will give him an opportunity and support and that will absolutely make a decision whether Kentucky is a good fit.”

A Puerto Rico native, Vazquez has gained traction nationally the past year after piling up graded stakes victories from coast-to-coast aboard marathon specialist Lone Rock for 2020 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro and scoring his most lucrative career victory to date in last Saturday’s $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) aboard one-eyed Un Ojo, a 75-1 long shot, for trainer Ricky Courville.

The Rebel, among four Kentucky Derby points races at Oaklawn, propelled Vazquez, 38, to “Jockey of the Week” honors for Feb. 22-27 in a vote of racing experts. The award is open to members of the Jockeys’ Guild, an organization that represents more than 1,000 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.

“I think that taking him into a little bit of Kentucky and then back into New York would be a wise move for him,” said Castle, who also represents 2019 Oaklawn riding champion David Cohen and apprentice Erick Medellin in Hot Springs. “That’s absolutely the plan. It’s time. He’s been riding a lot of years. He’s got 3,500 wins. In Puerto Rico, he set all the records there.”

Vazquez entered Friday with 25 victories, including a single-season best three stakes, to rank fourth in the 2021-2022 Oaklawn standings. His $2,045,509 in purse earnings ranked second. Vazquez also won the inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes Dec. 18 aboard Lone Rock and the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 12 aboard Miss Bigly for Southern California-based trainer Phil D’Amato.

Vazquez and Diodoro teamed to win the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses in 2016 at Oaklawn with Subtle Indian and their business relationship took off again during the 2021 meeting after Lone Rock won an allowance race at 1 ½ miles in April.

Vazquez then guided Lone Rock to victories in the $130,000 Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes at 1 ½ miles in April at Churchill Downs, $400,000 Brooklyn Stakes (G2) at 1 ½ miles in June at Belmont Park, $120,000 Birdstone Stakes at 1 ¾ miles in August at Saratoga and the $250,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (G2) Nov. 6 at Del Mar in which he set a track record for 1 5/8 miles (2:42.61). The Isaac Murphy marked Vazquez’s first career Churchill Downs stakes victory. The Brooklyn was his first career mount at Belmont Park. Lone Rock represented Vazquez’s first career victory at Saratoga.

Vazquez’s other signature victories last year included the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer and $300,000 Indiana Derby (G3) at Indiana Grand aboard Mr. Wireless for trainer Bret Calhoun and the $400,000 Steve Sexton Mile Stakes (G3) at Lone Star for trainer Mike Maker. Vazquez also won the $400,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs aboard Dream Lith for Diodoro.

“He’s always, to me, the last eight, 10 years that I’ve known the guy, he’s always been an A1 rider,” Diodoro said. “But because of different situations, he’s been treated as an A2 rider. It’s not like he just got better. That’s my opinion. He’s always been good.”

Vazquez was named on six horses Friday at Oaklawn. He is scheduled to return Saturday to Southern California for three stakes engagements at Santa Anita, including the $500,000 Beholder Mile (G1) aboard Miss Bigly. Vazquez is still seeking his first career Grade 1 victory in the United States.

“Last year was great and this year is going along nicely,” Castle said. “Hopefully, California goes well. Do the best you can and then strike again when given the opportunity.”

Vazquez has almost 3,400 victories and more than $62 million in purse earnings worldwide in his career, according to statistics provided by Equineline. He rode his first career winner in 2002 in Puerto Rico and began riding in the United States in 2011. Vazquez has ridden each season at Oaklawn since 2012 and entered Friday with 374 career victories in Hot Springs.

Finish Lines

Weather permitting, the infield will be open for the first time Saturday. … Ava’s Grace is scheduled to work Saturday morning for her scheduled start in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles March 12, trainer Robertino Diodoro said Thursday morning. Ava’s Grace was runner-up in the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies last year. … She’s All Wolfe, runner-up in the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12, is under consideration for the Azeri, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Thursday morning. …. Azeri nominee and 2021 Fantasy winner Pauline’s Pearl is on the grounds for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. … Post positions for the Azeri will be drawn Monday. It is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 23. … Sweet Tea, the final horse solely owned by Fox Hill Farms of the late Rick Porter, is entered in Sunday’s eighth race, an entry-level allowance sprint for older females. Trained by Larry Jones, Sweet Tea broke her maiden Jan. 30. Fox Hill, which has campaigned, among others, 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, is phasing out its operation following Porter's death in June and only owns two other horses in partnership. … Sekani, winner of the $100,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred fillies in 2020, is in foal to High North and due any day, said John Gasper, racing manager for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, said Thursday morning. High North won the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes for 3-year-olds in 2018 at Oaklawn. Sekani and High North both reside at McDowell Farm, about 60 miles south of Hot Springs. Anthony campaigned both horses.