The most important year in the riding career of veteran jockey Corey Lanerie is heading into the homestretch, and the Louisiana native is hoping the momentum of 2012 will carry over to new goals in the year to come.
Lanerie staked out a spot in the upper echelon of Kentucky-based jockeys when he arrived from Texas in 2005 to ride full-time in the Bluegrass State. But it took seven years of persistence for Lanerieâ€™s breakthrough, which arrived in the second half of the 38-day Spring Meet at Churchill Downs.
He chased jockey Shaun Bridgmohan through most of the first half of the Churchill Downs racing meet that opened a week before the Kentucky Derby. But Lanerie launched a scorching stretch run on May 27 by riding a career-best six winners in a single day. That was just one win shy of the all-time one-day win record shared by Hall of Famer Pat Day and Julien Leparoux.
Over the meetâ€™s final 19 days, Lanerie visited the winnerâ€™s circle 47 times in a performance that recalled the dizzying success enjoyed by Day when Churchill Downsâ€™ all-time leading rider was at the absolute top of his game. He ended the meet with 71 wins and a comfortable cushion of 24 victories over Bridgmohan, who finished as runner-up in the battle for leading rider.
Dream Come True
It was his first riding crown at Churchill Downs, a track that seemed like only a distant dream during his early days of riding in Louisiana and Texas.
Long regarded as one of the nicest and most approachable jockeys in Kentucky racing, Lanerie was touched by the response to the stellar meet that he calls his â€œbiggest accomplishmentâ€ from fans, fellow riders, owners and trainers.
â€œI canâ€™t tell you how many people have said that theyâ€™re glad to see this happen to a good person,â€ Lanerie said.Â â€œThey say, â€˜Itâ€™s good to see a nice guy finish first.â€™ And thatâ€™s a big compliment to me. Iâ€™ve got a good reputation and I hope to keep it up like that. It means a lot to me and my family, for sure.â€
Family And Golf
The 37-year-old Lanerie has remained busy since his memorable spring beneath the Twin Spires. He tied with fellow Louisiana rider Brian Hernandez Jr. for the riding title at Hendersonâ€™s Ellis Park. And he has spent much time with his two major off-track focuses: his family â€“ wife Shantel and daughter Brytlynn â€“ and his golf game.
He is riding now at Keeneland, and hopes for a strong Fall Meet at Churchill Downs that would provide a big assist to a planned venture into new territory during the winter. Lanerie has spent all of his winters riding in Florida and plans to spend the cold weather months this time around at Floridaâ€™s Gulfstream Park.
â€œI hope to win the meet and doing again,â€ Lanerie said. â€œI am talking about going to Gulfstream, so it would be good to be leading rider, or just have another really good meet, to build some momentum.â€
Lanerie, the son of a jockey-turned-trainer and grandson of a horse trainer, might be in the midst of a career year, but that does not mean next year canâ€™t be better. While he has won a lot of races at Churchill Downs in this and previous meets, he awaits his first ride in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, the trackâ€™s signature event and the biggest event in American racing.
The horses racing in Florida this winter will include plenty of talented 3-year-olds with an eye on running at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. If his momentum and luck hold in the months to come, perhaps Lanerie will return to Louisville in the spring with a serious mount in the â€œRun for the Roses.â€
He told us
Last weekâ€™s â€œFallStars Weekendâ€ at Keeneland confirmed what was speculated in this corner a week ago: two Kentucky-based stars â€“ Wise Dan and Groupie Doll â€“ loom as major stars of the Breedersâ€™ Cup Championships set for Nov. 3 and 4 at Southern Californiaâ€™s Santa Anita.
Wise Dan dominated a good field in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile and solidified the belief of many â€“ including this writer â€“ that Morton Finkâ€™s 5-year-old gelding is the best horse competing on any surface in America. He has Grade I wins on turf and dirt and has scored emphatic victories in three stakes races on synthetic tracks, though none have been Grade I affairs.
Trainer Charles Lopresti said after the race that he continues to lean toward running Wise Dan on grass in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Mile rather than bid for the $5 million Classic on the dirt. Wise Danâ€™s only loss this year came in a narrow defeat in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, a track over which he had romped last November in the Grade I Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare.
â€œListening to everybody talk, I think he deserves to run in the Classic,â€ Lopresti said. â€œI just watch those races at Santa Anita. Maybe that trackâ€™s a little bit loose. It doesnâ€™t seem like it was as tight as it was â€“ just to me, anyway. If you watch him in the Stephen Foster, his action wasnâ€™t the best. In the Clark (the track) had a lot of moisture and it was tighter.â€
Lopresti has a couple of weeks to consider his options, and both are really good.
Groupie Doll underscored her status as one of the countryâ€™s most talented sprinters, male or female, with an easy victory in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at the Lexington track.
The filly is set to run in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint for her owners, a partnership headed by owner-breeder Fred Bradley of Frankfort and his son, Buff, who trains the filly. She probably would fit well against males in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Sprint, a race in which fillies and mares have historically done well, but the female version is run at seven furlongs â€“ Groupie Dollâ€™s best distance â€“ rather than the six furlongs for the open version.
Wherever they run, Wise Dan and Groupie Doll should provide fans back home in Kentucky with plenty of reasons to cheer on Breedersâ€™ Cup weekend.