Hernandez Leads Race for Churchill Downs’ Jockey Title, but All Hearts Focused on Lanerie Family

(Brian Hernandez leads the race for the Churchill Downs rider’s title / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

Once again, Brian Joseph Hernandez has started to pull away in the race for the Rider’s Title for Churchill Downs’ Spring & Summer meet. But it is certainly not the way that you want to do it.

Last week, the entire racing world at Churchill Downs took a hard heart spill when it learned that Shantel  Lanerie, the beautiful and thoughtful wife of perennial riding champ Corey Lanerie, had fallen seriously ill once again, and, ultimately had succumbed in her serious battle with cancer at the tender age of 42.

Lanerie, who has won 15 riding championships at the world’s most historic racing oval, took off all his mounts for several days to stick to the side of his ailing wife. And, while the show did go on over at Churchill Downs, it grounded to a complete halt for the world of one of the most talented, gifted, personable, well-spoken, and genuine riders to have ever called Kentucky “home.”

Lanerie and his daughter did ride back to the track on Sunday to attend a heart-wrenching ceremony honoring Shantel, and her grace, style, tenacity, and fight in the final furlong of her life. It was the one trip to the winner’s circle that Lanerie surely would have liked to avoid.

In Lanerie’s absence, Hernandez was able to inch away to a 5-win lead in the number of wins by the leading riders here this meet. In 219 mounts to date, Hernandez has 40 wins, 34 seconds and 32 thirds. His horses have amassed over $1.789 million in purses. With just four days left in the meet, Hernandez has established a commanding lead.

Lanerie remains in second place with 35 wins, 50 seconds and 44 thirds in his 224 mounts. His horses have earned over $1.778 million in purses, as well. But with the funeral arrangements still in flux, it is not know yet when the Louisiana-native will return to the saddle, with so many other pressing issues at hand, and so many family situations to consider.

Florent Geroux, who leads this jockey colony with over $2.005 million in purses won, is the third leading rider in terms of races won with 32 to date. His record of 32-25-21 has been accomplished with only 161 rides this meet.

Here’s a closer look at the Top 25 riders this meet:

1Florent Geroux161322521$2,005,83720%7848%
2Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.219403432$1,789,23718%10648%
3Corey J. Lanerie224355044$1,778,10316%12958%
4Mike E. Smith9112$1,582,50011%444%
5Jose L. Ortiz18551$1,523,22828%1161%
6Ricardo Santana, Jr.141242914$1,178,98617%6748%
7Julien R. Leparoux115241616$971,04821%5649%
8Shaun Bridgmohan96211414$853,43222%4951%
9John R. Velazquez14310$614,71521%429%
10Robby Albarado110111411$601,79510%3633%
11Chris Landeros7513109$577,94617%3243%
12Adam Beschizza12112916$535,67510%3731%
13James Graham11415139$473,54813%3732%
14Gabriel Saez120101612$462,6478%3832%
15Javier Castellano17043$415,9040%741%
16Edgar Morales117151518$408,87713%4841%
17Irad Ortiz, Jr.12104$404,8408%542%
18Joseph Rocco, Jr.841287$392,89414%2732%
19Channing Hill81111013$385,84814%3442%
20Jack Gilligan811179$370,12814%2733%
21Mario Gutierrez2101$316,80050%2100%
22Calvin H. Borel787711$301,1909%2532%
23C.J. McMahon1057417$247,6237%2827%
24Joel Rosario18132$242,5516%633%
25Declan Cannon78787$238,0129%2228%
26Tyler Gaffalione2100$224,33050%1

I wasn’t concerned about the distance. No matter where you put her, she’s going to try. She’s push button. We’re looking at the Santa Anita Oaks next (Grade I, $400,000, 1 1/16 miles on April 7).

“I thought she had ’em (when asked his thoughts about her going two turns for the first time, especially in the last half-mile). When you press on her and you ask her, she just kicks it (in) . . . She’s that good. It’s not the surface.”

Bill Spawr, trainer of Midnight Bisou
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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