(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:

1 Florent Geroux 161 32 25 21 $2,005,837 20% 78 48%
2 Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 219 40 34 32 $1,789,237 18% 106 48%
3 Corey J. Lanerie 224 35 50 44 $1,778,103 16% 129 58%
4 Mike E. Smith 9 1 1 2 $1,582,500 11% 4 44%
5 Jose L. Ortiz 18 5 5 1 $1,523,228 28% 11 61%
6 Ricardo Santana, Jr. 141 24 29 14 $1,178,986 17% 67 48%
7 Julien R. Leparoux 115 24 16 16 $971,048 21% 56 49%
8 Shaun Bridgmohan 96 21 14 14 $853,432 22% 49 51%
9 John R. Velazquez 14 3 1 0 $614,715 21% 4 29%
10 Robby Albarado 110 11 14 11 $601,795 10% 36 33%
11 Chris Landeros 75 13 10 9 $577,946 17% 32 43%
12 Adam Beschizza 121 12 9 16 $535,675 10% 37 31%
13 James Graham 114 15 13 9 $473,548 13% 37 32%
14 Gabriel Saez 120 10 16 12 $462,647 8% 38 32%
15 Javier Castellano 17 0 4 3 $415,904 0% 7 41%
16 Edgar Morales 117 15 15 18 $408,877 13% 48 41%
17 Irad Ortiz, Jr. 12 1 0 4 $404,840 8% 5 42%
18 Joseph Rocco, Jr. 84 12 8 7 $392,894 14% 27 32%
19 Channing Hill 81 11 10 13 $385,848 14% 34 42%
20 Jack Gilligan 81 11 7 9 $370,128 14% 27 33%
21 Mario Gutierrez 2 1 0 1 $316,800 50% 2 100%
22 Calvin H. Borel 78 7 7 11 $301,190 9% 25 32%
23 C.J. McMahon 105 7 4 17 $247,623 7% 28 27%
24 Joel Rosario 18 1 3 2 $242,551 6% 6 33%
25 Declan Cannon 78 7 8 7 $238,012 9% 22 28%
26 Tyler Gaffalione 2 1 0 0 $224,330 50% 1