(Jockey Miguel Mena / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

Miguel Mena moved his tack from Churchill Downs in Louisville down to New Orleans before the end of the Fall meet at the land of Twin Spires and is regular, full-time home.

He wanted to be ready to go when the Fair Grounds opened. He wanted to be lined up with his trainers and owners for the beginning of the long Fall/Winter/Spring meet in New Orleans. He wanted to be geared up; legged up; and amped up.

The early arrival may pay big dividends. So far, that strategy has worked. And, so has Mena. The son of a Peruvian family who has long been engaged and involved in the horse industry in South America and the son of a retired jockey, Miguel Mena — who is now 31 years old — may not only be sitting on a number of good horses these days. He may be sitting on his biggest riding title in his career, which started in 2003.

After Sunday’s racing card had ended, Miguel Mena had put up an impressive record of 36 wins, 28 seconds and 27 thirds in 211 mounts. His horses have already earned over $1 million in purses. And, he is sitting on a 2-win lead over buddy and rival Shaun Bridgmohan, who stayed back in Louisville to finish up the Churchill Downs meet before moving his tack to New Orleans.

In 127 mounts, Bridgmohan has put up 34 wins, 14 seconds and 18 third and is closing in on the $1 million, as well.

Mitchell Murrill has put up 32 wins, 25 seconds, and 34 thirds in 219 rides so far to rank third in the standings in the number of wins at the meet.

But, for now any way, the top spot belongs to Mena. On the new and improved Keeneland website, there is a biography of Mena, whose father Jose was a rider and his uncle Humberto was a trainer. There, Miguel is quoted as saying:

“I used to go to the race track all the time,” he said. “I was watching my dad ride and I wanted to do what he was doing. I got the idea in my head when I was a kid that I’m going to be a jockey.”

At the age of 11, Miguel was grooming horses for the family operation in Peru. At age 14, he was enrolled at the Jorge Bernardini Yori Jockey School. It was the same place that noted riders Rafael Bejarano and Edgar Prado got their starts. In 2003, Mena got his first win at the Jockey Club de Pure in Monterrico on Planatal, at the ripe old age of 17.

Since then, Mena has moved up the charts — like a good song.

He was the leading rider at both Turfway Park and Ellis Park in 2006. He was the leading rider at the first meeting held at Presque Isle in 2007. In 2010, he won his first Grade 1 event, capturing the Test Stakes at Saratoga on Champagne d’Oro.

In 2011 he won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on the 36-to-1 longshot Pool Play. On Feb. 4, 2012 he won four stakes at Delta Downs. In 2014, he earned over $4.4 million in purses with 120 wins, including a victory in the G2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs. In 2015, he earned over $4 million again and won the G2 Louisiana Derby and the G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds.

Now, in 2018, he may be sitting on his first riding championship at one of his favorite tracks of all time.

Here is a closer look at the current roster of leading riders this meet:

 

1 Miguel Mena 211 36 28 27 $1,000,628 17% 91 43%
2 Shaun Bridgmohan 127 34 14 18 $986,557 27% 66 52%
3 Corey J. Lanerie 186 19 39 34 $861,560 10% 92 49%
4 Florent Geroux 139 22 24 21 $852,690 16% 67 48%
5 Mitchell Murrill 219 32 25 34 $834,680 15% 91 42%
6 Joe Bravo 81 24 8 11 $706,175 30% 43 53%
7 Adam Beschizza 124 24 21 22 $625,300 19% 67 54%
8 Jose Valdivia, Jr. 147 14 17 19 $607,605 10% 50 34%
9 Colby J. Hernandez 129 19 22 15 $549,910 15% 56 43%
10 James Graham 132 16 17 13 $546,781 12% 46 35%
11 Marcelino Pedroza 168 19 22 15 $492,280 11% 56 33%
12 Chantal Sutherland 162 15 21 18 $437,944 9% 54 33%
13 Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 106 13 10 13 $434,245 12% 36 34%
14 Gabriel Saez 117 15 11 11 $423,890 13% 37 32%
15 Robby Albarado 139 10 13 17 $416,920 7% 40 29%
16 Jack Gilligan 94 10 10 13 $246,270 11% 33 35%
17 Sophie Doyle 81 8 8 9 $194,110 10% 25 31%
18 Diego Saenz 6 2 1 2 $183,638 33% 5 83%
19 Javier Castellano 7 2 1 0 $173,050 29% 3 43%
20 Jamie Theriot 71 6 4 8 $164,990 8% 18 25%
21 Jose Riquelme 78 6 12 6 $161,160 8% 24 31%
22 Aubrie Green 54 7 6 9 $127,240 13% 22 41%
23 Christopher A. Emigh 58 5 9 5 $126,010 9% 19 33%
24 Declan Cannon 39 1 2 6 $86,320 3% 9 23%
25 Edgar Morales 54 3 4 4 $74,800 6% 11 20%