Opinion: Jockey Joe Bravo May Be Primed for a Super 2018


(Photo of Joe Bravo)

Joe Bravo just may be ready to hear all the cheers in 2018. In fact, he made hear the words, “Bravo, Bravo, Bravo,” over and over and over. Not just because it is his name, mind you. He may hear it, like the actors do on Broadway, for his performances.

So far this meet at the Fair Grounds, Joe Bravo has made just 41 rides — due to the fact that he has been riding elsewhere, as well. But he has made the most of this time in New Orleans. Going into Thursday’s race card, Joe Bravo has put together one impressive race after another. And, after another. And the numbers are beginning to add up to what could be a special winter. And, an impressive 2018.

Through the first few weeks of the Fair Grounds Fall/Winter/Spring meeting, he has already made the winner’s circle 11 times, with 7 seconds and 6 thirds. His win percentage is a whopping .27% and he is hitting the board .59% of the time.

That is a an amazing clip, but, to be honest, it is not totally surprising. Not at all. You see, Joe Bravo can be an amazing rider. As good as anybody. Anywhere. At any time.

After all, Joe Bravo has already demonstrated that he can be one of the most elite riders of Thoroughbred horses in the world. Bar none.

Joe Bravo was born the son and grandson of jockeys George and Bartolo Bravo, and it didn’t take him long to get his first leg up on the game, too. He started riding Quarter Horses in Texas at the ripe old age of 13. He began his professional career when he got his first license at the age of 16 in 1987, and won his first race the following year. He first made his name and game known at the older Calder Racecourse in Miami in late 1988. But it was back in his old home state of New Jersey that he truly made his family name proud and his name as a rider.

To be sure, Joe Bravo dominated the New Jersey riding circle since the early 1990s. He won nine riding titles at Meadowlands Racetrack and 13 more at beautiful Monmouth Park. And, in 1997, he got his first real break — when he got the mount of Formal Gold.

But when you glance at the major racing wins that Joe Bravo has already won, you start to realize that the guy Can really ride. Just consider. He’s already won:

The Pennsylvania Derby three times;

The Sapling Stakes three times;

The Salvatore Handicap three times and the Matchmaker Stakes three times;

The Jersey Shore Breeders’ Cup Stakes five times;

The Cowdin Stakes; the Donn Handicap; the Tropical Park Derby; the Carry Back Stakes; the Frances Center Stakes, the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational in 2004; the Spectacular Bid Stakes, the Sorority Stakes, the Sword Dancer Invitational; the Hawthorne Gold Cup, and the Sheepshead Bay Stakes.

And, Joe Bravo’s list of accomplishments are just as impressive:

  • North American career earnings exceed $166 million with 5,184 wins through Sept. 18, 2017.
  • 2016 earnings were $6,460,859 with 76 wins, including the Stephen Foster (G1) on Bradester and the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) and Forego (G1) on A. P. Indian.
  • 2015 earnings were a career-best $8,398,877 with 73 wins, including the Champagne (G1) on Greenpointcrusader, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and United Nations (G1) on eventual champion Big Blue Kitten; Personal Ensign (G1) and Delaware Handicap (G1) on Sheer Drama; and Beverly D. (G1) on Watsdachances (IRE).
  • Won his 5,000th race on May 23, 2015, at Monmouth aboard Boss Man to become the 30th rider to reach the milestone.
  • Won his 4,000th on July 4, 2007, at Monmouth Park on Alotofappeal.
  • Twice won more than 300 races in a year: 1991 (357) and 1994 (346).
  • Scored the biggest wins of his career in two million-dollar races: 2004 Haskell Invitational (G1) on Lion Heart and 2008 Pennsylvania Derby (G2) on Anak Nakal.
  • In 2007, captured a record 13th riding title at Monmouth (1991-’96, 1999-’00, 2003-’07).
  • Leading rider at The Meadowlands nine times. In 1991, “Jersey Joe” became the first rider in New Jersey history to win titles at Garden State, Monmouth and The Meadowlands in a single year.
  • Is a member of the Jockeys’ Guild Board of Directors.

But, now at the age of 46 and with agent Jimmy Riccio (who just so happens to also represent a guy by the name of Jose Ortiz) by his side, Joe Bravo may be poised for a reawakening of sorts. He may be ready to be discovered, again. He may be ready for the ride of his lifetime.

It certainly appears that he has landed in the perfect wintertime home. And, it appears that his game has never been better. As with more sports, it all depends on whose team you play on, for the most part. And, Joe Bravo is beginning to play on a lot of good trainer’s teams.

On Tuesday, he got the call on a horse for trainer Larry Jones, and the duo hooked up to win a nice allowance race at the Fair Grounds. On Thursday, he is named to ride one for Tom Proctor.

With Christmas Time having come and gone, most of the dreams dancing in the heads now have to do with the 2018 Triple Crown trail — some of which runs right through New Orleans and down the stretch at the Fair Grounds. The LeComte Stakes comes on Jan. 13. Then, there’s the Risen Star. Then, there’s the Louisiana Derby.

Surely, someone will put Joe Bravo up on one of those main contenders, right?

And, what with the way Joe Bravo is riding these days, it is not too soon to dream. Of Saturday’s in May. Of garland of roses. Of Derby fever. Of a great 2018.

Such is the reason why 46 year olds continue to ride. And, some 46 year olds find that the reins fall into their hands better than ever. Such may be the time for Joe Bravo in 2018.

Here is a closer look at the rider standings at the current Fair Grounds meet:


1Miguel Mena119231710$605,72019%5042%
2Mitchell Murrill128171622$532,07013%5543%
3Shaun Bridgmohan641847$523,99528%2945%
4Colby J. Hernandez121181915$510,83015%5243%
5Corey J. Lanerie8691519$452,64010%4350%
6Florent Geroux89121314$415,12013%3944%
7James Graham8011134$398,44514%2835%
8Jose Valdivia, Jr.9691311$376,1609%3334%
9Joe Bravo411176$373,13527%2459%
10Adam Beschizza59131011$267,02022%3458%
11Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.53849$264,86515%2140%
12Gabriel Saez68935$260,64013%1725%
13Marcelino Pedroza951197$257,01012%2728%
14Chantal Sutherland9781210$255,3208%3031%
15Robby Albarado63469$182,1806%1930%
16Jamie Theriot51536$137,78010%1427%
17Aubrie Green54769$127,24013%2241%
18Diego Saenz4112$126,50025%4100%
19Jack Gilligan52287$112,3304%1733%
20Jose Riquelme41463$104,99010%1332%
21Sophie Doyle49365$98,4506%1429%
22Declan Cannon21104$68,1605%524%
23Christopher A. Emigh31342$58,99010%929%
24Edgar Morales35222$51,2906%617%
25Francisco C. Torres23112$28,1104%417%

He’s an amazing horse and I thought that he went beautiful today,” Asmussen said. “I’m very appreciative of (Track Superintendent) Pedro (Zavala) and (Senior Director of Racing) Jason (Boulet). The racetrack was in just pristine, perfect condition for a work that we felt was this important.”

Hall of Fame Trainer Steve Asmussen, about the grand champ, Gun Runner, following his work on the main track at the Fair Grounds Sunday
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    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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