Valdivia Dominating at Arlington; Morales Off to Fast Start at Ellis Park

If there was ever any doubt to identify the leading jockey for this year’s Spring/Summer race meeting at Arlington Park, there is no more. As they used to say about the television hero in the Western shows, he has ridden off into the sunset.

Jose Valdivia Jr., who has become a perennial riding champ and one of the top jocks in all of the Midwest, is currently dusting and share cropping his opposition.

After Sunday’s races were concluded, Valdivia had rung up 56 trips to the winner’s circle this meet at Arlington. That is just a mere 20 wins more than his closest competition in Mitchell Murrill.

To date, Valdivia has had 193 mounts — five fewer than Murrill — and has totaled a resume of 56-30-32. That amounts to a win percentage of .29%, and his horses have hit he board an amazing .61% of the time.

Valdivia’s dominating season is also evidenced by his lead in purses earned. So far, his mounts have cashed in for over $1.194 million in winnings.

Ellis Park Riders:

Down at the ole’ “Pea Patch” — formally known as Ellis Park — there are a few new names popping up on the leader board. After Sunday’s racing was all said and done, the leading rider is none other than Edgar Morales.

Who, you might ask?

The kid just began riding professionally last October, and is still clinging to his apprentice allowance. But if he keeps going like he is right now, that title soon may disappear — along with the weight considerations that go along with it.

To date, Morales has riden 51 horses so far this meet at Ellis Park, located in Henderson, KY. He has totaled 11 wins, 8 seconds and 9 thirds. And, his horses have earned over $200,000 in purses so far.

That gives “The Kid” a one-win edge over James Graham, who has a record of 10-2-10 in 46 rides so far. He currently leads the “Purses Won” column with over $274,000 in money won.

Back in third is Gabriel Saez, who has put up a record of 7-3-5 in the first 31 months this meet.

Jennie Rees, the Eclipse Award-winning journalist who now does public relations for the track, recently caught up with both Morales and his agent, former rider Julio Espinoza.

Here is what they had to say about their most recent success:

Espinoza: “It’s a long meet yet, but we’re off to a good start. I’m looking forward to having a big meet, maybe even leading rider.”

Morales: “this is my first year here. But with the good horses, the trainers giving me the opportunity and a good agent, we’re doing well and working hard. It’s a tough meet here, too, but we’re working hard, paying attention and keep trying.”



The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • 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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean