By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
WINNIPEG — Assiniboia Downs jockey Jorge Carreno is what one might call, “self-aware.” As a veteran of more than 20 years on the back of a racing thoroughbred, Carreno knows there is a lot more to winning horse races than confidence or dumb luck.
“The secret, No. 1, is getting the right horses,” said Carreno, 39, who has built a 10-win lead in the jockey standings at Assiniboia Downs. “The main thing when it comes to winning is what you have under you. You have to have the right horses to have a chance.
“Sure, you have to be lucky to get a nice trip and hope that your horse is at his best that day. Experience is important and I do a lot of homework. I watch the video, I know how the horses run and especially, I study the riders. I know who is going to be on the horses that are tough to beat and I study how they ride.”
With the 74th running of the $100,000 Manitoba Derby just two weeks away, Carreno, one of the most successful Mexican jockeys has proven beyond any doubt that last year’s Champion Jockey Award was not a fluke.
Last year, his first at Assiniboia Downs, Carreno rode 267 horses and won 80 races to beat No. Stanley Chadee Jr. by 31 wins. Carreno also had 54 seconds and 29 thirds and his 30.00 winning percentage blew every other jockey right off the track.
However, even Carreno will admit that the overall quality of the ASD jockey colony last year was weakened by the inability of many of the top Caribbean jockeys to get into Canada due to COVID travel restrictions. This year, with the restrictions loosened, the jockey colony is one of the best in ASD’s history and yet Carreno not only still leads, he’s opening some distance between himself and No. 2 Chavion Chow.
After the week of July 11, Carreno has 25 wins, six seconds and 13 third-place finishes in 77 starts. Chow is next with 15 wins, seven seconds and 11 thirds in 82 mounts while Renaldo Cumberbatch is third with 14 wins, 21 seconds and 11 thirds in 77 starts. This past week, Carreno had two wins on Monday night, one on Tuesday and three more on Wednesday and what was a five-win lead two weeks ago is now a 10-win lead.
On Monday, Carreno rode winning horses trained by Carl Anderson and Brent Hrymak. On Tuesday, he rode a winner for the great Shelley Brown. And, also on Tuesday, he rode Fox Appeal for Jared Brown to victory and then on Wednesday rode Singandcryindubai to a win for Brown once again. The team of Carreno and Brown that was forged last year, has been a winning combination again this season.
“Jared has done a great job and given me some very good horses to ride,” Carreno said. “He works very hard and he always has his horses ready. Also, they are always in such good condition. He’s there every morning working really hard and it shows, you know.”
Carreno has yet to secure himself a ride in this year’s Derby although he’s prepared to be on one of 10 horses that are expected to race in the biggest race of the year. He will, however, be in full display on Derby Day, Monday, Aug. 1, as two other stakes races head to the starting gate – the $50,000 Harvey Warner Manitoba Mile for three-year-olds and upward and the $50,000 Escape Clause Stakes for fillies and mares, three-years-old and upward.
Carreno is certainly a veteran of big races. Last year, he won the 1,500th race of his career on trainer Lise Pruitt’s Amy On Tour. His first graded stakes win came in 2012 at the Canadian Derby in Edmonton, 10 years after he’d started his career. And in 2017, he rode in the Preakness Stakes, becoming one of the few Assiniboia Downs regulars ever to have ridden in a Triple Crown race.
“We finished fifth in that race,” Carrreno said. “That was a big race, the biggest race for me ever. That was exciting.”
Carreno first rode professionally in the United States in 2002. At first, he accompanied his dad to meets at Fairmount, Hawthorne and Arlington parks but when his father returned to Mexico after one of those meets, Jorge stayed behind, working the barns, galloping when he came of age and then riding. His first winner back in 2002 was a 30-1 longshot named Never Chance at Fairmount Park. Since then, he has raced just about everywhere.
“I wasn’t a jockey in Mexico, I started in the United States,” said Carreno, who has three daughters with his wife Maria. “I went from Mexico to Illinois with my father and I started racing at Fairmount. I’ve ridden at more than 17 tracks. All the California tracks – Santa Anita, Del Mar, Golden Gate — Emerald Downs in Seattle, Oak Lawn, Fairmount, Canterbury, Alberta, a lot of tracks.”
Carreno is a four-time champion jockey, twice at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. However, in the last couple of years, he had battled some injuries and was looking for a new challenge when ASD came calling.
“I was injured and at home and I got a call from my friend Mike Pierce who told me to come here to Winnipeg,” Carreno said. “I asked him what it was like here and he told me I should come and will get to ride to some good horses.
“So, I called here and I talked to them and they told me that they would like me to come here and so I’m here. It’s been a good place to make a comeback.”