Norberto Arroyo Jr., Florent Geroux and Flavien Prat are the recipients of the second annual JockeyTalk360 Awards. The talented trio will be honored Tuesday at the awards luncheon during the Jockeys’ Guild Assembly Dec. 12-13 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.
JockeyTalk360.com inaugurated the awards last year with its Comeback Jockey and Breakthrough Jockey, the latter renamed for 2016 after starting out as Most Improved Jockey. New this year is the Turf Jockey award to honor superlative riders on grass. The awards recognize outstanding performers who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization representing more than 950 riders in North America. A panel of representatives from America’s Best Racing, The Daily Racing Form, Equibase, Horse Racing Nation, The Jockeys’ Guild, The Paulick Report, The Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America determined the winners.
Breakthrough Jockey: Flavien Prat
Flavien Prat joined the ranks of racing’s elite riders with 165 wins — seven in Grade I races — and more than $12.8 million in purses through Dec. 8 during a season that included his first Breeders’ Cup victory aboard Obviously in the Turf Sprint. The French-born Prat shattered his big 2015 season, when his 85 wins and $5.2 million in purses stamped him as a jockey to watch. Prat’s 14 graded-stakes victories included Grade I scores aboard Lord Nelson (two), Avenge, Taris, The Pizza Man and Illuminant, as well as important triumphs on Hoppertunity, Bolo, Vyjack, Shane’s Girlfriend, Rocket Heat and Dreamologist as his burgeoning business sent him around the country and Canada from his Southern California base.
“This is an honor, and I’m very proud to be recognized by JockeyTalk360,” Prat said. “Thanks to all those that helped me with my success, thanks to the voters for this great award.”
Comeback Jockey: Norberto Arroyo Jr.
Norberto Arroyo Jr. has righted his life and put his career back on track in relocating to Southern California in 2016. Arroyo earned his first SoCal title at Del Mar’s short fall meet with 12 victories. That followed his close third in the Santa Anita fall meet standings with 19 — more than he won in all of 2015 — and also won 19 victories at Del Mar’s summer meet to finish sixth in the standings. At more than $3 million through Dec. 5, his 2016 purse earnings already are his highest since 2006. With the Del Mar Derby (Free Rose) and Torrey Pines (Belvoir Bay), Arroyo won his first graded stakes since 2006.
“The California stewards made this happen,” said Nelson Arroyo, his brother’s agent and a former jockey. “No one would give Norberto a license, and the California stewards trusted me saying that Norberto had changed. The No. 1 reason was God. Norberto without God would never ever have changed. For him to go from not being able to get licensed, to riding in New Mexico, where he wasn’t even doing that well there, to come here and now win this trophy — all thanks to God, the stewards in California and the trainers who gave him the opportunity. We’re here not only because of Norberto’s hard work but because he was given another chance.”
Turf Jockey: Florent Geroux
Florent Geroux won last year’s Breakthrough Jockey award (formerly known as Most Improved) and has only moved up from there in a 2016 where he will win more than 200 races and $17 million in purses. While adept on any surface, Geroux assembled a strong record on turf, where his 29 stakes and 20 graded stakes lead North America in 2016. Geroux’s 469 turf mounts had won 98 races while earning $8.5 million through Dec. 7, including Grade I triumphs on Victory to Victory, World Approval, Beach Patrol, Al’s Gal, Sea Calisi and Catch a Glimpse. He won five grass stakes on Da Big Hoss while shipping to big races around the country and Canada from his Kentucky-Saratoga-New Orleans circuit. Geroux’s turf prowess was on full display on the Arlington Million card, when he won three Grade I races, and during Kentucky Downs’ all-grass meet, when he repeated as riding champion and won five of the boutique meet’s 12 stakes.
“It’s truly an honor for Florent to receive the inaugural best Turf Jockey award from JockeyTalk360,” said Doug Bredar, Geroux’s agent. “Certainly 2016 has been a very special year for us.”