by Bailey Gallison for Arlington Park
Over the years, Arlington International Racecourse has been a welcoming venue for riders to get their start or make a name for themselves, and that has held true in the 2017 season. Veteran jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr. has put on a clinic, winning over 130 races in 69 days and finishing in the top three placings at a 65% clip on his way to a third leading rider title.
Meanwhile, three other jockeys landed their first career win in North America at the Chicagoland oval this summer. Anthony Nunez, a native of Puerto Rico who rode his first race in January at the Hipodromo Camarero, was aboard his third mount of the meet Let’s Skip Fiji ($29) when he captured his first career win on June 2. Italian-born Sofia Rodriguez brought her riding experience from Maronas Racetrack in Uruguay to Arlington and rode her first North American victory aboard longshot Bartbaalu ($53.60) on June 23.
On an expedition to expand his riding repertoire came Australia’s Blake Shinn. The Melbourne Cup-winning jockey arrived in June for a five-week working holiday during which he trained in Maryland and worked horses for Wesley Ward at Belmont Park and Keeneland. Shinn secured his first North American win aboard the Arlington Racing Club’s Brisson ($5) on June 17, and returned home with a total of 11 wins from 74 mounts.
Apprentice jockey Carlos Ulloa rode his first winner at Hawthorne in November, but it was this summer at Arlington that he earned his 40thvictory aboard Briar’s Gold ($13.40) on July 1 to reduce his weight allowance to five pounds. Out for eight weeks of the season with a broken collarbone, the native of Puerto Rico returned on Sept. 14 to win with his first mount back Away She Glows ($13).
The race for second in the jockey standings will likely come down to the wire between Santo Sanjur and Chris Emigh, who each have over 50 wins. Both riders have earned over $1 million in purses this season, and Emigh, who has won more than 3,800 career races, earned his 1,000th win at Arlington aboard Baltic Star ($15) on July 2.