Joe Bravo couldn’t contain his excitement Tuesday morning as he walked the Keeneland barn area, checking in on two of his five expected mounts for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships here Oct. 30-31.
Riding since 1988, Bravo, 44, is enjoying his best year in a decade. He is 13th in North American earnings with $7,458,828, within striking distance of breaking his career mark of $8,169,405 for a single season set in 2004. On May 23 at Monmouth, Bravo became the 31st North American rider to reach 5,000 career wins. He has ridden the earners of more than $155.4 million in his career.
“To be honest with you, I’m just glad to be part of the game,” Bravo said. “If I don’t win another race the rest of the year, I’m (still) ecstatic. It’s just nice to be able to come out here (and ride). I’ve been injured a bunch and it sucks to sit on the sideline and watch the game go by. Every day I can come out here and do this, I’m happy.”
Bravo’s biggest Breeders’ Cup shot could be Harold L. Queen’s homebred Sheer Drama, a leading contender for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) on Oct. 30. He has guided the 5-year-old mare by Burning Roma to three wins, including the Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga and the Delaware Handicap (G1), and four second-place finishes in seven starts this year.
On Oct. 30, he also is to pilot Conquest Stables’ Conquest Daddyo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The next day, Bravo is to ride Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Big Blue Kitten in the Longines’ Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1); Michael Kisber, Bradley Thoroughbreds and Nelson McMakin’s Watsdachances (IRE) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1); and St. Elias Stable, MeB Racing Stables and Brooklyn Boyz Stables’ Greenpointcrusader in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Bravo, who rode full time at Keeneland during the Spring Meet and won the Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) on 30-1 longshot Dramedy, said he’s looking forward to participating in the Breeders’ Cup.
“I would rank Keeneland as one of my favorite tracks,” Bravo said. “(Coming here) brought it all back to reality when I had a 1-5 shot that got beat and the crowd was sincere in saying, ‘Good try.’ Anywhere else in the country, it’s more of a gambler’s aspect and people are pretty upset (if you lose on a 1-5 shot). Here, everyone is a horseman and about the horse. That’s why I love Keeneland.”