by Najja Thompson (NYRA Press Release)
The New York Racing Association has announced Joe Bravo as the 2018 recipient of the Mike Venezia Memorial Award, the prestigious honor awarded to jockeys who exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship.
The Venezia Award will be presented to Bravo on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, in a ceremony to follow the third race at Belmont Park. The award, established in 1989, is named in honor of jockey Mike Venezia, who died as a result of injuries he suffered in a spill in 1988 at Belmont Park. Venezia, a Brooklyn native, won more than 2,300 races during his 25-year career.
“Honestly, it’s such an honor to be able to receive this award,” said Bravo. I’m shocked it wasn’t a four person dead-head, because each of the guys I was nominated with are all great and deserving to win as well. When you look at the some of the past winners of this award, including Hall of Famers like Angel Cordero, Jr, Ramon Dominguez and Edgar Prado; it’s truly an honor.”
Bravo, 46, was selected as the 2018 winner through an online fan vote hosted on NYRA.com that closed on May 16. For 2018, the field of deserving candidates included Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Jose Ortiz and Manny Franco.
A native of Long Branch, New Jersey, and affectionately known as “Jersey Joe”, Bravo comes from a racing family as both his father and grandfather, also rode professionally. He rode his first winner in March of 1988 at Calder Race Course and has gone on to earn over $170 million in earnings with over 5,200 winners in his career so far.
In 2017, Bravo amassed more than $5.4 million in purses and earned Grade 1 victories aboard Bigger Picture in the United Nations at Monmouth Park and Zipessa in the First Lady at Keeneland. He also piloted multiple graded stakes winners Avery Island in the Grade 2 Nashua at Aqueduct Racetrack and Can’thelpbelieving in the Grade 2 Sky Classic at Woodbine.
The first Venezia Award was awarded posthumously to Venezia in 1989. Previous winners of the award include Kendrick Carmouche (2017), Mario Pino (2016), Jon Court (2015), Hall of Famer John Velazquez (2014) and Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez (2013).