By Tom Pedulla (The Bloodhorse)
Veteran jockey Steve “Cowboy” Hamilton is indebted to his son, Wes, for helping him make a comeback on the Maryland circuit after a 10-year absence from competition. Wes, in turn, is displaying considerable ability as an apprentice and may someday owe much of his success to the tutelage of his father.
Steve thought he rode his last race in 2006, when he decided to return home to Vian, Okla. so that he and his wife, Amy, could see their sons, Garrett and Wes, through their teenage years. He worked shoeing horses and enjoyed watching the progress each of their children made.
Life was more than good, but Steve never quite put the racetrack behind him. “It never gets out of you,” he said. “It’s in your blood.”
Apparently, it was in Wes’s blood, too. As he grew older, his interest in becoming a jockey deepened. The question became how each could satisfy his desire to ride. The answer? By helping each other.
Steve needed to drop approximately 25 pounds, so he and Wes would run two and a half miles every morning and another two and a half miles in the evening. Steve limited himself to two eggs in the morning, a small can of tuna fish for lunch, another small can of tuna for dinner.
Steve always will appreciate Wes for pushing him as hard as he did.
“He lit a fire under me some days when I wasn’t feeling like running,” the father said. “I was kind of doubting myself and what I was doing and he was like ‘Oh, you’re giving up already?’ I was like, ‘Man, let’s go.’ ”
According to statistics provided by Equibase, as of the start of this week Wes (he rides under his full name “Weston”) led all apprentice riders in North America with 47 wins and ranked second with $1,239,195 in purse earnings. Evin Roman led in purse earnings ($1,653,739) but lost his bug March 11.
Steve taught Wes early on before arranging for him to work for Franklin “Goree” Smith, brother of Maryland-based trainer Hamilton Smith, at the Elloree Training Center in Elloree, S.C.
Steve resumed his career in the summer of 2016. Wes began riding Dec. 2. He earned his first victory on Dec. 11 at Laurel Park aboard aptly named I Just Wanna Win, a 5-year-old mare. Steve came in fourth in the same race.