David Flores got a handshake from Del Mar Thoroughbred Club president Joe Harper and a pat on the back from fellow jockey Gary Stevens just after the second race, but he lingered around the winner’s circle for a while July 30 to soak in the moment with his family.
At 49 years old, Flores had just ridden his last race aboard Red Livy in a five-furlong sprint at Del Mar. The Dandy Man filly didn’t win, but there were plenty before that for a lifetime—horses such as Awesome Gem, Siphon, Marquetry, Singletary, Idiot Proof, Keeper Hill, Silver Charm, Street Boss, Zenyatta, and many more.
“I got emotional a little bit before the race, but when we got to the gate, I got down to doing what I normally do,” said Flores, who retired from riding Sunday to begin his training career. “After the race, I’m just very grateful. I’m grateful that I’m walking out of here with my health and my family, and I’m able to do something else.
“It was a blessing to do it for 33 years. I rode for the best guys in the game and good horses—I mean, I could have a list, but it would be long.”
But the end of a career that saw 3,608 winning rides in North America brought the beginning of another. After a few days in Del Mar, Flores will head to Ocala, Fla., with a focus on training yearlings for sales.
“Everything has a beginning and has an end,” Flores said. “I’m ready to start a new career, and I’ll start in Ocala and take it from there. I have a couple clients. I’ll start with yearlings, to break them and take to the sales, but if I get people who want to run, that’s another step.”
According to the Del Mar publicity department, 49 of Flores’ stakes wins came at the seaside racetrack. In 1999 he earned a career-high $11,938,725 and tore up the summer meet by the beach. He won the riding title and nine stakes at Del Mar that year, including four grade 1 races—the Pacific Classic aboard General Challenge, the Del Mar Debutante on Chilukki, the Ramona Handicap on Tuzla, and the Del Mar Oaks with Tout Charmant
Flores retired with more than $153.9 million in earnings from 25,577 North American starts. He also rode in Singapore in 2014-15 and started his career at Caliente Racetrack in his hometown of Tijuana, Mexico, in 1984.