Joe Talamo is a product of Louisiana who won an Eclipse Award as Top Apprentice Jockey of 2007. He since moved to California and has been setting the horse racing world on fire ever since. Since 2011, Talamo has been in the top-15 in earnings annually and topped over $6 million in 2015.
On the heels of his recent marriage to Elizabeth Ellis, he took out some time to conduct a question and answer session with me. Some consider him cocky, but I believe he is a talented rider who believes in himself and will not settle for anything less than his best. Oh and being a boy from Louisiana at heart, he is as nice as they come.
What does a guy who is married to a great woman, is over-the-top talented, young, and driven think about? We covered how he ended up in California, Bobby Frankel, I Want Revenge, and the future of the sport. Let’s see how it went.
First, let me take a minute and say thank you for taking the time to talk with me. It is an honor and I know you are a busy man. Thanks again, and if it is all the same, let’s get right to it.
Question: Growing up in Louisiana, was there ever a time that you did not want to be involved in horse racing? How old were you when you decided this was the career for you?
Mr. Talamo: Horse Racing was always a big part of my family growing up. My father was a trainer and assistant trainer for a long time and growing up I would go to The Fair Grounds Race Track in New Orleans with him on weekends. I was about 7 years old when I knew I wanted to be a jockey.
Question: After winning the leading riding title at Fair Grounds at 17 years old, what made you decide you needed to leave high school and make the jump to California?
Mr. Talamo: Bobby Frankel was a big part of me coming to California. I was either gonna go to New York or Kentucky but came to California for a few days to see how it was… It was pretty good .
Question: What was the hardest thing about living in Southern California at the beginning?
Mr. Talamo: Being away from my family and the good home cooking were the hardest. What made it easy was the weather and great way of life California has.
Question: How instrumental were Bobby Frankel and Gary Stevens in the transition to Southern California racing?
Mr. Talamo: If it weren’t for Bobby Frankel, who knows what circuit I would’ve ended up at. I’m just glad fate had me ending up here.
Question: Was it ever hard being such a talented and very young rider in with so many Hall of Fame caliber veterans riders in Southern California?
Mr. Talamo: Yea I thought it was great. It was something I didn’t really think about at first, but it’s pretty cool to ride with all of them.
Question: Why did you agree to be a part of “Jockeys,” on Animal Planet? Were you worried about doing reality TV and do you regret it?
Mr. Talamo: Myself and the other jockeys thought it would be great to bring new people into Horse Racing and what better way than a reality show. It was ok. I’m not the type that likes a camera following me around all the time. Some things were scripted more than others and I thought they portrayed me differently than what I really am. I still think it was positive for Horse Racing.
Question: If you could only win one of them, which would you rather win, the Kentucky Derby, the BC Classic or the Louisiana Derby?
Mr. Talamo: The Kentucky Derby. The other 2 I would love to win as well, but the Kentucky Derby is the one !
Question: We all know what happened with I Want Revenge, did you feel like he was going to get you your first Kentucky Derby?
Mr. Talamo: I think he had a great chance. Mine That Bird ran such a freakish race that day I’m not sure who would’ve beat him, but I know I would’ve had a great shot !
Question: You have been on the back of some very talented horses. Which horse is the greatest you have even ridden?
Mr. Talamo: It’s tough to say. I think if I Want Revenge wouldn’t have gotten injured, no telling how good he could’ve been. Nashobas Key and California Flag are pretty special because she was my first Grade 1 winner and he was my first Breeders Cup winner.
Question: With major stakes victories, your career is already very accomplished but when thinking about all of them, what race are you the most proud of ?
Mr. Talamo: It’s so tough to say. I’ve been very blessed to win some big races and each time you win one, it feels just as good every time
Question: Obviously you want to win every start but there must be something above and beyond everything else. What are your career goals?
Mr. Talamo: It would be to win The Kentucky Derby. Just to ride in that race is such an unbelievable feeling, I know winning it has to be the ultimate !
Question: One last question, horse racing is a beautiful thing that many of us want to see flourish. With this generation, what do you think can be done to bring them to the track and fall in love with this amazing sport?
Mr. Talamo: I think they have to advertise a lot saying that the track is so fun and full of young new people looking to have a good time. Also, I think more needs to go into showing younger fans how to gamble and read the Racing Form.
I cannot thank you enough for your time and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the question and answer session. It was a real honor and I wish you the best over the coming years. Here’s to a Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby winner in the near future.