Kerwin Clark, winner of the Grade I Ashland Stakes on Saturday, has been voted as the winner of The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week Award. The voting members of the weekly honor seemed to be in unison when casting ballots this week, thinking that it’s not just a numbers game. It isn’t always how many wins, but in this instance at least, how big of a win.
It couldn’t have been a bigger win for Clark, who finally scored his first Grade I victory with a win in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse. Clark had the call for the Larry Jones trained Lovely Maria on Saturday and she delivered that elusive win in style in front of a packed house on opening weekend at the iconic Lexington venue.
Clark described his victory by saying, “It was a great trip. I thought I’d be more forwardly placed, maybe even on the lead. She’s a nice filly just coming into her own and you can pretty much put her wherever you want her to be. She relaxed nice. Down the backside she’s laying third and her ears are flicking back and forth, and I thought ‘Boy, this is pretty good.’ When I called on her she just accelerated.”
The Brereton Jones’ owned Lovely Maria chose the right date to put in the best race of her career, tracking the early pace and surging in the stretch to win the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths for her first stakes victory. It’s surely a date that the long-time jockey won’t quickly forget.
The 55-year-old Clark, nicknamed “Boo Boo” by his grandfather, is a native of Lafayette, Louisiana and began his career at Evangeline in 1975. In that year, he recorded 13 wins, 22 seconds, and 15 thirds in 165 mounts. In 1977, he switched his tack to the Nebraska circuit. He captured his first black-type stakes win aboard Spark D’or in the Columbus Futurity in 1977. In 1989, Clark scored one of the biggest wins of his professional career as he guided the Harvey Vanier trained Western Playboy to a convincing 17-length victory in the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park. Clark also rode multiple stakes winner Dispersal and more recently scored in the Grade III Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth last summer aboard Albano, also owned by Jones.
It was a feel good win for many who follow the sport as fans but it may mean even more to his fellow competitors on the racetrack who immediately tweeted out their congrats following the win. Track announcer Kurt Becker also noted the milestone win during the final furlong of his call of the Ashland.
For the week, Clark finished with one win and one second from just three starts for earnings of $312,387.