By Najja Thompson

Expanded in scope and now preparing Aqueduct’s apprentice jockeys for long and successful careers in thoroughbred racing, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) apprentice jockey program continues to develop new riders through intensive instruction and one-on-one mentoring.

Led by legendary jockey and current NYRA television analyst Richard Migliore, the program works with the support of NYRA stewards, racing officials and other partners to further educate apprentice riders on race preparation, skills, and techniques, with a specific emphasis on equine and human safety.   Sessions are held throughout the Aqueduct meet on Sunday mornings in the Aqueduct film theatre.

“The New York Racing Association is fortunate to have Richard Migliore leading this important initiative,” stated Martin Panza, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations.  “Through Mig’s personal instruction and mentorship, we are creating a safer racing environment and effectively helping our young apprentices become even better riders.”

Migliore, the winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top apprentice jockey in 1981, concluded his career in 2010 following a 30-year career.  Affectionately known as “The Mig” to horseplayers and racing fans around the world, the Brooklyn-born Migliore finished his career with 4,450 wins and more than $160 million in total earnings.

Among the journeymen jockeys who have been through the program are Irad Ortiz, Jr. and his brother Jose, who finished 1-2 in the NYRA jockey standings last year and are currently atop the leaderboard at Aqueduct’s inner-track meet.  Taylor Rice, Eric Cancel and both Jackie and Katie Davis, all regular riders on the NYRA circuit, have also taken part in the program.

Starting this year, the program will be expanded to introduce additional life skills such as nutrition and financial planning, designed to further promote success both on and off the track.