ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 7, 2016)–Santa Anita Park has announced five finalists for the 2017 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, with the winner to be announced in February following a vote of jockeys nationwide.
Veteran jockeys Kerwin Clark, Stewart Elliott, Julien Leparoux, Glen Murphy and Scott Stevens are the finalists for the prestigious trophy that has been presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950.
One of the most coveted awards in all of racing, the Woolf Award, which can only be won once, is presented to a different jockey each year and it recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing. The trophy is a replica of the life-sized statue of legendary jockey George Woolf, which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.
Woolf, who died following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946, was regarded as one of the top big-money riders of his era. Known affectionately as “The Iceman,” he was revered by his colleagues, members of the media and fans across America as a fierce competitor and consummate professional who was at his best when the stakes were high.
The 2017 Woolf ballot, which will be distributed to active jockeys across the country, features five highly regarded riders who have plied their trade with honor and distinction.
A Louisiana native who catapulted to national fame by winning the 2015 Kentucky Oaks at the age of 56, Kerwin Clark has long been respected by fans, horsemen and his fellow jockeys as a rock-solid rider who has conducted himself with a quiet distinction for more than 40 years.
The son of a jockey who started at bush tracks in his native Louisiana, Kerwin Clark rode his first winner at Fairgrounds in New Orleans on Jan. 3, 1976. When asked about his Oaks victory, which came some 39 years later, he simply responded, “Best day of my life.”
Through Dec. 2, Clark has 2,997 career wins.
Born in Toronto, Canada and best known for his Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories aboard Smarty Jones in 2004, Stewart Elliott shows no signs of slowing down at age 51. Through Dec. 2, Elliott has amassed 4,707 wins. Regarded as a strong finisher who is also an outstanding judge of pace, Elliott shifted his tack on a full-time basis to Southern California in 2015 and has quickly established himself as one of the circuit’s top riders.
The son of a jockey-turned trainer, French-born Julien Leparoux is a 10-time leading rider at Keeneland and is regarded as one of America’s elite young riders at age 33. Known as a “finesse” rider who enjoys tremendous success on turf, Leparoux, in a 2012 interview, said “I just try not to fight so much with my horses. I try to be gentle around their mouths.”
Married to the late trainer Mike Mitchell’s daughter, Shea, Leparoux ranked 12th nationally by money-won last year and appears poised for superstardom at this stage of his career. A winner of seven Breeders’ Cup races, his most recent BC triumph came at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, when he won the Juvenile with trainer Mark Casse’s Classic Empire. Through Dec. 2, Leparoux had won 2,329 career races.
An iconic figure at Sunland Park near El Paso, Glen Murphy broke his maiden at Sunland on Oct. 28, 1984, and he notched his 3,000th career victory at Zia Park on Dec. 18, 2015. Sidelined due to a fractured pelvis incurred in a paddock mishap in February, 2015, he rebounded quickly and enjoyed a fine year.
A model of consistency, Murphy, 50, who is a graduate of Coronado High School in El Paso, has been among the nation’s top 100 jockeys by money-won every year since 2012. Through Dec. 2, he has 3,047 career wins.
Long active in the support of his fellow riders, Scott Stevens has overcome life-threatening injuries to become one of America’s most highly respected jockeys in every respect. A member of the Canterbury Park and Idaho Racing Halls of Fame, Stevens is now within striking distance of 5,000 career wins, as he has amassed 4,616 victories through Dec. 2.
At age 55, Stevens is currently based in Phoenix, Az., and he’s showing no signs of slowing down at Turf Paradise, as he booted home 118 winners over the 2015-16 meeting, good for his eighth “Turf” riding title.
The older brother of Hall of Fame jockey Gary, Scott Stevens broke his maiden on May 30, 1976, at Le Bois Park in Boise, Idaho.
For more information on the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, please visit santaanita.com.