Indiana Grand Racing & Casino Press Release
By Tammy Knox
SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (July 11, 2019) – Francisco Torres will have a totally different outlook on the 25th running of the Grade III $500,000 Indiana Derby Saturday, July 13. His view will be from the grandstand as an agent as his jockey, Ezequiel Lara, climbs aboard Hero Tiger for the biggest ride of his career.
Torres won the 1996 Indiana Derby aboard Canyon Run. It was the second year for the race, which was created at Hoosier Park and has remained as the biggest event for Thoroughbred racing in the state of Indiana 25 years later.
“I remember that race well,” said Torres, who retired from riding in 2017 with more than 3,100 career wins and $68 million in earnings. “I’d never ridden him before. He (Canyon Run) was a good horse that broke close and we went straight to the lead. He ran a huge race that day.”
The time of 1:41.4 set by Canyon Run and Torres was a track record for the one and one-sixteenth mile distance and the standard for the Indiana Derby, a record that stood for 13 years until Misremembered and jockey Victor Espinosa lowered the mark to 1:40.80 in 2009 for the Bob Baffert barn, the same connections that later won the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharaoh.
The race wasn’t the biggest win for Torres, who has ridden in almost every major stakes race in North America, including the Kentucky Derby twice, the Preakness and the Breeders Cup. However, he noted that anytime you win the largest race at any track, it’s a special moment.
“It’s a super feeling when you win a race like that and there are no words to express how it feels,” smiled Torres. “I’ve always said I didn’t win the Kentucky Derby, but I won a Derby the next state over. There have been a lot of times I’ve been on a longshot. You can’t win if you aren’t in it and you have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along.”
That attitude brings Torres to the present day. After retiring from riding, he became a jock’s agent and now represents Ezequiel Lara and apprentice rider Virginia Tormey at Indiana Grand. Lara caught fire as soon as he paired up with Torres last fall. They rode the end of the meet at Indiana Grand before venturing to Fair Grounds and onto Oaklawn Park. Lara, who just lost his apprenticeship a month ago, now has 53 career wins and is ranked seventh in the standings this year at Indiana Grand.
While at Fair Grounds, Lara rode a few horses for trainer Gennadi Dorochenko. Little did the 23-year-old jockey know that experience would later lead to a monumental moment in his career. When he gets a leg up aboard Hero Tiger in Saturday’s Indiana Derby, it will mark his first career start in a Graded Stakes event.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Lara. “When he (Torres) called and told me I was riding in the Indiana Derby, I was so surprised. I’m still surprised. He didn’t tell me about it until the entry was made, so I didn’t know about it until Wednesday. This is the biggest race I’ve ever been in.”
Hero Tiger is a longshot in the field of 11 that is led by Graded Stakes winner Mr. Money. However, Lara, a native of Oklahoma, isn’t concentrating on the odds.
“I’ve never been on the horse before, but I will really look at the form and see what I can do best to help the horse out,” explained Lara on riding Hero Tiger.
And, Lara will have Torres, who rode numerous winners for Dorochenko himself, in his corner to help him prepare for the race.
“He (Lara) did ride in a few stakes at both Fair Grounds and Oaklawn, but not at this level,” added Torres. “He is a good physical rider and he listens and wants to hear feedback. We watch races back all the time and I give him my view of the race. This is a learning game and it’s not what you know, it’s what you learn from each race and move on to the next race. And, no one should count out this trainer (Dorochenko). He has a way of coming in and surprising everyone with a big win in stakes. He won the million-dollar Louisiana Derby in 2012 with Hero of Order at odds of 109 to one.”
Dorochenko’s latest three-year-old has his work cut out for him. Hero Tiger has one start over Indiana Grand’s oval, a second place finish over a muddy track in April. He has been racing at Arlington Park and will look to pick up his second career win in his first career stakes start.
“This opportunity is a dream come true for any rider to be included in a big race,” said Torres. “I’ve been very blessed to have this kid (Lara). I believe there are big things in store for him, and I look for him to ride a big race in the Indiana Derby.”
Just like his agent, Torres, did 24 years ago.
Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing continues through Wednesday, Nov. 6. Racing is conducted Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 2:15 p.m. and Saturday at 6:15 p.m. More information about the season is available atwww.indianagrand.com.