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Curatolo Enjoys Success in New York

Jockey Ryan Curatolo.
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
When Ryan Curatolo went to Florida in 2010 to join his vacationing father, his resume consisted of a diploma from a jockey school near Chantilly and two last-place finishes over the course of a year in his native France.

“I thought, ‘If I go to Florida and I ride one horse per week, that would be nice,’” recalled Curatolo recently as he sat outside the jockey’s quarters at Aqueduct Racetrack. “There’s no way I could have seen all that’s happened to me since then.”

Indeed. The 19-year-old Curatolo, currently fifth in the Big A’s jockey standings with 25 victories through Thursday, is one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top apprentice rider, the winner of which will be announced on Monday evening.

“Being a finalist for the Eclipse awards – if you had told me that a year ago, I would not have believed you,” said Curatolo, who would be the first New York-based apprentice to win the Eclipse since Ariel Smith in 1999.

Curatolo has been riding regularly on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit since April 30, and, despite missing several weeks with a broken collarbone suffered in June, finished eighth in the 2011 standings with 92 victories. Highlights include four-win days on May 21 at Belmont Park and December 2 at the Big A, and a pair of graded stakes victories in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo and the Grade 3 Hill Prince, both accomplished without his bug.

“Ryan started off with a bit of a European style and he’s adjusted very well to our game,” said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He’s very position-oriented. He’s smart, and he’s a good kid. It’s been interesting to watch.”

Curatolo, who attended the L’Association de Formation et d’Action Sociale des Ecuries de Course (AFASEC), began his American career by exercising horses for trainer Patrick Biancone, in much the same fashion as 2006’s Eclipse-winning apprentice, Julien Leparoux. On October 31, 2010, Curatolo made his stateside riding debut at Calder Race Course, where he posted his first win within a week.

“When I first came here, the thing I had to learn was what the poles are, and when to move,” he said. “In France, we never thought about the poles. But I have always been calm on a horse, and patient, and that has helped me.”

From Calder, Curatolo moved to Gulfstream Park at the beginning of 2011, where he tied for 17th place in winning 14 races. While in Florida, he caught the eye of the late Carl Lizza and signed on to become the first-call rider for Flying Zee Stable, which went on to be the leading owner on the NYRA circuit in 2011.

“Carl met Ryan through Patrick, saw he had some potential, and decided to give him a shot,” said Carl’s wife, Viane Lizza, now the principal for Flying Zee. “It’s worked out better than any of us expected.”

On January 29, Curatolo is scheduled to lose his five-pound weight allowance, but has every intention of remaining in New York.

“Riding here in New York, watching and learning from the top riders here, like Ramon Dominguez, has helped me so much,” he said. “I want to keep the momentum going. With all that has happened for me in the last six months, my goal for 2012 is to keep making the people I ride for happy.”

Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese



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