It’s not often a finalist for an Eclipse Award can boast a connection with Golden Gate Fields. But this year, that is the case.
Kyle Frey is one of the three finalists for the Eclipse Award for the best apprentice jockey for 2011.
It wasn’t long ago that Frey was mucking stalls at Golden Gate Fields for trainer Steve Miyadi. It was then he learned the tricks of the trade from a handful of riders, including hall of famer Russell Baze.
Actually, GGF has two chances to claim the award as Montanez won his first ever race at the track and rode in the bay area for five months before moving to Parx Racecourse in Philadelphia in September of 2010.
But Frey is really the Golden Gate Kid.
Kyle grew up at the track that his father Jay had been a mainstay at. Jay, currently a jockey valet, would bring a young Kyle with him when he was an exercise rider. But when the time came for Kyle to get his license, he had an agenda already set for himself.
“I want to win an eclipse award and I want to win the Kentucky Derby," he told me once.
So on November 26th 2010, he climbed aboard his first horse, Stormy Game. Just seven mounts and two weeks later, he guided Terina to a half length win, the first of his career.
I first knew of Kyle because he was the exercise rider aboard a horse I was part owner of. He worked my horse numerous times, as both prepared for their first races.
I wanted to write a story about a career from the beginning stages, and followed Kyle’s first few weeks, taking pictures of his races from his first start through his first win.
After interviewing Kyle, and meeting and becoming friends with his family, I couldn’t help but notice two things about him. One, he was very outgoing and personable, and two, he was very focused and driven. He smiled all the way to the paddock but was always serious once he got on a horse. He had his goals laid out. Nothing and nobody, was going to stop him.
Just four months and 10 wins into his career, Frey made the tough choice to leave his family and friends and the comfortable surroundings of GGF to head to Philadelphia where at the time he told me “They ride the bug a lot over there. I can ride a lot more races.”
He not only won his first mount there, but the wins continued. By the time the end of the year ran its course, Frey had chalked up 153 wins and earnings of more than $4,000,000.
Over the year, Kyle has raced and won at Penn National, Atlantic City, Monmouth Park and Delaware Park. He told me to win the Eclipse award, he needed to win as much as possible and riding wherever he could, was a way to do that. Often, he rides at Parx in the daytime and Penn at night.
I have stayed in contact with him over the past year. We’ve shared text greetings as well as thoughts on his career A few months ago, he conveyed to me that the pressures to win were weighing on him. I tried to relax him and tell him that he is living his dream and that’s all that should matter. While he agreed that indeed he was living out his dream, he also said something that showed what he is all about.
“Winning the Eclipse Award is right there, I can taste it and I need to keep going until I win it.”
It is that kind of determination that defines a winner. Kyle’s desire to succeed is overshadowed only by his striking personality.
I thought of calling him for a quote, figuring something like "It's a thrill to be a finalist" would fit nicely right about here. But I know Kyle wouldn't say that. He'd say "Heck, i want to win the darn thing"
Whether he wins the award or not, Kyle has proven to his followers what hard work and determination can do and that living out your dream can have a happy ending.