When Mike Mitchell gives Julien Leparoux a leg up on one of his horses, he’s doing it both as a trainer and as a father-in-law.
It’s been the latter since the world-class jockey married the daughter of Mike and Denise Mitchell, Shea, last month.
It’s business before pleasure or vice-versa. Either way, it works for Mitchell.
“I rode him before Shea ever met him,” Mitchell said of the
29-year-old Frenchman, Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s outstanding
jockey in 2009. “He rode On the Acorn for me for Jack Disney (one of the
owners of Indizguys Stable). That was way before Shea ever met him.
I’ve always liked him as a rider.”
Leparoux won an Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey of 2009. That
year he became the second rider in history to win three Breeders’ Cup
races in a single year.
“He’s a good rider and such a nice young man, I enjoy everything
about him.,” Mitchell continued. “My owners want to ride him, but I’m
no different from anybody else. He’s going to ride the best horse he
wants to ride and if it comes down to me and (Steve) Asmussen and
Asmussen has the better horse, I understand that.
“You’re not going to be first call on Mike Mitchell, that’s for
sure. A lot of people want to ride him. He’s the closest thing to
(Eddie) Delahoussaye. He’s got a great set of hands. He can settle a
horse and I think that’s important.”
YOUNG AT HEART IVAN PUHICH LOOKS TO THE FUTURE
A year ago, Ivan Puhich was about to embark on the ride of his life. Today, he is a race track lifer looking for a jockey.
Last year, Puhich hooked up with an unknown rider named Mario
Gutierrez who would go on to become an overnight sensation at 25 by
winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness on I’ll Have Another, and come
within a heartbeat of going for racing’s elusive Triple Crown, only to
have the opportunity squelched due to a last-minute injury to the horse.
Today, Puhich, can only watch from the sidelines as another
obscure but talented rider, Kevin Krigger, starts down what could lead
to the Kentucky Derby on a 3-year-old colt named Goldencents, like I’ll
Have Another, trained by Doug O’Neill.
“Krigger’s a very good rider,” said Puhich, a tall, lean
ex-Marine who turned 86 on Dec. 22. “He came to California as a young
person (he’s now 29) and he wasn’t that good, but he went to the bushes
in Seattle and places like that and became quite an accomplished jockey.
There’s nothing wrong with Krigger’s riding. He’s a very good rider.”
Racing could benefit from the experience of men like Puhich, who
has been on the race track “my whole life. My dad, John, had horses. If
the opportunity comes for me to take a young rider, I might take him
under my wing and teach him what I know,” Puhich said. “But right now,
I’ll have to wait and see.”