On stakes spree, jockey Pimentel hoping business picks up

July 11, 2019 11:28am
On stakes spree, jockey Pimentel hoping business picks up
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

Jockey Julien Pimentel, who ventured away from his Maryland base to ride stakes winners on back-to-back days last week, will be on the road again as he assumes the mount aboard Alwaysmining in the Grade 3, $500,000 Indiana Derby.

Approaching 40 years old, the journeyman rider perhaps best known for his association with the late Ben’s Cat, the Mid-Atlantic legend who won 32 races, has added some worthwhile updates to his resume this spring.

Riding in his first Kentucky Derby, then picking up business with Alwaysmining trainer Kelly Rubley all starts with two mornings a week at the Fair Hill training center in Elkton, Md. On Friday, Pimentel typically works horses for Rubley. On Saturday, he’s in the irons for Michael Trombetta, whose Win Win Win gave Pimentel that aforementioned Derby mount back in May.

“It’s been a high,” said agent Ronnie Gerardo, who has represented Pimentel for more than a decade. “Every jockey’s dream is to go to the Derby, and as an agent — wow — I was in shock.”

“I wish every jockey would be able to experience that one time,” Pimentel said. “It’s really, really, special.”

The way he’s trending, that Derby won’t be Pimentel’s last.

A son of Hat Trick, Win Win Win returned from a ninth-place Derby finish and subsequent seventh in the Preakness Stakes to win his turf debut on the Fourth of July in Belmont Park’s Manila Stakes. The colt went from last to first to nab Grade 1 winner Fog of War at the wire.

“I had a lot of horse,” Pimentel said, even after running in two legs of the Triple Crown series. “He was really aggressive, which impressed me. He’s usually laid back. He was just taking me with him.

“It’s very exciting to see him go back — not only to run well and feel good, but to win. It was impressive. We’re really looking forward to the rest of the season.”

The next night, Pimentel rode for the first time at Prairie Meadows, where the Rubley-trained Top Line Growth won the Iowa Derby via disqualification, making it two stakes victories in as many days.

Rubley had Pimentel in mind for the Indiana Derby as well with Pimentel having worked Alwaysmining twice in recent weeks.

“She’s very confident in the horse,” the jockey said. “I think I’m going up there with a live horse.”

Alwaysmining, a Maryland-bred son of Stay Thirsty, won six straight races at Laurel Park — beating Win Win Win along the way — before trying the Preakness Stakes. He ranged up on the far turn before fading to 11th, then was placed third in the June 8 Easy Goer at Belmont Park after interfered with in the stretch.

Gerardo, Pimentel’s agent, said Rubley has “been great for us,” offering more business in recent weeks.

“It shows in the results,” Gerardo said. “Both of them together are 30%. It’s been great, and she’s getting better horses, too. Without the horses and owners, we’ve got nothing, right?”

As he approaches age 40, Pimentel has ridden in more than 10,000 races, winning 1,675 of them, according to Equibase. This season, he has won on 28 of his 167 starters, with 27 more of those runners-up and 18 thirds.

Over the years, he has ridden other notable horses, including the eventual Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags on debut in July of 2011 and Imperial Hint, a future Grade 1 winner, in the 2017 General George (G3) at Laurel Park.

Speaking to his recent stakes success, Pimental said “it would be nice to get other business.”

“I’m very selective in picking up his horses, because I like the percentage,” Gerardo added. “I like to keep the percentage up. He doesn’t ride a lot of horses, but he rides quality horses.”


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