he New York Racing Association announced that voting for the 2021 Mike Venezia Memorial Award is now open to active jockeys in the continental U.S. They will choose among a distinguished group of five finalists: Junior Alvarado, Julien Leparoux, Deshawn Parker, Gerard Melancon and Scott Stevens.
Created in 1989, the Mike Venezia Memorial Award is awarded to a jockey who displays the extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship that personified Venezia, who died as the result of injuries suffered in a spill in 1988. Venezia, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., won more than 2,300 races during his 25-year career.
The competition was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making this year the first time the award will be bestowed since 2019. This year’s award – in which the riders will select the winner – marks a change from the last several years, when fans voted for the Venezia Award.
“No one knows better than their fellow riders who is the most deserving of this award,” said Terry Meyocks, president and CEO of the Jockeys’ Guild. “No matter who is chosen this year, each of these finalists is an accomplished athlete whose skills and dedication to racing is rivaled only by the respect they earn off the track.”
For Richard Migliore of NYRA TV, a retired jockey and the 2003 Venezia Award winner, the award serves to continue the legacy of Venezia.
“Winning the award myself was one the proudest moments of my career because Mike Venezia embodied everything you look for in a rider,” said Migliore. “He continues to be a role model for riders and for our sport. This group of nominees are as well.”
The 2021 Mike Venezia Memorial Award will be presented in a special ceremony at Saratoga Race Course on Thursday, September 2.
The first Venezia Memorial Award was awarded posthumously to Venezia in 1989. Recent winners of the award include Hall of Famer Javier Castellano (2019), Joe Bravo (2018), Kendrick Carmouche (2017), Mario Pino (2016), Jon Court (2015), Hall of Famer John Velazquez (2014) and Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez (2013).