Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: From Quarter Horses To Thoroughbreds, 17-12 months-Previous Herrera Is Off And Working – Horse Racing News

Apprentice jockey DIego Herrera has uncovered achievement with both equally Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses in Southern California

Quite a few months ago, agent Derek Lawson informed his new apprentice jockey he’d had a great idea for a double: the All-American Futurity and the Kentucky Derby, the premier races for Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, respectively.

“At that time it was just blowing smoke, but now it would not look as far-fetched,” Lawson reported.

Diego Herrera, just 17 yrs aged, was at first booked to ride 13 horses on Sunday, Jan. 2. He commenced the afternoon with the to start with turf gain of his job at Santa Anita Park, having a starter allowance race aboard Phil D’Amato trainee Solo Animo.

He ended the evening by picking up a 14th mount just 30 minutes prior to the Quality 1 Charger Bar Handicap at Los Alamitos. The apprentice simply guided Juan Aleman trainee Kiss Via Fireplace to a half-duration victory, earning the first graded stakes earn of his vocation.

“It was fairly interesting,” Herrera acknowledged. 

Though his formal riding career started in 2021, Herrera has been involved in match racing considering the fact that he was as young as 11. Prior to that, he and his pony “Sparky” would desire up match races on the seaside near the family home in Inglewood, Calif. 

“I’d fake that somebody else was managing against me, I would operate him about 10 yards, then stop him and turn him back and do it all over again,” Herrera remembered. “He was the sweetest pony at any time, just let me do whichever with him, and he was quite fast, too!”

Diego Herrera and “Sparky” (image furnished)

Which is not to say that Sparky did not enter his good share of match races, also, some appropriate along the river bed wherever Herrera had uncovered to ride.

“Match racing is a part of the Mexican society,” Herrera explained. “ Where ever we can race a horse against a horse, we do it!”

Diego Herrera and Sparky earn a match race (picture offered)

If he wasn’t driving Sparky, a younger Herrera was practicing his sort atop a bale of hay, or adhering to his father all-around on employment with his landscaping enterprise with the hope that they’d be ready to prevent at the racetrack on their way household.

“I in no way wished to be dwelling,” he mentioned. “When I was four many years old, I would listen to my dad wake up and go to put on my minor boots and want to go to work with him.”

Herrera’s father, from Agua Caliente in Mexico, labored cattle aboard horses on his household farm, and since moving to the U.S. has owned racing Quarter Horses for several years. When his son was previous adequate, the loved ones traveled as significantly away as Washington and Colorado so that he could trip in the match races.

Considering the fact that university was critical to Herrera’s mom, he dedicated to ending his higher school diploma at the charter school of Lennox Academy. The arrival of the pandemic in early 2020 created it a little bit less complicated for Herrera to get a position on the racetrack in the mornings, then head home to entire his on-line experiments.

“My parents each busted their bum to give me a improved lifestyle,” stated Herrera. “I understood I needed to regard that.”

Continuing his education and learning even while performing at the track and driving as a lot of as two tracks in one working day, Herrera gained his diploma very last thirty day period. 

In the meantime, his racetrack education experienced continued at Los Alamitos under the tutelage of the Andrade loved ones, initial as a hotwalker and a groom, and finally as an training rider. Oscar Andrade Sr. was once a mounting superstar in the Quarter Horse jockey ranks, environment a history that continue to stands when he rode seven winners in the course of a single night at Los Alamitos on June 5, 2001.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck just months afterwards when Andrade Sr. was paralyzed from the chest down in a racing accident. His wife, Elena, commenced training in 2004, and they have remained important players in the Quarter Horse marketplace in Southern California. 

“I owe a ton to them,” Herrera claimed. “They taught me that you in no way end learning in this organization, and that every single horse is diverse each individual one working day. They taught me the self-control, and that you have to be open to discover new matters and never end learning.”

April Ward, longtime assistant to Corridor of Fame (Thoroughbred) trainer Bob Wheeler, has been with Herrera from the commencing of his experienced occupation and textbooks all his Quarter Horse mounts. Even so, Los Alamitos racing director Scott Craigmyle recommended the younger jockey consider Thoroughbreds, as perfectly, and launched Herrera to agent Vince DeGregory, a legend in his own suitable. The pair began building the rounds at Santa Anita Park.

“I just fell in adore with the location,” Herrera explained.

DeGregory helped Herrera get his to start with mount on Thoroughbreds, and however Herrera is now represented by Lawson, he’ll by no means ignore the influence of the older horseman. DeGregory’s resume incorporates jockeys like Angel Cordero Jr., Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr., Invoice Shoemaker, Alex Solis, Jacinto Vasquez and Jorge Velasquez, in addition to Victor Espinoza, Darrel McHargue and Joel Rosario.

“He explained to me never to place myself underneath these other riders,” reported Herrera. “We all go out and do the similar thing, and we are all in the exact sport, so I should really generally be confident in myself.”

Herrera immediately figured out how significantly he relished the strategy that is such a essential portion of the Thoroughbred recreation.

“In Quarter Horse races you get a clean up crack and you go on with it,” he explained. “The Thoroughbreds are so different, with distinct methods and strategies, so I think that’s one particular of the major factors I like it so a great deal. I get the identical adrenaline rush going 300 yards as I do turning into the extend in the lengthier races.”

In 2021, Herrera rode 44 Thoroughbred winners from 376 starters, as effectively as 25 Quarter Horse winners from 198 mounts, in accordance to Equibase. He designs to preserve up with each breeds for the time currently being, allowing Ward get the job done out the scheduling with Lawson.

“Most men and women are astonished when I convey to them he is only 17 years previous,” Lawson claimed. “His do the job ethic is impeccable, and the fact that he pays awareness to what he’s instructed when doing work the horses in the early morning and in the afternoon is spectacular. It is refreshing to see that sort of improvement in somebody so young.”

“I just want to continue to keep carrying out what I am carrying out, turn out to be a improved and smarter rider, then with any luck , just after the bug is long gone (in April) I can remain at Santa Anita and continue on to be successful,” said Herrera. “I have to be on my A-game, and make confident my mentality is proper each individual time I walk out of the jock’s area. I may experience a ton of longshots, but I try to be incredibly self-assured in my horse and in anyone powering the scenes.”

Diego Herrera rides Solo Animo to victory in a starter allowance race at Santa Anita on Jan. 2, 2022