Venezia Award Nominees Announced, Voting Open To Active Jockeys

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today 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 finalists including 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 past 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 is as well.”

The 2021 Mike Venezia Memorial Award will be presented in a special ceremony at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., 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].

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2021 nominee biographies:

Junior Alvarado: A native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, and the son of a jockey, Alvarado is a mainstay on the New York and Florida racing circuits, with more than 1,800 races and $103 million in purses in a career that dates to 2007 in the U.S. In New York, Alvarado has consistently excelled, winning the 2019 Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic aboard Arlow and the Grade 1 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets on Preservationist; and in 2014, Moreno in the Grade 1 Whitney. In his first start in a Triple Crown race, the 2016 Kentucky Derby, Alvarado finished fourth aboard Mohaymen.

Julien Leparoux: A native of Senlis, France whose father was a jockey-turned-assistant trainer, Leparoux has amassed more than 2,800 wins and $175 million in prize money since moving to the U.S. in 2005. Those victories include seven Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2015 Mile aboard Champion Turf Mare Tepin and the 2016 Juvenile on Classic Empire. At the 2009 Breeders’ Cup, Leparoux earned the Shoemaker Award as the winningest jockey with three victories. Also in 2009, he led the North American earnings list and received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey.

Deshawn Parker: In 2010, the Cincinnati native and son of a jockey became the first African American rider since 1895 to lead all North American jockeys in races. Racing professionally since 1988, Parker has amassed more than 5,800 wins and $75 million in earnings with many of those victories compiled at Mountaineer Park, where he was a perennial leading rider at Mountaineer Park in West Virginia for more than 20 years. Earlier this year, Parker was selected by a vote of jockeys nationwide as the winner of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, presented annually by Santa Anita to the rider whose career and personal character earn esteem for the individual and for racing.

Gerard Melancon: On June 11, 2021 in the eighth race at Evangeline Downs, the Rayne, Louisiana native reached a milestone when he became the 37th jockey in North American history to reach 5,000 wins. Melancon’s first professional ride was at Delta Downs in 1984 – and since then, he has ridden in more than 31,900 races and earned more than $88 million in purses. Melancon has won multiple riding titles at Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs and Louisiana Downs; and ridden successful horses ranging from Bonapaw and Fantasticat to Rise Up, Sabrecat, Skate Away and Zarb’s Dahar.

Scott Stevens: Breaking into racing in 1976 and accepting his first mount at age 15 at Les Bois Park in his native Idaho, Stevens has established himself through the years as top rider at Turf Paradise, where he has won nine titles, and one of the best at Canterbury Downs, where he has earned three riding titles. Stevens has compiled career marks of 5,049 wins and $43,680,518 in purses to date. In 2019, he was honored with the George Woolf Award. He is the older brother of Hall of Fame rider and 1999 Venezia Memorial Award-winner Gary Stevens.

The post Venezia Award Nominees Announced, Voting Open To Active Jockeys appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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