Hawthorne Racecourse (3/3/12)
Contact: Ron Uchman
With close to 4,000 wins under his belt, Harry Vega, one of our “new” guys, isn’t exactly new but he is fairly new to Illinois racing. He had only ridden around here a couple of times before starting this meet.
“My family wasn’t involved in racing in any way but I always wanted to try this sport. I always wanted to be a jockey. Along the way I met some great people. They really helped me. They let me know that if I really wanted something I had to work for it. I had to go for it. That’s all I’ve ever done.
“I was here before when I was a kid. I was galloping horses at Arlington and I actually lived on the backside at Arlington. I used to work for Oscar Dishman (Silver Series, Golden Don) and he taught me a lot about galloping horses. I met Caton Bredar (Caton Metzler at the time) then. I was working for Oscar, she was working behind us. We were both kids. I don’t remember exactly what year it was but my wife told me it was around the time of the first Arlington Million (1981). My most enjoyable memory from back then was going to see the Clydesdales. I was still a kid. They used to keep them in the grandstand. I was amazed at the size of their feet.
But, I’ve had only a couple of mounts in Illinois races. I rode in the Illinois Derby and I rode in the Breeders’ Cup at Arlington.
“I was born in New Brunswick New Jersey. My mother is from Puerto Rico. We lived in Brooklyn, New York. I went to junior high there. But, I didn’t want to finish school. I went to work at the track and worked for people like Allen Jerkins in New York at Belmont and moved around a lot. I was a kid travelling. It was a life that kids nowadays can’t experience. I was fortunate.
“I talked to my mom before I left. I told her that I’ve done a lot in my life but my dream was always to go back and win races where I learned about racing. Keeneland was one of the racetracks where I lived on the backside as a kid. That’s where I really learned to gallop horses for Mr. Dishman. I was fortunate to win a race (Phoenix Breeders’ Cup) there with Xtra Heat for John Salzman Sr. Xtra Heat was the best horse I ever rode. She was a diamond.
“Everything was going well at Laurel but, with the new meet starting at Hawthorne, I thought I would give it a try. I had fulfilled all my riding commitments out East and the opportunity arose to come here. My trainers told me to go ahead and try it. Here I am.
“It’s like everything else. I want to have to opportunity to stay here. I consider this to be a place that I would like to be. This is a year-round circuit and I’ve always travelled so much. It would be a blessing to know I could stay in the same place for 10 months a year but that blessing has to come the right way.”
Just a couple of notes gathered from outside sources:
Mr Vega notched his first career victory at Hazel Park on October 11, 1983
In 2006 Vega’s 22.7 winning percentage was ninth best among all jockeys in the United States.
To see the way racing was covered by national media in the not-too-distant past check out http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1121994/1/index.htm. It links to a great story in Sports Illustrated involving Mr Vega’s early career and his relationship with legendary Angel Cordero Jr. It’s a long link to copy from the program but you will able to just click on the link when this story is posted on www.hawthorneracecourse.com and www.barntowire.com.