Hawthorne Racecourse (4/22/12)
Contact: Ron Uchman
A RARE TALENT
Forty-two year old jockey Francisco Torres recently scored his North American 2,500th riding victory but was quick to point out that he had won his 2,500th race much earlier. “I rode quite a few winners in Saudi Arabia, which they don’t count here. I was there from the fall of 2000 until the fall of 2004, though I did come home periodically.”
Personally, I was surprised that he had only just reached that milestone. I would have thought that it was closer to 5000.
“I’ve been riding about 25 years, from 1986 until now, but if you take into consideration my suspensions, my injuries, my suspensions, and my suspensions, and all the time I missed, I would like to think that I would have reached the 5,000 mark by now. If you take all the time it really adds up.
“I talk about them openly (suspensions). It is what it is. It’s not a secret. People know my past, my history.”
How did you end up in Saudi Arabia?
“I had gotten myself into some trouble at Churchill in the fall of 2000. I was asked to take a urine test and I refused. I was automatically ejected from Churchill Downs. Until I went through rehab, I was barred.
“So when an opportunity arose overseas to ride for the Crown Prince. I accepted it. It was one of those things that I’m grateful for.
“The riding style over there is similar but you have outfits that run four or five horses in a race. You might have four or five different outfits, each with four or five horses in a particular race. You might be racing against 30 other horses and riders. It becomes a tactical game for them. If you are riding a horse with early speed, they are going to send a runner to challenge you right away. When that horse stops, they are going to send another right up to take its place. You need to ride with a strategy.
“My family has a background with horses. My dad and uncle had a rodeo association. From a very young age, I was around horses. My dad started hotwalking horses at the Chicago racetracks and I would come out with him on weekends when I was old enough. I fell in love with it. I basically grew up on the backside of Chicago racetracks. From 9-years-old I proceeded to try to get involved in it. I was a likeable kid and people noticed.”
Why do horses run for you the way they do?
“I don’t know how to express myself on how I get a horse to run so well for me. There a lot of things that develop during a race that you have to consider. You have to watch how the pace develops, which riders have the most horse, where you want to be to take advantage. My goal is to get my horse to relax in the early part of the race because getting them to relax early leaves them with something left late.”
You mentioned injuries. Were they serious?
“I’ve broken my neck twice, once at Oaklawn and had a couple of serious spills at Sportsman’s Park. I was involved in the accident when Rodney Dickens got killed (1991). I broke my skull in four places. I’ve broken ribs, collarbones numerous times, and so many other things.”
Some were moved by your public apology last week. What prompted that?
“There are certain times in your life that you need to take advantage of an opportunity to express yourself. I’ve hurt a lot of people, I lied to a lot of people. I’ve misused their trust, not only here but in Kentucky as well. Everywhere I’ve gone, `Cisco' has gone. I’ve betrayed a lot of trust from horsemen.
“When Jim Miller was interviewing me on TV last week I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to apologize for the way that I’ve been. From the bottom of my heart, if I stepped on any toes, please forgive me.
“I’ll be going to Arlington. Hopefully the success that I’ve had here will carry over there. It started here last fall. I had something like 30 wins in 30 days. There will be more horses, more outfits, more riders over there. It could be more challenging.”
Asked if he gets tired since he has been riding virtually every race as well as working horses in the morning, Mr. Torres smiled. “Not really. I mean I do get a bit tired but it’s a good tired. When you ride and work that many horses, your body gets fit.
“I’m grateful to Midwest Thoroughbreds and Roger Brueggemann for giving me the opportunity that they have this meet. I know a lot of other riders would like to be in this position.
“I feel good. I’m healthy. I have some nagging injuries that have taken their toll on me but I’d like to ride for another 10 years.”