Laurel lands a winning ride

Joyce hopes his Timonium success continues as new meeting opens today

Horse racing

September 06, 2006|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Vacation was the name of the game for most of the Maryland jockey colony during the past two weeks, but that wasn't the game Jonathan Joyce was playing.

Joyce, who has been riding for only about two years, is looking for as much experience as he can get. So while others rested, Joyce rode at the Timonium Fair Meet. He was the only rider among Maryland's top 15 to ride at the demanding short track and earned the jockey title with 16 wins in 56 starts.

To win the title, Joyce had to outride J.D. Acosta, a good, solid bull-ring rider who competes regularly at Charles Town, W.Va.; Alberto Delgado, a long-time veteran rider in Maryland; and Pedro Monterrey Jr., who is 16th among Maryland jockeys at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. Those three finished second, third and fourth in the Timonium standings, respectively.

Now Joyce returns to Laurel hoping his success will continue at the fall meeting, which begins today.

Track officials hope the Laurel meet's success will continue, too. Last fall, its betting numbers were up nearly 30 percent from the year before, primarily due to the debut of the new turf course. The broad, sweeping course helped make the track a top simulcast signal with an average of 11.2 starters per grass race.

"We had the highest field size of any track in North America last September," said Lou Raffetto, the Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer. "The four-day schedule will enable us to card full and competitive fields like last fall. [And] by utilizing the turf course for 40 percent of our races, hopefully we can meet or exceed last year's numbers."

Laurel will conduct live racing Wednesday through Saturday, with its first post at 1:10 p.m. today. The card features the $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes for 3-year-olds and up, and Joyce will be riding a horse named Mr. Mutter, a 10-1 shot in the morning line, for King Leatherbury in that stakes.

"Timonium was an opportunity," Joyce, 21, said. "I rode a lot at Laurel and Pimlico, but here I got the opportunity to ride a lot more horses who had a shot at winning. You ride for people you don't normally ride for, and things started to click for me.

"I'm riding with confidence thanks to the number of trainers who are starting to trust me. ... You hope when you go back to Laurel that they'll remember and give you a shot there, too."

He returns to Laurel having made the most of his chance. But now, he has to prove himself again, resuming competition with the best riders in Maryland, including Anna (Rosie) Napravnik, who returns as a journeyman, having finished her apprenticeship Aug. 24.

As an apprentice, Napravnik won 279 races and earned $5,346,154. Currently, she ranks sixth in the nation with 208 wins in 2006. But this fall, for the first time other than stakes races and late assignments, she will be competing regularly without a bug, a weight advantage.

"I am a little nervous [about riding without the bug]," Napravnik said. "A lot of people don't think I am going to lose business, but things happen. It is a little different ballgame. I am at the top of the jockey standings right now and I don't want to go downhill or plateau either."

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