The Inside Rail

Ramon Dominguez is one of my all-time favorite jockeys and interviews, going all the way back to Phi Beta Doc winning the Saranac at Saratoga when I was writing Saratoga Days. Writing a journal about Saratoga in 1999 provided freedom, I could slow down and talk to a jockey winning his first race at Saratoga, no deadline, barely an editor, just a tape recorder, a note pad and a pen. Dominguez stood under the trees outside the Saratoga jocks’ room and just talked, you could feel his sincerity, his thoughtfulness, his soulfulness. 

I was impressed then, continued to be impressed as his hovering style and his uncanny ability to keep a horse light on his feet earned him Saturday rides on the likes Better Talk Now, Havre de Grace, Gio Ponti and so many others. A move from Maryland to New York. Breeders' Cup wins. Meet titles. A Travers dead heat. Johnny's races won title at Saratoga. Six wins in a day at the Spa. The interviews – well, they were conversations – were always the same. Sincere. Thoughtful. Soulful. 

In 2012, Dominguez won 342 races for $25 million, securing his third consecutive Eclipse Award as the sport’s best. Eighteen days into the new year, 15 wins from the 5,000 milestone, it was over. Convocation went down in the seventh at Aqueduct. Dominguez suffered a traumatic brain injury. Dominguez tasted the bitter pill of being forced out, at 36, at the top of his game. 

I spoke to Dominguez for last week’s In the Room on HRRN.  We talked about riding and retiring, beginnings and breaks, head injuries and heartaches, fastest 5K (his), luck and talent. Listen. Enjoy. Appreciate a Hall of Fame jockey and a Hall of Fame person. 

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