Jevian Toledo capped a breakout year in 2015 when he topped the rider standings at Laurel Park’s fall meeting with 48 victories and purses of more than $1.5 million.
The 21-year-old native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, came to the U.S. in 2013 and won 128 races that season. He rode Miss Behaviour to victory in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks and Stormin Monarcho in the Richard Small Stakes in 2014 and rode a career-best 178 winners in 2015.
Toledo recently took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with This Is Horse Racing intern and Delaware Valley University student Shayna Tiller about his career, goals and what he enjoys away from racing.
This Is Horse Racing: What did you want to be when you were 5 years old?
Jevian Toledo: Well, when I was 5 years old I had horses around my house and all I knew was I wanted to do something with the horses. I didn’t want to do anything more than just be around the horses. Not really a jockey, but I just wanted to do something with horses.
TIHR: How did you become a jockey?
Toledo: Nobody in my family is from the racetrack or something like that, we just had horses around our house. I was in high school and my mom asked me, ‘what do you want to do when you get old? What do you want to be in the future?’ I said I don’t really know. So I looked at schools and somebody told me about the jockey school. So I put in an application and they accepted me.
TIHR: What was your first race like?
Toledo: My first race was over there in Puerto Rico. I won the first race. The horse was Run Binki Run. I felt awesome because, you know, it was the first ride in my life and I was winning, and all of my family was there. Everybody from the school was there, too … jockeys you may know like Manuel Franco, Victor Carrasco, Jorge Vargas. Everybody in the school did it together and we all started the same day. And with everybody from the family there, it felt awesome.
TIHR: How did you wind up in Maryland?
Toledo: I went to California originally because when I was in Puerto Rico I won races like every day. When I went to California’s Hollywood Park I had been there for a month and I hadn’t won anything. You know, I finished some second, third, but I didn’t have any winning horses. So I wanted to go back to Puerto Rico and my mom told me, ‘Why don’t you try another track? You know, another place?’ So I called Gerson Rodriquez, the agent for J.D. Acosta. I asked him if he could help me, and the first time he said no. So I said OK. Then, like two hours later, he called me back and said, ‘Hey, you wanna come with me?’ I was at Charles Town and he said he could put me in the ninth race at Laurel. I said, ‘that’s alright with me!’
TIHR: You won your first riding title in 2015 at Laurel, what was the key to success?
Toledo: Well, you know, everything is thanks to God, all the hard work, the trainers and owners that give me the opportunities, my agent – my agent is very good with me and helps pick the right horses, the grooms do a great job, my family, and Victor Carrasco has helped a lot. Thanks so much to everybody. Victor and I both moved into our own places last week, but until last week we lived together. We went to jockey school together and we both want to win races.
TIHR: What are your goals for 2016?
Toledo: Try to win more races than last year and try to win more stakes. Try to do everything the best.
TIHR: Do you have any racing rituals?
Toledo: Every single morning I tell God to protect me, protect all my friends and he helps me. I call my family after the races, and after I work horses in the morning. Sometimes I go out to dinner after a win to celebrate, but sometimes I can’t if I’m somewhere like Charles Town or Penn National.
TIHR: Who is your favorite horse that you’ve ridden?
Toledo: It would be Miss Behaviour. She helped me a lot in my career. That was the biggest race I won – the Charles Town Oaks. I like a lot of horses. I really liked Woodwin W; the trainer is Jamie Ness. I won a lot on him and he’s a nice horse.
TIHR: What do you like the most about being a jockey?
Toledo: I don’t even know. I love being around the horses. It’s really exciting and running feels great. I get to ride in the day and night, but I prefer the day.
TIHR: Favorite races you’ve ridden?
Toledo: The wins at Charles Town with Miss Behavior and the wins on Woodwin W, but I think the other race was about three or four weeks ago on a filly named Lexington Street (second in Dec. 26 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship). I really liked that race and am excited about that filly.
TIHR: What are some big career goals?
Toledo: I think the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness and Belmont would be great, too, but everybody in the world knows the Kentucky Derby so I think that is the biggest race that I want to win.
TIHR: What scares you?
Toledo: Well I guess falling off. I fell off in a race in Delaware. I had a horse in the front – I don’t really remember because I had a concussion but I watched the video – and the horse made a weird move and I lost my balance. The horse that came in last hit me in my head and when I woke up the next day I was in the hospital and didn’t remember anything.
TIHR: What do you like to do outside of racing?
Toldeo: Spending time in my house and going to watch movies. I don’t really have a favorite movie but I think comedies are the best. I like going running and watching baseball.
TIHR: Do you have a favorite food?
Toledo: Rice and beans from home are good. I was excited to try crabs because everybody says the best crabs are here in Maryland but I didn’t really like that.
TIHR: What did you like to do back in Puerto Rico?
Toledo: I have all my family there and my friends, so I like hanging out with everybody.
TIHR: Is all of your family still in Puerto Rico?
Toledo: Yes, my grandmother, grandfather, brother and sisters, mom, dad, everybody. I have three sisters and one brother. I’m the oldest and they’re all still in school in Puerto Rico so they haven’t come to visit. None of them want to work with horses either. My mom came one time to visit me.
TIHR: Anything you’d like to add?
Toledo: I’d just really like to thank everybody that helped me in my career. The trainers, grooms, exercise riders, hot walkers, my family, friends, agent, owners, everyone. I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help.