Juarez resumes riding, will move tack to Florida
Nik Juarez, who had not been allowed to ride since Jan. 15, resumed his career Friday when he rode a horse for his father, trainer Calixto Juarez, at Laurel Park. He has a mount for trainer Marcus Vitali in the 10th race at Gulfstream Park on Sunday.
Juarez, 22, will be relocating from Maryland to Florida, where he will be represented by Jay Rushing Jr., who was his agent for the final part of the Monmouth Park meet last summer. Juarez finished third in the Monmouth standings.
Juarez was suspended by the Laurel Park stewards on the morning of Jan. 16 for not providing a urine sample the previous day. Maryland Racing Commission officials randomly drug tested all of the riders in the second race at Laurel Park on Jan. 15. When asked to submit a sample, Juarez explained he had been reducing to make weight in a later race and was given until the end of the day to comply.
Juarez said that when he was finished riding for the day, he was unable to locate an official to test him and left the track, resulting in his suspension.
“I made a big mistake and am very sorry for my actions,” Juarez said.
On Jan. 16, Juarez was advised to go to a private facil- ity and be tested. He did so at the UNI Urgent Care Center in Frederick, Md., and the results were negative. The next week, he was tested by commission officials, and those results were negative. He was fined $500 and his license was reinstated.
Officials for The Stronach Group, which owns the Maryland Jockey Club tracks of Laurel and Pimlico, in addition to Gulfstream Park, were not satisfied, however, and would not allow Juarez to ride at their tracks.
“We didn’t like that he got tested at an outside facility, and we wanted him to test for us,” said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group. “He tested under the supervision of our security team and the results were negative.”
Juarez has signed an agreement with The Stronach Group that will allow track officials to test him at their discretion.
“I have agreed to test any time I am asked,” Juarez confirmed. “The Stronach Group takes this very seriously.”
Juarez, a native of Westminster, Md., has ridden the winners of 166 races. He completed his apprenticeship last August. He rode six winners at Laurel on Jan. 11.
Juarez is heading to Florida because he believes “Monmouth Park will be an important part” of his future and he wants to re-establish relationships with trainers racing there, many of whom spend the winter in Florida.
Jay Rushing Sr. dies at age 58
Jay Rushing Sr., a longtime agent in Maryland and New England, died last week at age 58 of a heart attack, according to his son Jay Rushing Jr.
Among the riders Jay Rushing Sr. booked mounts for was Calixto Juarez, the father of Nik Juarez. Jay Rushing Sr.’s brother is Steve Rushing, who is the agent for Irad Ortiz Jr. and who represented the nowretired Ramon Dominguez.
In addition to Nik Juarez, Jay Rushing Jr. has worked for Orlando Bocachica and Matthew Rispoli.
Two nice races on card
The Sunday program at Laurel Park is anchored by two interesting optional-claiming races, one for 3-year-olds and the other for 4-year-olds and up.
Race 7, a six-furlong sprint with a $42,000 purse, has attracted nine 3-year-olds. Afleet Willy, a promising claim by trainer Claudio Gonzalez, is the likely favorite.
Gonzalez claimed Afleet Willy for $25,000 out of a frontrunning 6 3/4-length maidenclaiming win on Dec. 27. Afleet Willy came back to win a $25,000 optional-starter race by 6 1/4 lengths and now moves up in class in this first-level race, which has a $50,000 claiming option.
Tale of E Dubai also figures here. He earned a 72 Beyer Speed Figure – which ties Afleet Willy’s most recent figure as the highest in the field – by winning a $40,000 maiden-claiming race at Laurel for trainer John Salzman Jr. in his second start.
He has since finished fourth in the Marylander Stakes. The winner of that race, Vorticity, came back to finish second in the Grade 3 Jerome and was scheduled to run in Saturday’s Grade 3 Withers. The runner-up, Never Gone South, returned to score an easy win in the Frank Whiteley Jr. on Jan. 16 at Laurel.
Tale of E Dubai has since finished second in a Penn National allowance race for statebreds.
In race 8, the up-and-coming Kaitan will face Strong Stipulation at a mile in a second-level race.
Kaitan, 5, has made only five starts but enters off two stylish scores for trainer Katharine Voss. He earned an 86 Beyer winning a first-level allowance last time out.
Strong Stipulation, trained by Graham Motion, has made four of his last five starts in New York. He finished second to Page McKenney at Laurel two starts back in the Richard W. Small Stakes.