Elvis Trujillo, statistically idle since spring after riding more than 2,000 career winners, is targeting the first of the year for his return to action. He has been tuning up by riding each morning for his uncle, trainer Jose Corrales, at Laurel Park.
He is capitalizing on his temporary afternoon freedom by spending time with his family—wife Raquel and sons Elvis Trujillo (age 15), Emanuel (nine) and Jorge (six).
“When I finish work, I come home to my wife and kids,” he said. “I am having family time. Family is first.”
Trujillo has not ridden competitively since he was involved in a three-horse spill at Laurel on March 10. Originally assuming he was only body sore, Trujillo took a one-day hiatus with plans to be back in the saddle by week's end, but further diagnosis revealed fractured ribs and sternum and a neck injury.
Mornings at the barn have given Trujillo insight into the efforts of all involved with the Thoroughbreds and new understanding of how a jockey's mistake can be costly. In addition to breezing and galloping the horses, Trujillo assists with other chores.
“Now he realizes what it takes to get there,” Corrales said. “We need to be ahead by that nose. A nose can cost you big money not only to the owners and trainers but also the bettors.”
Trujillo's injuries have not hindered his passion to race ride, a feeling not satisfied by working horses during training hours.
“When you are on the horse in a race, you feel free,” Trujillo said while struggling to describe the intangible. “It is different.”
The 35-year-old native of Panama has relished that feeling across North America on 12,752 mounts that have banked more than $70 million with 2,102 victories. He began his North American career in 2001 in Southern California after a successful start in Panama and Mexico. He then became one of the leading riders on the New Jersey/Florida circuit. In 2017, Trujillo rode for four months in Macau on China's southern coast.
He appreciated his time in Macau with his family and would consider a return if the opportunity arose.
“It was so cool and the people are so nice,” he said while adding he quickly adjusted to racing in the opposite direction.
Trujillo's sense of freedom on horseback reached a pinnacle in 2007 when he won the inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park aboard Maryfield.
While the Breeders' Cup triumph is clearly his most high profile victory, Trujillo said some of his other favorite moments came aboard Presious Passion, whose unorthodox style attracted a fan following.
“He would open 10, 20 lengths in front,” he said.
The gelding provided Trujillo with a lucrative triumph when he won the United Nations Handicap (G1) at Monmouth Park in 2009. His lengthy lead dwindled to 13 lengths after a mile and then to eight lengths with a furlong remaining. Presious Passion held on to win the 1 3/8-mile marathon by two lengths. A similar strategy produced a runner-up effort in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
Trujillo is eager to reboot his career in Maryland, where he came late last year after returning from China. He previously had stakes engagements in the state.
“I feel good and my body is working good,” he said.
Corrales said Trujillo is an exceptionally smart rider and predicts he will return better than ever.
“(Working in the barn) has made him more mature,” Corrales said. “He comes to the barn early every day to help with everything. I think that will make him a better rider. He is already a great person—always happy, always smiling.”
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