With the deadline fast approaching, jockey Pablo Morales summoned a consummate front-running performance from 4-year-old gelding Polar City in Tampa Bay Downs' ninth race to earn his 200th victory of 2018.
The 30-year-old Morales, the leading jockey this year at Presque Isle Downs, reached the 200 mark for the first time last year, when he finished with 201 victories.
“It's a lot of races, obviously, and it isn't easy to do,” said Morales, one of 21 jockeys in North America to win 200 or more races this year. “You need a lot of support and you need to keep working hard, and you need to stay healthy, which is the main thing.
“I didn't know until right now (he had reached 200),” Morales said minutes after the race. “I don't really pay attention to that stuff; it feels great after without the pressure. I thank God I was able to do it and I'll take it every year. I'm grateful for the support from all the trainers and my agent (Paula Bacon).”
Polar City, owned and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr., also won gate-to-wire under Morales here on Nov. 30 going a mile-and-a-sixteenth. Today's race was a mile-and-40-yards for $10,000 claiming horses. Polar City won by a length-and-a-half from K D's Cat Bird in a speedy time of 1:40.71.
“I think he likes being challenged,” Morales said after Polar City turned back a bold move by the runner-up on the far turn. “Last time I was out there by myself and I tried to slow the pace down, and he didn't finish as strong as today. When I asked him, he really kicked in. He is kind of a high-headed horse and I guess his style is running freely.”
Morales, who won the Grade II, $750,000 Super Derby in 2005 at Louisiana Downs on The Daddy, shortly after turning 17, has more than 1,700 career victories and has ridden 100 or more winners nine consecutive years.
He's far from grizzled, but his combination of experience, knowledge, hands and judgment of pace promise many more milestones to be achieved.
“My goal is to just keep doing what I'm doing and to stay healthy so that I can keep showing I've still got it. Just do the best I can with what I have,” he said. “I'm already 30, I'm an old man, so it feels great to be able to keep bringing them home like this.”
We should all be so old.
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