Apprentice Julio Correa won four times on Sunday's closing day program to defeat Trevor McCarthy and clinch his first career riding title in style at Laurel Park.
The 25-year-old Correa, who rides with a five-pound weight allowance, finished the 43-day summer meet with a 35-30 advantage atop the jockey standings to become the first apprentice to win a riding title at Laurel since Yomar Ortiz wore the winter 2013 crown.
A native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, Correa entered Sunday's card with a 31-30 lead over McCarthy, who had won four consecutive titles since moving his tack back to Maryland full-time last fall. Correa won Race 2 aboard Oh So Lovely ($10), Race 5 on Stroll Smokin ($5.80) to secure at least a tie, Race 8 with Fernwood Drive ($7.20) and Race 9 on Pantyhose ($12.40).
Represented by agent Mark Mace, Correa captured the title outright when McCarthy finished second on Coop Tries Harder in Race 6 with two mounts remaining on the card. McCarthy, blanked on Sunday, led summer riders with purse earnings over $1 million.
“I have to thank God first of all and all the trainers and owners and my agent for taking care of me and supporting me during the summer meet,” Correa said. “I'm really happy. I worked hard to make it happen, and it's good for my career.”
Leading all apprentice riders in the country with 86 victories, Correa had eight multi-win days during the summer meet, including hat tricks on July 18 and Aug. 8. He also finished first in mounts (176) and second with more than $900,000 in purse earnings.
“There's a lot of great jockeys here, maybe the best jockeys in the Mid-Atlantic,” Correa said. “It's really tough for me. I'm a bug boy. To beat Trevor, he's a good guy and a great rider and he works hard in the morning. I'm very proud. The guys in the room support me and teach me. If I make a mistake, they give me a hand and I really appreciate it.”
Correa attended the famed Escuela Vocacional Hipica jockey school in Puerto Rico, which also produced Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Eclipse Award-winning brothers Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz, Maryland's 2018 champion rider Jorge Vargas Jr., 2013 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice Victor Carrasco and Jevian Toledo, the Maryland champion in 2015 and 2017. Vargas, Carrasco and Toledo all compete in Maryland.
Correa rode his first professional race Nov. 20, 2018 at Parx, finishing sixth with This Might Be for trainer Jose Bobadilla. Winless in eight more mounts to end the calendar year, Correa registered his first win on his 29th try, aboard Rings of Jupiter Feb. 2 at Parx, formally beginning his apprenticeship in mid-February.
Claudio Gonzalez, 42, had long since clinched his 10th career training title and seventh in the last eight meets at Laurel Park dating back to fall 2017. He captured Sunday's opener with Graceygab ($3.20) and Race 8 with Creative Artist ($7.60) and finished with 24 winners, 10 more than runner-up Mike Trombetta, who snapped Gonzalez's streak of six straight at Laurel's short spring stand.
Gonzalez broke away from his rivals with a run of seven wins from 18 starters over a four-day span from July 25 to 28. He also ranked first with more than $631,000 in purse earnings, and finished in the top three with 53 percent of his 122 starters (24-27-14).
Smart Angle LLC and Joseph Besecker finished as the summer meet's leading owners, tied at 10 apiece. Smart Angle won Sunday with Stroll Smokin and Fernwood Drive while Besecker was first with Graceygab and Creative Artist.
Jockey Julian Pimentel capped a memorable summer meet by registering four wins on the Maryland Pride Day program Aug. 17, including three consecutive stakes – the $75,000 All Brandy with My Sistersledge, $75,000 Find with English Minister and $75,000 Miss Disco with Introduced.
My Sistersledge, being pointed for a three-peat in the Maryland Million Ladies in October, and English Minister are both trained by Trombetta. English Minister's victory was his first in a stakes and a career-high fourth straight for the 9-year-old gelding making his 54th start. Trombetta also won a meet-high third stakes, the Ben's Cat Stakes July 14, with Oldies But Goodies.
Breeze Easy's two-time Grade 3-winning filly Late Night Pow Wow returned to Laurel for a convincing victory in the $75,000 Twixt Stakes July 14. It was the 12th win from 14 lifetime starts for the 4-year-old and seventh in a stakes, four of them coming at Laurel. On the same card, Chick Lang (G3) winner Lexitonian returned to Maryland to take the Concern Stakes.
A pair of 1 1/16-mile turf stakes were introduced on the June 16 program, with multiple graded-stakes winner Doctor Mounty taking the $100,000 Prince George's County and Irish Group 3 winner I'm So Fancy scoring in the $100,000 Big Dreyfus, then following up with a victory in the Matchmaker (G3) at Monmouth Park.
Six track records were set during the summer meet, five of them coming over Laurel's world-class turf course including English Minister's 1:40.41 for 1 1/16 miles over the Bowl Game layout Aug. 4 and fellow 9-year-old Ghost Hunter's 1:33.63 for one mile June 8, also on the Bowl Game. Top Line Growth's mile in 1:34.07 June 8 established a new dirt mark.
King of Egypt, a juvenile son of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah bred and owned by Alex Campbell Jr., captured his career debut Aug. 1 at Laurel for trainer Graham Motion. The half-brother to multiple graded-stakes winner Ultra Brat and Grade 3 winner It's Tea Time out of the mare Prof. McGonagall is expected to make his return against stakes company.
Maryland connections also made their mark out of town. Jockey Alex Cintron scored his first Grade 1 victory with Wet Your Whistle June 29 at Woodbine, earned his 1,000th career win on Lorden's Love July 8 at Delaware Park and won his first graded-stakes at Saratoga July 24 in the Honorable Miss (G2) with Minit to Stardom.
John Jones, a stakes winner on dirt and turf based at Laurel with trainer Lacey Gaudet, broke the Colonial Downs track record for one mile on the dirt (1:34.28) in a 3 ½-length victory Aug. 17. It was the 11th win for the 7-year-old gelding, who moved over $500,000 in purse earnings in his 38th career start.
Multimillionaire Imperial Hint, whose first career graded-stakes win came in the 2017 General George (G3) at Laurel, won the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) for the second straight year July 27 at Saratoga in a track-record 1:07.92 for six furlongs. Graham Motion-trained King Zachary shattered Saratoga's 1 ¾-mile track record that stood for nearly 91 years, winning the Birdstone Stakes Aug. 1 in 2:52.97.
Motion, based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., sent out Augustin Stable's homebred 3-year-old filly Varenka to a dead-heat victory in the Lake Placid (G2) Aug. 17 at Saratoga.
Following the Maryland State Fair meet at Timonium, live racing returns to Laurel Park for its calendar year-ending fall stand Friday, Sept. 6.
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