Tyler Gaffalione, Christian Hiraldo, Feargal Lynch and Jomar Torres have been named finalists for JockeyTalk360.com's 2017 Breakthrough Jockey of the Year Award, presented by Betfair/TVG.
The winner will be selected by the panel of racing experts who vote on Jockey of the Week honors for JockeyTalk360.com, the website dedicated to promoting and celebrating the sport of horse racing by showcasing riders from across the nation and around the world. Jeff Lowich, TVG's Director of Industry Relations, will present the Breakthrough Jockey of the Year Award to the recipient at the Dec. 12 awards luncheon of the annual Jockeys' Guild Assembly sponsored by Betfair US at Las Vegas' MGM Grand. The JockeyTalk360 awards are in addition to those handed out at the luncheon by the Jockeys' Guild.
“TVG has increased its commitment to the Jockeys' Guild and Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund,” Lowich said. “We have exciting plans ahead to raise money for the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund as well as promote the role of the jockey in horse racing, as evidenced by the sponsorship of the Breakthrough Jockey Award. Best of luck to all finalists. You all had a great year.”
The Breakthrough Jockey Award recognizes a rider having a superlative year that takes his or her career to the next level.
Gaffalione earned the Eclipse Award designating North America's outstanding apprentice jockey in 2015. One of the most difficult times for a rider can be after they lose their apprentice weight allowances. But while Gaffalione has won more than 200 races each of the past three seasons, he stamped himself as a player on the national scene outside his Florida base this year, with five graded stakes victories — the Fair Grounds' Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Memorial with Enterprising, Turfway Park's $500,000 Jack Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes (G3) on Fast and Accurate and Belmont's Matron Stakes (G3) on Happy Like a Fool. Gaffalione's 268 wins this year and more than $10.1 million in purses through Nov. 29 shatter his Eclipse-season statistics.
Hiraldo, the leading rider at Charles Town in West Virginia in both wins and money, has steadily built his business, winning more than 100 races for the first time in a career that began in 2013. He's at 135 victories and almost $2.4 million in purses with a month left in the year, going from three stakes triumphs in 2016 to eight so far this year.
Lynch, based in the Mid-Atlantic region, is enjoying his best season in America in his second tour here, including sweeping Laurel's Grade 3 Commonwealth Derby and Oaks. Lynch, who was based in the United States in 2008 and 2009, returned to ride full time in America in late 2015. His 124 victories through Nov. 29 are the most of his career (topping his 100 last year), with his almost $5 million in purses reflecting a $2 million increase over 2016. Lynch went from three stakes victories last year to 11 so far in 2017.
Torres, who started out pursuing a career as a horse-shoer in his native Puerto Rico, emerged as one of the hottest jockeys in the Mid-Atlantic after coming to the United States last year. Having won his first stakes victory this year, he's up to seven through November. He finished second in wins in the Delaware jockey standings after losing his apprentice weight allowances in the spring.
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