After a decades-long battle with health issues, Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero, known for riding Go for Wand and the unbeaten Personal Ensign among others, has passed away at the age of 61 in his native Louisiana. He was surrounded by family members while under hospice care in Lafayette, La.
“He is the toughest man I've ever seen in my life,” his brother Gerald Romero told the Blood-Horse. “Believe me, for all he's been through, he's in a better place.”
Another brother, Edward Romero, became live-in caregiver after Randy became ill. He said several of Randy's Cajun jockey friends including Mark Guidry and fellow Hall of Famer Eddie Delahoussaye had visited the day before. All of Romero's brothers, their wives, and their mother Joyce was with Randy Romero when he died.
“He fought so hard and so long and it took him a long time to find peace,” said Edward. “But in the end he died in peace and had a peaceful look on his face. We're all sad, but we didn't want to see him suffer any longer and we know he is in a better place.”
Romero's health problems started in 1983, when he was badly burned in a sauna explosion at Oaklawn Park. Blood transfusions helped keep him alive but one of the transfusions was tainted with hepatitis C, which damaged his liver. Years later, while hoping for a liver and kidney transplant, he developed stomach cancer that doctors deemed inoperable because of his other health issues. Doctors decided he was not likely to survive lengthy transplant surgery and underwent dialysis three times weekly for some 15 years.
Born in Erath, La., Romero began his riding career in 1973. Until his retirement in 1999, he won 4,294 races from 26,091 mounts (16.4 percent) for total earnings of $75,264,198. He won 342 stakes and riding titles at 10 different tracks.
Romero once won five races in a row at Keeneland and captured four stakes on one card at Gulfstream Park. Among his major victories, he won back-to-back Breeders' Cup Distaffs in 1987 and 1988 with Sacahuista and Personal Ensign, respectively. The following year, he was aboard Go for Wand when she won the Juvenile Fillies. Romero rode Personal Ensign to 12 of her 13 wins in an undefeated career.
Romero found the winner's circle in many other graded stakes and sat atop other well known runners, including Risen Star, Housebuster, Seeking the Gold, Hansel and Java Gold.
Romero was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2010.
Randy was one of the Hall of Fame members who attended the 2018 Jockeys and Jeans Fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund at Canterbury Park in 2018 took the time to speak personally with the six permanently disabled jockeys who attended.
“Randy ignored his own health issues, got on a plane and attended even though he had to find a place and undergo dialysis while he was there,” said Eddie Donnally a longtime friend and VP of Jockeys and Jeans. “He took the time to talk with each of the six permanently disabled riders there to be honored. Randy was as kind as he was brave.
Catholic Mass funeral service will be at 1 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 700 S Broadway Street, Erath, LA 70533. The family requested all donations be made in his name to the Pemanently Disabled Jockeys Fund www.pdjf.org.
Tributes from around the racing world.
We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Randy Romero. He was an amazing ambassador to the PDJF. We are thinking of his family through this difficult time.
— PDJF (@PDJFund) August 29, 2019
23 years ago when I was an apprentice, Randy Romero taught me the importance of saving ground and often reminded me to believe in myself. He said one day I'll be in the position to inspire another young rider. Thank you for believing in me Randy!
R.I.P my friend 🙏🏼😢❤️
— Ramon Dominguez (@RAMONandSHARON) August 29, 2019
Randy is at the big house wating for us. pic.twitter.com/29oGizj0HA
— DallasStewart (@DallasStewart3) August 29, 2019
We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Randy Romero. He was a longtime member and supporter of the #JockeysGuild. We are thinking of his family through this difficult time.
— Jockeys'Guild (@JockeysGuild) August 29, 2019
I will always cherish the few minutes I got to visit with my dear friend Randy Romero on July 20 at Evangeline Downs. Such a tremendous talent and class act. Rest In Peace Randy. You may be gone, but your legacy lives on… pic.twitter.com/WAF6LjYLtI
— Don Stevens (@horsemandon) August 29, 2019
Our deepest sympathies go out to the Romero Family and friends during this loss. May God give you the comfort and peace that you seek and may the soul of Randy rest in peace. 🙏🏻#randyromero #legacy Randy Romero pic.twitter.com/fuXPDZrAoQ
— Humberto Chavez (@ChaplainChavez) August 29, 2019
I'm very sad to hear the news of Randy Romero passing at midnight last night. Although Randy had to deal with daily pain he always had that big smile for you. Randy loved life! My condolences to Gerald, Mona, and all of his family and friends.
— Mark Toothaker (@marktoothaker) August 29, 2019
Our prayers and condolences are with Randy Romero's family, friends, and fans. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 pic.twitter.com/a0Npxelpmz
— RTCA NATIONAL (@RTCANATIONAL) August 29, 2019
Rest peacefully Randy Romero. Truly one of the most genuine people, heart of gold, phenomenal horseman, loved horses to the core. A passionate & respectful advocate for our industry & a kind human being. Heaven awaits
— jill byrne (@jillrbyrne) August 29, 2019
Randy Romero – What an incredible human being….. We will all miss you my brother. No more pain, no more suffering, just external bliss. Blessings Randy.
— Terry Finley (@TerryFinley11) August 29, 2019
From the archives of HRTV: “Inside Information: Randy Romero”. Rest In Peace Randy. And thank you. https://t.co/qpmZsKWnOM
— Amy Zimmerman (@NeverSettleTV) August 29, 2019
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