Laurel Park lowered the curtain on its 40-day summer stand with a 10-race program Sunday as jockey Jevian Toledo and trainer Claudio Gonzalez formally wrapped up their respective meet titles.
Toledo finished with 31 wins, six more than runners-up Feargal Lynch and apprentice Weston Hamilton, to earn his fifth career meet title. The 23-year-old Toledo led all Maryland riders in wins in 2015 and 2017, and ranked second in 2016.
“It means a lot to me. I feel so happy and so blessed. It feels great,” Toledo said. “I feel very blessed with all the help that I get always, not just this year. I get a lot of help from the owners and trainers, and my agent does a really good job. I am very lucky and thank God to have the health to be here.”
Toledo clinched top honors at the conclusion of Saturday's Maryland Pride Day program when both riders went winless on the afternoon and Lynch was named in only four races Sunday. Hamilton won twice Saturday and once Sunday to move into a tie for second.
A native of Puerto Rico who turns 24 Monday, Toledo missed seven weeks during Laurel's winter-spring meet after suffering compression fractures of his T7 and T8 vertebrae and a collapsed lung in a spill during training hours Jan. 21. He returned March 9 and finished with 21 wins, also winning four races during the 12-day Preakness Meet at Pimlico.
Also tops with more than $983,000 in purse earnings, Toledo had eight multi-win days during the summer stand including three wins on June 30 and July 29. He won the Twixt Stakes July 28 aboard Still There and traveled to Chicago to win the Arlington Handicap (G3) aboard Gunpowder Farm's Divisidero – Toledo's second career graded-stakes victory. They were third in the Fourstardave (G1) Aug. 11 at Saratoga.
“You always want to be the leading rider no matter where you go. If a rider tells you that they don't want to be leading rider, I don't think they want to be a rider,” Toledo said. “I've been leading rider in Maryland twice and I want to set goals like riding more big races and that's what we've been doing this year. I know I lose a few races here by riding out of town, but at the same time I'm happy with that because I've been riding really good races at Saratoga and Arlington Park.”
Gonzalez, 41, earned his fourth title from the last five Maryland Jockey Club meets, finishing with 23 wins and also ranking first with $519,013 in purse earnings. Hamilton Smith won the meet finale with I Ain't Never Sunday to take sole possession of second place with 15 wins, one more than Dale Capuano, who had four wins over the weekend including three on Maryland Pride Day.
A cancer survivor, Gonzalez won two or more races on a single card four times during the summer meet, topped by a three-win day Aug. 3. Among his winners were promising 2-year-olds Absolved, Day, Girls Love Me and Helen. He is pointing Helen to the $100,000 Selima for juvenile fillies and stakes-placed Tybalt to the $100,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds, both at six furlongs on Laurel's world-class turf course.
“It is really tough here and I have to thank all my owners to give me the support and the chance to train for them,” Gonzalez said. “I love my team. All my workers, they do a really good job. If not for them, I cannot have the success I have.”
Gonzalez is setting his sights on a third straight title at the seven-day Maryland State Fair meet in Timonium, which opens Friday, Aug. 24 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 3. Racing returns to Laurel for its calendar year-ending fall meet Friday, Sept. 7.
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