Quincy Welch was today named the 2015 recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award.
With 1,855 wins to his name through May 18, including a career-best 173 triumphs in 2004, Welch has maintained his status as one of Canada's most consistent and capable riders.
“After I found out that I was given this honor, I went online and began reading about all of the great names that have earned it,” said Welch, who was crowned Northlands Park champion jockey in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008. “It was really amazing to see all of the talented riders and to also find out more about Avelino Gomez. It didn't take me long to understand just how great a jockey he was.”
Unfortunately, Welch wasn't quite dressed appropriately at the moment he was told that he was the 2015 recipient.
“Robbie King (a former rider and Gomez honoree, and current Executive Director of the Jockey Benefit Association of Canada) came to see me here in Edmonton at the racetrack,” recalled Welch. “I happened to be in the sauna and I originally thought Robbie said I was a nominee for the award. When he said that I had won it, I jumped up and wanted to give him a big hug. I made sure I put on a towel first.”
The coveted Gomez Award is given to the person, Canadian-born, Canadian-raised or regular rider in the country for more than five years, who has made significant contributions to the sport.
A native of Barbados, now residing in Alberta, Welch won the 2007 Alberta Derby with Amazin Blue, despite the horse losing a shoe and having to rally from far back to win the $125,000 feature.
He had originally come to Canada on March 26, 1997, with an opportunity for the then 17-year-old to compete at Stampede Park.
Since then, Welch has built up an enviable resume, winning races across the country, including at Woodbine.
“Cash on the Run was a great horse,” he said, of the 1999 Birdcatcher Stakes champion at Northlands. “I also had the pleasure of riding True Metropolitan (a multiple stakes winner who was voted Canada's champion older male in 2006 and 2007. When I came to compete at Woodbine a few years back, it was amazing to ride horses for great trainers like Roger Attfield and Mark Casse.”
King has kind words for Welch, whose wife, April, is the Equibase chart caller for Northlands Park.
“He looks as good on a horse today as he did when he first started,” praised the 2009 Gomez winner. “Like those of us who have been lucky enough to be recognized with this award, Quincy, who has also been nominated for the champion jockey Sovereign Award, is absolutely thrilled.”
Welch, who was at the Toronto oval for Woodbine-based jockeys Emile Ramsammy and Steve Bahen's respective Gomez ceremonies, will take centre stage on June 14, the day he will be feted for his achievements.
“The two times I was there, I was in the back row, peering between other riders,” said the father of two children, son, Kyrie, and daughter, Keira. “I guess it will be a little different this time.”
Presented annually on Woodbine Oaks day at Woodbine, the honour is named in memory of one of the sport's most heralded and loved performers. The Cuban-born Gomez died of complications after a three-horse accident in the 1980 Canadian Oaks.
To commemorate his contributions to the sport, a life-size statue of Gomez, who called Toronto home and raised a family there, keeps watch over Woodbine's walking ring. A replica is presented to each year's honouree.
Welch joins Ron Turcotte, Johnny Longden, Sandy Hawley, Don MacBeth, Chris Rogers, Jeff Fell, Lloyd Duffy, Hugo Dittfach, Robin Platts, Larry Attard, Don Seymour, David Gall, Richard Grubb, Irwin Driedger, David Clark, Jim McKnight, Chris Loseth, Richard Dos Ramos, Robert Landry, Francine Villeneuve, Sam Krasner, John LeBlanc Sr., George Ho Sang, Jack Lauzon, Robert King Jr., Stewart Elliott, Emile Ramsammy, Steve Bahen, Mickey Walls and last year's recipient, Patrick Husbands, as Gomez honourees.
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