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The Collected Wisdom of Luis S. Quinonez

Jockey Luis Quinonez smiles as he walks back to the paddock after winning the $500,000 Southwest Stakes aboard Suddenbreakingnews in Hot Springs, Ark., on Feb. 15, 2016. [AP PHOTO]

Jockey Luis Quinonez smiles as he walks back to the paddock after winning the $500,000 Southwest Stakes aboard Suddenbreakingnews in Hot Springs, Ark., on Feb. 15, 2016. [AP PHOTO]

Luis S. Quinonez, 50, of Jones has been a jockey nearly 30 years. He has won 3,698 races with career earnings of almost $70 million.

Born in Mexico, Quinonez has raced at Remington Park since 1989. He won the 2015 Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park aboard Suddenbreakingnews.

Quinonez rode the same horse to a fifth-place finish in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. He won the 2004 Oklahoma Derby on Wally's Choice.

In 2001, Quinonez became a U.S. citizen. Earlier this month, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

I was born in Mexico and went to high school there. I came here (to the United States) when I was 18.

I grew up on a small place in Mexico in the state of Sinaloa. I have four sisters and three brothers. I am the oldest. My parents were farmers. They grew soybeans, wheat and corn. It was mostly in the summers I worked on the farm.

Growing up we had mules and donkeys. I remember my dad putting me on a mule or a donkey when I was real little. When I was probably 8 years old I would ride the mule to school.

I came to the United States by myself. I had an uncle who was working for a (horse) trainer in New Mexico. I got here and he kind of helped me out and I started working at the racetrack.

Life over there (Mexico) is a little tough. I wanted to do something for myself. That's why I came here to have the opportunity to work and do something to help my family and have a better life.

The trainer my uncle was working for looked at me and I was small, and he asked me ‘Do you know how to ride horses?' I said I grew up riding mules but not racehorses, but I know how to ride bareback or with a saddle. He looked at me and said, ‘OK, I am going to make you a jockey.' I said ‘What is that?'

I started from the bottom. I was grooming and hot walking horses then I galloped horses for about three years, then I got my license. I finished third in my first race.

It didn't come natural for me, but I grew up on the farm and around horses so that helped me a lot. I did most of the (horse racing) research on my own, just watching the races.

I got my license in April (of 1989) and then I got to Minnesota in May and won my first race. The trainer I was working for had moved his horses to Minnesota. I won by a nose. It was exciting.

I rode the horse, win the race and they take my picture and I never forget, everybody left. I was there by myself. I didn't know what to do except follow the horse back to the barn. Then somebody came up and said, ‘no, you got to go the other way' to the jocks' room.

I came to Remington Park to gallop for (trainer) Cliff Darnell. I working his horses and he asked me if I want to ride them, so he put me on. I was galloping here in '88 and came back the next year as an apprentice (jockey) and I think I won two races in the fall of '89.

Remington Park is my home track. It's where I have been riding the longest. I got my family here. My kids have grown up here. I probably ride in 200 or 300 races a year.

In 2001, I became a U.S. citizen. That day was awesome. I always wanted to do it and had the opportunity. It was an emotional day.

I got two brothers that are riding now, one is in California. When I started winning races I would go back home and bring something to show them. I will never forget, my little brother said, ‘oh yeah, he wins all the time.' Of course, I would only show them the races I was winning.

I won the Remington Park Derby and the Oaklawn Handicap, but my biggest race was riding in the Kentucky Derby a couple of years ago. It is a goal that every jockey has, to ride in the Derby. Then after you ride in one, you want to win one. I don't know if I will ever race there again, but at least I got there once.

It was emotional (riding in the Kentucky Derby). You think about where you grew up and coming here and the support and help I got from everybody. It's not just yourself. You depend on so many people.

It is tough to be jockey. It is not as easy as it looks. There is a lot of stuff you go through. You have to discipline yourself about your weight.

I eat small portions. I exercise a lot. You have to stay at the same weight. If you don't go up and down (in weight), it's easier.

Being a jockey is all I have been doing for the last 30 years. I still like it. I still enjoy doing it. It's hard to retire when you have three kids in school.

My daughter is 23 and in medical school in South Carolina. My son is 21 and other daughter is 19. Both are going to OU. They are majoring in medicine too.

Coming to the United States was the best thing I could have done. I think about what I would have done if I hadn't. It wasn't like anything was given to me. I had to work real hard to get where I am.

Hard work pays off. I feel like I worked hard and got rewarded for it. I am very blessed.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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