Tuesday, November 20, 2012
When Michael S. Goldman's One Fine Jewel won the 11th race at Zia Park on Monday, the Desert God gelding gave Ry Eikleberry the jockey's 1,000th career victory.
“It's something that I can look back at and be proud of,” said Eikleberry, a 23-year-old fourth-generation horseman who began his career in 2005 at the age of 16. “There are always those riders who you look up to, and you don't feel you're to their level. I remember last year for the first time somebody called me a veteran. I'm kind of getting to that point where I'm more respected.”
Eikleberry is the first jockey from a family of trainers. His great-grandfather Guy trained from 1976-86 and his grandfather Calvin trained from 1976-99. His father, Kevin, has saddled the winners of more than 800 races since he began his training career in 1979.
Kevin Eikleberry is currently based at Turf Paradise, but he was on hand at Zia Park to watch his son go for his 1,000-win milestone. The first horse Ry rode in a race, Skyline Gal, was trained by his father. The Skywalker filly rallied to finish third in a 6-furlong allowance race at Arapahoe Park on June 12, 2005.
“I’ll be honest in that I rode him a little before he was ready, but I didn’t know how long he would make it because he is tall,” said Kevin of his 5-foot, 9-inch son.
“I was kind of down, because everyone I ever talked to said, 'You'll never make it – you might ride a few races, but you're going to be too big,'” recalled Ry.
Eikleberry earned his first win as a jockey aboard Chopin’s Crescendo, also trained by his father, in a 5 1/2-furlong claiming race at Arapahoe Park on July 8, 2005.
“He was the one who stuck by my side,” said Ry about his father. “It’s so hard to break in, but I had my dad to help me get on a few live horses and then catch people’s attention to give me a shot.”
In addition to his parents’ support, Eikleberry credits his wife, Jilique, whom he met at Canterbury Park in Minnesota in 2007 and married last August. A native of Phoenix, he won three consecutive jockey titles at Turf Paradise from 2009-11, until he moved his tack to ride full time in New Mexico.