Despite being just 26 years of age, Joe Talamo has established himself as one of the west coast’s best riders. Although he has yet to notch a win in the Triple Crown series, his list of accomplishments in Southern California is extensive, including multiple Grade I victories. He even won a Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita in 2009 aboard California Flag in the Turf Sprint. But he doesn’t let his accomplishments go to his head.
“I’m from Marrero, Louisiana,” Talamo told Nola.com in a 2015. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.”
Talamo got his start riding at Louisiana Downs in 2006. His father worked there as an assistant trainer and Talamo frequented the track, sometimes working as a stable hand. Talamo quickly moved to the Fair Grounds and won the meet’s riding title as an apprentice, the first rider to do that in the long and storied history of the New Orleans venue.
Acting on the advice of the late, great trainer Bobby Frankel, Talamo moved his tack to Southern California in 2007, where wins came frequently (250 in 1,400 mounts), including victories aboard Nashoba’s Key in the Grade II Milady, Grade I Vanity, Grade I Rodeo Drive and Grade I Clement L. Hirsch. He also won the 2007 Triple Bend Handicap aboard Bilo.
When he was in the midst of that big winning streak with Nashoba’s Key, Talamo explained to USA Today how his wild success surprised even him. “It’s hard to explain. It means the world to me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in this spot. It’s a gift from God.”
Most recently, Talamo has had the privilege of riding Melatonin to victory in the Santa Anita Handicap and the Santa Anita Gold Cup this year. And Talamo’s presence has had a lot to do with Melatonin’s success.
“He’s bred to be a miler, that’s what his pedigree suggests, but every jock that rode him said this horse wants to run long,” trainer David Hofmans told the LA Daily News earlier in 2016. “So I said OK, we’ll give him a shot. Joe [Talamo] was really more adamant than the others…convinced he wants to run a mile and a quarter more than any other distance.”
“He’s a jockey’s dream,” Talamo said after winning the Santa Anita Gold Cup for the first time. “He just does his thing. He does not have to go to the lead. As you saw, he laid second comfortably. What impressed me the most about him today was when Win the Space came to him at the eighth pole, he just battled back. He gives you everything he’s got.”
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