Jose Lezcano may not win at a very high percentage like Paco Lopez, and he isn’t considered a “big-money” rider like John Velazquez, but Lezcano’s ability to churn out strong seasons while flying under the radar makes him one of the country’s most respected jockeys. In fact, Lezcano has been in the top 10 in earnings for five of the last six years.
Lezcano got his start in his native Panama, where he attended the Laffit Pincay Jockey School, a riding academy named for the legendary Panamanian rider. He began riding in Panama before quickly moving his tack to the states in January of 2003, commencing his career at Gulfstream Park. Lezcano dominated tracks like Tampa Bay Downs and Monmouth Park (New Jersey) in subsequent years before shifting to the NYRA circuit, where he competes mainly at Belmont and Saratoga before returning to Gulfstream for the winter.
Lezcano gained national recognition when he won his first Breeders’ Cup race aboard his first ever mount in the series, Maram (the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf). Maram’s trainer was Chad Brown, who was only just embarking on his now wildly-successful career. He continues to ride horses for Brown to this day, and has also formed invaluable relationships with other top trainers such as Bill Mott, Cristophe Clement and Jimmy Jerkens.
He’s also earned the admiration of some veteran trainers like Nick Zito, who teamed up with Lezcano on Ice Box, the runner-up in the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
“He’s got all the tools,” Zito told the Daily Racing Form. “Sometimes he reminds me of [Hall of Fame jockey Braulio] Baeza and sometimes he reminds me of [Laffit] Pincay. I like to hook on to those types of guys.”
Though Lezcano has never placed in any other Triple Crown races to date, he’s taken down two more Breeders’ Cup races; the 2011 Distaff on Royal Delta, and the 2013 Mile aboard former Horse of the Year Wise Dan. He’s also run second three times in the thoroughbred championship series.
Despite his array of achievements, Lezcano has remained humble.
“I never thought I would get this far when I came to this country,” he told reporters after winning his 2,000th race aboard V.E. Day in the 2014 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. “I feel very lucky to be in this business and do good.”
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