Joe Bravo is a veteran jockey best known for his success in his native New Jersey. Born in Long Branch, ‘Jersey Joe’ has been the leading rider at Monmouth a staggering 13 times, and the Meadowlands thoroughbred meet champion nine times.
“He just rides [Monmouth] the right way,” Stewart Elliott, a colleague of Bravo told NJ.com. “He’s always in a good position. He really knows this track.”
But the 44-year-old pilot has recently established himself as a big-money rider and is capturing nation-wide attention. He won a career-high 17 graded stakes in 2015, including six Grade Is. Prior to that, Bravo had never won more than 10 graded stakes in a year.
“That was…a rider’s dream,” Bravo told APP.com. “Ninety percent of the time I would be sitting on the plane and questioning myself, ‘Did that just happen?’”
Bravo was only 11 when he won his first race on a quarter-horse in Texas, where his father was riding at the time (Bravo is a third-generation jockey).
“I had no boots, no helmet and no stick, and I was so scared I kept my eyes closed the whole way,” Bravo recounted to the New York Times. “I was a nobody then, but I worked my tail off. I rode at Philadelphia Park in the afternoon and then I’d get in my car and drive 100 mph to make it to Atlantic City that night to ride in a $4,000 race on some horse that didn’t have a chance, but I’d do anything just to ride.”
Upon reflection, Bravo realizes he’s come a long way since then.
“I definitely am a better rider,” he told APP.com. “I’ve seen a lot of things happen since then, and you learn something every day out here. I’m just thankful I’m still able to be out here doing it and have had some really good horses to ride. I’m blessed to be working with some of the top guys in the business.”
“[Bravo]’s got a lot of experience and he’s very patient,” top trainer Chad Brown told APP.com. “And after the race he gives you great feedback that helps you move the horse forward, and that’s important. Basically, Joe has been a really solid rider for us and a really good fit for us last year.”
Some of Bravo’s top mounts this year are Bradester and A.P. Indian, both of whom have Breeders’ Cup aspirations. Bradester scored in the Grade I Stephen Foster, a ‘Win And You’re In’ race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, under Bravo back in June. A.P. Indian has captured four graded stake sprints with Bravo aboard this year, and is considered one of the favorites in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He could earn Bravo his first win in the thoroughbred championship series.
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