Jockey Spotlight: Paco Lopez

Paco Lopez is among the game’s most underrated riders. The 31-year-old native of Veracruz, Mexico topped 2,000 career wins on Dec. 4 at Gulfstream Park, and he’s dominated at Monmouth Park since 2010. In fact, Lopez won the 2014 Monmouth meet by 62 wins, amassing more victories than the next two jockeys combined. He won seven races in a day on two occasions during that meet, a feat that had never been accomplished in nearly 150 years of racing there.

“I never dreamed I could win this much,” Lopez told “You never know that you’re going to get a chance to win seven in one day and I did it twice this year. I’m very proud of that.”

Lopez is no stranger to these kinds of days. When he was 16, Lopez won all 13 races over a weekend at a bush track in Mexico. During his U.S. apprenticeship (2008), Lopez collected 229 wins and over $4 million in purses, garnering the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice.

When asked about potentially moving full-time to the more lucrative NYRA circuit, Lopez shrugged it off.

“There’s always a possibility of a move to New York but I love the Jersey Shore and am very happy there,” he told ESPN. “I have a greater opportunity in Jersey. I just want to ride horses and win races. My favorite time and place is to be on a horse.”

Lopez does frequent Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga on occasion though. He won his first ever Grade I at Saratoga (the Woodward) on Itsmyluckyday in 2014. And this past Thanksgiving weekend, Lopez took two of the four graded stakes on the Saturday program at Aqueduct (the Demoiselle with Miss Sky Warrior and the Comely with Verve’s Tale).

“He’s an outstanding rider,” trainer Eddie Plesa told “He has all the tools. He has outstanding work ethic. It’s like a perfect storm, with everything all coming together at the right time.”

Plesa continued, “He works so hard. I keep telling him to take some time off…but he’s up at 5:30 a.m. every morning and working horses for everyone. He goes to Delaware Park and wins, goes to Philadelphia Park [Parx Racing] and wins, goes to Saratoga and wins. He’ll go anywhere to ride a horse. He has a lot of energy. He’s an amazing young man.”

Lopez finds comfort in staying at Monmouth over the summer, but he does compete against some of the best in the country when he winters at Gulfstream. Lopez holds his own there, as he’s finished in the top three each of the last three championship meets. As of this publishing, Lopez leads all riders at Gulfstream with 16 wins from 72 starters.

He still has plenty to check off on his career “to-do list,” such as winning a Triple Crown race, but the future looks bright for this talented rider.

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