Juarez, Evans among leaders as season ends

Steve Bortstein
Special to The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Jockeys Alfredo Juarez Jr. and Jose Enriquez led their respective divisions at the 2016 SunRay Park and Casino live racing season, which wrapped up today.

Justin Evans (middle) poses with wife Vanessa, son Austin and SunRay Park racing secretary Jim Collins upon accepting an award for leading thoroughbred trainer at the recently concluded racing season.

Juarez dominated the thoroughbred standings despite missing the first week of the season recovering from injury. He recorded 42 wins from more than 130 mounts on the season, nearly two dozen more than his nearest rival Ry Eikleberry, who finished the meet with 22 winners from more than 100 mounts.

"I've been so fortunate," Juarez Jr. said this weekend, after being named top thoroughbred rider. "You have to be lucky to have the right horses, and you have to constantly keep doing better. I'm a very lucky man."

Alejandro Medellin (17), Gonzalo Nicolas (14) and Elvin Gonzalez (12) rounded out the top five jockeys at the SunRay season.

Juarez also topped the thoroughbred division as far as purse monies won with his 42 wins earning nearly $400,000.

On the quarter-horse side, Enriquez led the jockey standings for much of the season, winning 23 times from more than 115 mounts.

Enriquez finished well clear of runner-up Jaime Leos (15), with Medellin (13), who excelled at both quarter horses and thoroughbreds this season and finished third.

Daniel Amaya, who rode A Fancy La Jolla to victory in Sunday's $81,000 Four Corners Futurity, finished fourth in the quarter-horse standings with 12 winners, followed by Hector Aldrete and Ruben Calderon, who finished in a tie for fifth place with eight winners each.

On the trainers' side, it was another amazing season for leading thoroughbred conditioner Justin Evans, who saddled two more winners on closing day to finish the meet with 44 from nearly 100 starters.

"This doesn't happen without a great team working with me," Evans said this weekend when accepting his award. "My whole family, including my wife (Vanessa), these are the real nuts and bolts to the operation and its success."

Evans dominated the season, winning with nearly 45 percent of his starters, while far eclipsing runner-up Bart Hone (12), as well as Greg Green (10), Todd Fincher (9) and Dan Dennison (8), to round out the top five.

For the quarter horses, Jill Giles handled much of the family's operation at SunRay this season with husband Wes and son Jason keeping busy at the current racing season at Ruidoso Downs.

Giles wound up taking the title of leading shortliner conditioner, winning 12 races this season, four ahead of Sal Estrada.

"Good horses and good people," Giles said in the winners circle this weekend when explaining her success this season.

Carolina Gaytan (6) finished third in the overall standings, with Oscar Carrete, Ken Grisham, Jr. and Emilio Cadena III finishing the season with five winners each.

Cuadra San Juditas LLC were named leading quarter-horse owners, while the family of Jackie and Sylvia Herron took the title for leading thoroughbred owners.

The live racing schedule in New Mexico now shifts locations a bit, with the current season at Ruidoso Downs running through Labor Day, and the newly remodeled Downs at Albuquerque opening their season on Saturday and racing through Sept. 25.

Steve Bortstein hosts "First Sports" and "The Fast Track" on Fox Sports 1340 AM and 93.9 FM and on iHeartRadio. He serves as paddock show host at SunRay Park & Casino and is a voting member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Follow him @fox1340am on Twitter.