Friday, September 17, 2004 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 17, 2004 . . . Turfway Park tonight presented the inaugural Michael F. Rowland Award to Luis Antonio Gonzalez, a rider based at Thistledown, near Cleveland, Ohio.
The Rowland Award is named in memory of jockey Mike Rowland, who died February 9, 2004, five days after he was involved in an accident during a race at Turfway. Rowland was riding at Turfway during the track’s 2004 Winter/Spring Meet in pursuit of the 4,000-win milestone. He was two short of that goal when the accident occurred.
The Rowland Award recognizes the jockey who best exemplifies the generosity, optimism, and professionalism that marked Rowland’s career. The jockey colony at each of the five tracks where Rowland rode most often chose a nominee, and jockeys at nine Midwest tracks participated in the voting.
Also nominated for the award this year were Ivan Gonzalez, nominated by Beulah Park; Perry Ouzts, nominated by Turfway Park; DeShawn Parker, nominated by Mountaineer Park; and J. J. Sunseri, nominated by River Downs.
With his flight to Cincinnati grounded by weather, Gonzalez accepted the honor by telephone this afternoon. “To be recognized this way by my peers is just an extreme honor, and I am very sorry I could not be there to accept it myself,” he said. “After riding with Mike all these years and having him as a friend, it means even more to receive the award. But the most important thing is that having the award every year means Mike will never be forgotten.”
Gonzalez, 37, began riding in Panama in 1983 and won his first race with his fifth mount. A graduate of Panama’s school for jockeys, he came to the United States in 1986. After a couple of months on the California circuit, he moved to Ohio, where he rode his first U.S. winner at River Downs in Cincinnati. Gonzalez has won nearly 1,500 races, including 30 stakes races. He is married to Renee Cisman, a trainer at Thistledown.