Tuesday, January 23, 2007 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . January 23, 2007 . . . Julien Leparoux began 2006 by shattering the Turfway Park record for most wins in a winter/spring meet and ended the year by winning the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice jockey. The award was announced last night at the 36th annual Eclipse Awards dinner in Beverly Hills, California.
The 23-year-old Leparoux led all riders nationally by wins from the first day of 2006, finishing the year with 403. His purse earnings of $12,491,316 put him eighth among all riders for the year and obliterated the previous record by an apprentice, $7.5 million set by Jeremy Rose in 2001.
In addition to earning Turfway's 2006 winter/spring riding title with 167 wins, Leparoux also took the track's fall meet title that year with 38 wins, breaking a record that had stood since 1968. He earned his first career stakes win at Turfway, the 2006 Likely Exchange aboard Cat Quartorze.
In the spring of 2006, Leparoux became the first apprentice to win a leading rider title at Keeneland, sharing the honor with Rafael Bejarano. He went on to take the rider title at Churchill's spring meet, and then returned to Keeneland in the fall to earn his second consecutive title there. Leparoux won 28 races at the 2006 Saratoga meet, the most of any apprentice rider in track history, and in August won his first career Grade I race, the Beverly D. at Arlington Park aboard Gorella. He completed his apprentice year in September 2006.
Leparoux began working as a stable hand and exercise rider in his native France when he turned 18, but he had been riding since he was 11 and was well acquainted with racing; his father, Robert, had been an assistant trainer before his death in 2003. Leparoux arrived at Santa Anita that year to work for trainer and fellow Frenchman Patrick Biancone, a relationship that continues to play a key role in the jockey's success.
Leparoux is currently based at Turfway for the 2007 winter/spring meet and takes occasional mounts elsewhere in stakes competition.
Former Eclipse Award apprentice standouts also currently riding at Turfway are Phil Teator, winner of the 1996 award; Hector Rosario Jr., a finalist in 2001; and Daniel Coa, a finalist in 1999. Former Turfway jockeys to gain Eclipse Award notice were Greta Kuntzweiler and Kris Prather, apprentice finalists in 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Eclipse Awards are awarded annually to horses and individuals of outstanding achievement in the Thoroughbred racing industry. The awards are named for the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse.