Saturday, January 16, 2010 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . January 16, 2010 . . . Jockey Thomas Pompell earned his 2,000th career win Saturday when he rode Catch the Prize to a half-length victory in Turfway Park's second race.
Pompell, 36, was Hoosier Park's leading apprentice in 1997 and has since earned riding titles at Fairmount Park (1998 and 2000), Hoosier Park (2006), and Turfway Park (2008 holiday meet). He once rode seven winners in one day at Fairmount.
Born in Tampa, Fla., Pompell got his first taste of riding growing up on the Illinois farm where his maternal grandfather, Gerald DeLong, worked as a trainer and farm manager. In addition, his grandfather, his uncles Terry DeLong and Gary DeLong, the latter now a trainer, and his father, Bobby, had all been jockeys.
In the early 1990s Pompell moved to Kentucky to rub horses for Angel Montano Sr. at Ellis Park with the goal of becoming a rider. During a visit home he spoke with trainer Eddie Essenpreis, who hired him as a groom with the promise of teaching him to ride. Pompell spent about a year riding at Essenpreis's farm and in 1996 started galloping at Fairmount.
When Essenpreis learned Pompell was also riding races at fairs, he offered to name him on horses. Pompell took out his license in September 1996 and at Fairmount won with his very first mount at a pari-mutuel track. In 2001 he moved to Tampa Bay Downs, where he eventually rode first call for trainer Don Rice. When Rice retired in 2007, Pompell and his wife, Lesalene, a trainer, bought an Indiana farm convenient to Indiana Downs, Hoosier Park, and Turfway.
Pompell counts 33 blacktype victories among his 2,000 wins, including four stakes in Indiana with Heza Wild Guy, seven Hoosier Park stakes over four years with Mr. Mink, and four stakes at Turfway: the Cincinnati Trophy and Valdale with Valentine Fever and the Queen with Pola's Place, all in 2008, and this year’s Turfway Prevue with Z. I. Zipp.